Ahmedabad: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has developed the first of its kind nuclear reactor for thorium utilisation and its design is under review of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

“We have developed the first of its kind Advance Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) having 300 MW capacity for thorium utilisation, whose design is under review of AERB,” said NPCIL Director (Technical) S A Bhardwaj.

Speaking at a symposium organised by IIT-Gandhinagar, Bhardwaj said that the construction work of AHWR is slated to begin in the 12th Five Year Plan. “Presently, we are trying to locate a suitable site for it,” he added.

The move is significant for development of third stage technology for nuclear reactors, especially when availability of uranium-235 in India, a natural fuel for reactors, is just 0.7 per cent in the estimated 60,000 tonnes of natural uranium reserves in the country. The remaining 99.3 per cent is uranium-238.

Thorium cannot be used directly as fuel in reactors, as it has to be first converted into a fuel through a process, which so far had been a major challenge for experts.

“The engineering of thorium fuels has been very well established. Some small amount of reprocessing from thorium fuel has been done in a research through a small reactor called Kamini at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, which uses uranium 233,” he said.

India is estimated to have around 200,000 tonnes of thorium reserves, with its concentration being along the coastal belts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

NPCIL, is expected to record a profit in excess of Rs 1,000 crore by this fiscal end, which the company aims to re-plough back to fund its nuclear power programmes.

The company has proposed to commence construction of two Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) nuclear power plants of 700 MW units each in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh this year.

"We are likely to start construction of two nuclear power plant units of 700 MW units each in Haryana and another two units each of similar capacities at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, this year," Bhardwaj said.