Thorium N-power plant is radiation safe option

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 24 Aug 2017, 21:21:39

Thorium N-power plant is radiation safe option

NUCLEAR power generation is usually a two-edged sword more so for a technically less developed country like Bangladesh. We are all set to install a Russian supplied U236-fuelled dangerous (radiation-wise) power plant. Russia's record of safety in nuclear power plants has always been questionable, (as such news is censored there). Compared to the dangers of spreading radiation sickness, the critical issue of disposal of radiation-dangerous plant waste and used furnace fuel rods has not been considered. 

Over and above, the language of technical knowledge exchange leaves a lot to be desired. It looks like that Russian will be the working language which is least understood by the proposed plant personnel. As far as this writer feels, we are heading cockeyed, if not totally blind. In contrast, the nuclear operation safety with 'Thorium' as the main fuel is considerably low and on this vital issue of radiation dangers, the risks are far less. This important fact in Bangladesh context cannot be just ignored.   

In the Western world (mostly USA), thorium was mostly ignored as tension between Russia/China axis vis-à-vis Western powers was the main issue at that time. Generating nuclear electric power using U236 was more of a by-product of weapon grade U236, which was the order of the day. Any nuclear research that did not support the main US weapons programme of the time was ignored in the West. 

Now the focus is on using uranium 235 or plutonium 239 for power generation and gradually eliminating and shifting from uranium 236, for power generation. In effect, with declining dangers of a 'nuclear war', attention is now given to radiation-free potential source for generating electricity. This is how the possibilities of thorium have come to be studied and developed. 

The isotopes of thorium, T-232 now being studied, are a potentially feasible fuel for electric power generation for future. Though thorium itself is not fissile, its fuel cycle can produce fissile material U-233, that in no way can be used in a bomb. Work has now started in making power generation possible from functional thorium reactors. China expects to develop such a nuclear power reactor within the next ten years. However, Norway also is now developing a thorium-fuelled electric power reactor which is undergoing different tests that may take a few years more. The problems in the development stages are now being tackled but hopefully in the next 7 to 10 years a radiation-safe nuclear reactor for power generation should be in the market. 

(These observations have been developed based on news from a research web site. For Bangladesh this could be a potentially radiation-free nuclear power generation possibility that we may safely go for. This writer feels that the Russian nuclear power plant, that we are going for will be a very costly disaster in the making, may be in 5 to 10 years time)

Please note: The writer now 85, is a retired engineer with over four decades of hands-on engineering experience.

Engr. S.A.Mansoor

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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