Why the plunge into foreign Light Water Reactors, after India has painstakingly developed its heavy water reactor technology? The reason becomes obvious when we learn that the Indians are now expanding their fast breeder reactor plans. The WNA tells us
Longer term, the AEC envisages its fast reactor program being 30 to 40 times bigger than the PHWR program . . . this will be linked with up to 40,000 MWe of light water reactor capacity, the used fuel feeding ten times that fast breeder capacity, thus "deriving much larger benefit out of the external acquisition in terms of light water reactors and their associated fuel". This 40 GWe of imported LWR multiplied to 400 GWe via FBR would complement 200-250 GWe based on the indigenous program of PHWR-FBR-AHWR. Thus AEC is "talking about 500 to 600 GWe nuclear over the next 50 years or so" in India, plus export opportunities.Oh wow, talk about ambitious! As i keep saying the Indians intend eat every ones lunch by running their industries on low cost thorium power. Even though foreign reactors are more expensive than Indian designed reactors, they fit into Indian plans, because they produce lots "spent fuel". In other countries "spent fuel" is considered a problem, and is called nuclear waste. In India spent light water reactor fuel is fuel for fast breeder reactors. And fast breeders will produce both electricity and the start up fuel for Advanced Heavy Water Reactors. The AHWRs will be breeders too, so as long as India has thorium, it will have nuclear fuel.
Unlike China, India does not have a legacy of coal, and further unlike China, India is not cursed with a large domestic coal supply. The Indians have known for 60 years that the key to their energy future would lie with nuclear power, and have doggedly pursued a nuclear development program. Along the way the Indians were able to develop really low cost but good quality reactors. Locally designed and built Indian reactors cost 40% less than Chinese reactors. And needless to say both cost a whole lot less than American and European reactors. The Indian reactor price advantage could begin to tell in 20 years when India and China start their post carbon energy program in ernest.
Current Chinese plans for post-carbon energy call for an everything but the kitchen sink approach. And even the lowest carbon Chinese energy plan calls for over 40% of Chinese electricity to be generated by fossil fuels in 2050. The Chinese expect to be building 4th Generation reactors by 2050, but it is far from clear what role they will play in Chinese nuclear plans.
The Indians clearly have charted a route to a high energy, low cost nuclear future. The Chinese as of yet have not. Of course Indian plans, though good, could be even better. The Indians are committed to do a lot of fuel reprocessing, a decision the Chinese appear to be also following. Both nations are involved with expensive approaches, and current fuel reprocessing technologies tend to loose too much plutonium, Indian reactor and fuel processing costs could be lower, provided the Indians adopted Molten Salt Reactor technology. A LFTR would include fuel reprocessing technology with each reactor unit, and would not produce plutonium. LFTRs need not produce plutonium at all. The Indians are probably years away from doing that, but a rapid program ofLFTR development in the United States could lead to lower post carbon electrical costs and would keep our industrial economy competitive with India.