India is the first country to reuse nuclear waste on large scale – Minister

A rally to popularize nuclear power in Mumbai in 2014

The Department of Atomic Energy today said that India is the first country in the world where the waste produced by nuclear power plants is being used for civilian applications.

Jitendra Singh, the minister of state overseeing the department, also allayed concerns about any possible leakage of radiation from spent fuel.

“There has been no incident of release of radioactivity from such disposed wastes. No effect of radiation from the disposed wastes on the public or the environment has been observed,” Singh said today in response to questions about the disposal mechanism for nuclear waste in India.

At present, the nuclear waste produced by power plants are stored in underground facilities, the minister said, and no new ones will be required till 2075.

“The areas, where the disposal structures are located, are kept under constant surveillance with the help of bore-wells laid out in a planned manner. The underground soil and water samples from these bore wells are routinely monitored and to confirm effective confinement of radioactivity present in the disposed waste.”

IN-HOUSE TECHNOLOGY

India produces about 3.3% of its power from nuclear plants, which account for 1.9% –5.8 GW¬†— of its total power production capacity. It has plans to increase this by eight times to 48 GW, doubling it in the next five years.

The country has been forced to invent its own ways and methods to create much of its civil and nuclear programs due to international sanctions.

As such, said Singh, the country has also invented its own methods of recycling spent fuel for medical and other civilian uses.

Moreover, India keeps storing most of spent fuel from its existing plans to be used in ‘phase 3’ plants by starting in 2050.

“Most of the component of spent fuel is recycled back as a fuel for future reactors,” said the minister.

India’s phase 3 plants will run on Thorium rather than Uranium – the primary fuel for nuclear plants today.

Blessed with abundant Thorium deposits on its beaches, the country is seen as the most advanced in the world in terms of research on using the material for fueling nuclear power plants.

Much of the ‘waste’ produced by current plants is intended to be mixed with Thorium after 30-40 years to be used as fuel.

The components that are not required for future plants are diverted to civilian use, he added.

“Main fission products like Cs-137 & Sr-90 present are recovered using in-house developed technologies and deployed for societal applications covering medical applications, external irradiators and other medical applications.”

“This is accomplished first time in the world by India,” he added.