Category Archives: Nuclear Technology

Lasers for Clean Fusion Energy


Scientists have moved a step closer to achieving sustainable nuclear fusion and almost limitless clean energy. U.S. researchers have achieved for the first time in the world the way to generated more energy from fusion reactions than they put into the nuclear fuel, in a small but crucial step along the road to harnessing fusion power.

Fusion energy has the potential to become a radical alternative power source, with zero carbon emissions and minimal waste, but the technical difficulties in demonstrating fusion in the lab have so far proved overwhelming. While existing nuclear reactors generate energy by splitting atoms into lighter particles, fusion reactors combine light atomic nuclei into heavier particles.

In their experiments, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California used 192 laser beams to strike a tiny target containing a capsule less than a tenth of about 2 mm in diameter filled with fusion fuels deuterium and tritium, which are two isotopes of hydrogen. At very high temperatures, the nucleus of the deuterium and the nucleus of the tritium fuse, a neutron and an alpha particle emerge, and energy is released.

The researchers, led by physicist Omar Hurricane, described the achievement as important but said much more work is needed before fusion can become a viable energy source.

The experimental fusion reactor ITER, which is being built in France, is expected to be the first plant to produce more energy than it consumes. The project has faced delays of more than two years and overrun budgets, but is still an international flagship for fusion research.

[Credit – Guardian Newspapers & Raw Story Media]

Uranium: Megatons to Megawatts

nuclear explosion

The Megatons to Megawatts Program is the popular name given to the United States-Russia Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement dated in Feb 1993. Under this Agreement Russia agreed to supply the United States with low-enriched uranium (LEU), obtained from high-enriched uranium (HEU) present in excess of Russian warheads. The United States agreed to purchase the low-enriched uranium fuel. This historic project which concluded on December 31, 2013 is the largest and most successful nuclear non-proliferation program to date. The original proposal for this program was made by Thomas Neff, a physicist at MIT.

Natural uranium contains 0.71 percent of Uranium-235. Enriching uranium increases the amount of Uranium-235. The nuclear fuel used in the majority of reactors contains about 3 to 5 percent of Uranium-235. Enrichment to levels of 20 percent or greater produces highly enriched uranium which is used in research reactors and military applications.

Highly enriched uranium of warheads may be down-blended or diluted so that the amount of U is low enough to be suitable for commercial reactors. The Megatons to Megawatts program organised the down-blending of Russia’s surplus, highly enriched uranium commercially.

Uranium from 20,000 warheads fueled the US nuclear power reactors and provided 10 per cent of electricity produced in USA over the past 20 years.

Iran Nuclear Deal


Ahead of the start of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic called limiting uranium enrichment and diluting its stockpile the country’s “most important commitments”. This comments by a spokesman of Iran’s atomic department, show how the government of moderate President Hassan Rouhani welcomes the deal.

Iran struck the deal in November with the so-called P5+1 countries Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Negotiators agreed to final terms of the deal Jan. 13. Under the agreement, Iran will limit its uranium enrichment to 5 per cent the grade commonly used to power reactors. The deal also commits Iran to stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material and to neutralise its 20 percent stockpile over the six months.

In exchange, economic sanctions Iran faces would be eased for six months. Senior officials in U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration have put the total relief figure at some $7 billion. During the six months, negotiations between Iran and the world powers would continue in hopes of reaching a permanent deal.

The West fears Iran’s nuclear program could allow it to build an atomic weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, like power generation and medical research.

On Saturday a team of international inspectors arrived in Tehran in preparation of beginning their inspections. They will visit Fordo, where Iran enriches its 20 percent uranium, as well as its Natanz facility, which produces 5 percent enriched uranium, to ensure the country complies with the deal.

[Courtesy – The Hindu]

Kudankulam Unit-2 by Sept’14


The second unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) will start generating electricity from September, Union Minister V Narayanasamy said on Friday, 10 Jan 2014. According to him, ninety-five per cent of the work for second unit of the plant has been completed and commercial operation of second unit will start from the unit by September 2014.

The first unit of KKNPP, built with Russian assistance, has already started generating power and is connected to the Southern grid. The first unit is currently generating 440 MW of electricity and all the power generated goes to Tamil Nadu. After taking necessary permissions from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), soon it will start production of 750 MW and, the plant will start generating 1000 MW of electricity by February 2014. 

The KKNPP units 1 and 2 are currently the largest power generating units in the country with a capacity of 1000 MW each. The plant is the result of an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed between India and erstwhile USSR in November 1988 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Construction started March 2002. Talks with Russia over Unit 3 and 4 are stuck over the liability clause of the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010.

KKNPP reactors are VVER-1000 0r WWER-1000 (water-cooled, water-moderated power reactors) based on Uranium fuel.  This is the first time that the NPCIL is dealing with Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology.