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Advanced heavy-water reactor

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Title: Advanced heavy-water reactor  
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Subject: Nuclear reactor, EGP-6, Small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor, Steam-generating heavy water reactor, UHTREX
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Advanced heavy-water reactor

The advanced heavy-water reactor (AHWR) is the latest Indian design for a next-generation nuclear reactor that burns thorium in its fuel core. It is slated to form the third stage in India's three-stage fuel-cycle plan.[1] This phase of the fuel cycle plan is supposed to be built starting with a 300MW prototype in 2016.[2] AHWR has been one of the few reactors in the world that have already strived to meet the requirements of innovative next-generation nuclear reactors as has been spelt out in several international forums.


Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC) set up a large infrastructure to facilitate the design and development of these Advanced Heavy Water reactors. Things to be included range from materials technologies, critical components, reactor physics, and safety analysis.[3] Several facilities have been set up to experiment with these reactors. The AHWR is a pressure tube type of heavy water reactor. The Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy(DAE), is fully funding the future development, the current development, and the design of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor. The new version of Advanced Heavy Water Reactors will be equipped with more general safety requirements. India is the base for these reactors due to India's large Thorium reserves; therefore, it is more geared for continual use and operation of the AHWR.[4]


Thorium is three times more abundant globally than uranium.[5]


The proposed design of the AHWR is that of a heavy-water-moderated nuclear power reactor that will be the next generation of the PHWR type. It is being developed at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), in Mumbai, India and aims to meet the objectives of using thorium fuel cycles for commercial power generation. The AHWR is a vertical pressure tube type reactor cooled by boiling light water under natural circulation. A unique feature of this design is a large tank of water on top of the primary containment vessel, called the gravity-driven water pool (GDWP). This reservoir is designed to perform several passive safety functions.

The overall design of the AHWR is to utilize large amounts of thorium and the thorium cycle. The AHWR is much like that of the Pressurized heavy water reactor(PHWR), in that they share similarities in the concept of the pressure tubes and calandria tubes, but the tubes' orientation in the AHWR is vertical, unlike that of the PHWR. The AHWR's core is 3.5 m long and has 513 lattice locations in a square pitch of 225 mm. The core is radially divided into three burn up regions. The burn up decreases as it moves toward the external surface of the core. Fuel is occupied by 452 lattice locations and the remaining 37 locations are occupied by shutdown system-1. This consists of 37 shut-off rods, 24 locations are for reactive control devices which are consisted of 8 absorber rods (AR's), 8 shim rods(SR's), and 8 regulating rods (RR's). By boiling light water at a pressure of 7 MPa, heat is then removed. The main focus with this model is to get the total power and a coarse spatial power distribution within the core to be within certain degree of accuracy.[6]

The reactor design incorporates advanced technologies, together with several proven positive features of Indian pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs). These features include pressure tube type design, low pressure moderator, on-power refueling, diverse fast acting shut-down systems, and availability of a large low temperature heat sink around the reactor core. The AHWR incorporates several passive safety features. These include: Core heat removal through natural circulation; direct injection of emergency core coolant system (ECCS) water in fuel; and the availability of a large inventory of borated water in overhead gravity-driven water pool (GDWP) to facilitate sustenance of core decay heat removal. The emergency core cooling system (ECCS) injection and containment cooling can act (SCRAM) without invoking any active systems or operator action.

The reactor physics design is tuned to maximise the use of thorium based fuel, by achieving a slightly negative void coefficient. Fulfilling these requirements has been possible through the use of PuO2-ThO2 MOX, and ThO2-233UO2 MOX in different pins of the same fuel cluster, and the use of a heterogeneous moderator consisting of amorphous carbon (in the fuel bundles) and heavy water in 80–20% volume ratio. The core configuration lends itself to considerable flexibility and several feasible solutions, including those not requiring the use of amorphous carbon based reflectors, are possible without any changes in reactor structure.

Fuel cycle

The AHWR at standard is set to be a closed nuclear fuel cycle because this will lead to reduction in radio-toxicity. Because of this, the AHWR has alternate fuel options, giving it has diverse fuel cycles. It can do closed types and once-through types of fuel cycles. The overall aspect of the AHWR is primed for high burn up with thorium-based fuel(barc, 2013). Recycled thorium that is recovered from the reactor is then sent back, and plutonium is stored to be later used for a fast breeder reactor.[3]

Future plans

Indian Government announced it would build AHWR of 300MW with its location to be decided[7]

Safety innovation

Past nuclear meltdowns such as Chernobyl and Fukoshima have made the improvement of construction and maintenance of facilities to be crucial. These accidents were with the involvement of uranium-235 reactors and the poor structures of the facilities they were in. Since then International Atomic nuclear Association has stepped up protocols in nuclear facilities in order to prevent these accidents from occurring again. One of the top security measures for a meltdown is containment of radioactivity from escaping the reactor. The Defense in Depth (DiD) is a method used in nuclear facilities to acquire the most effective practice of radioactive containment. The AWHR has acquired the Defense in Depth process which is used in reactors by providing a list of provisions and required equipment in order to retain the radioactivity in the core. The Defense in Depth method sets regulations that must be followed in order to reduce human error incidents and machine malfunctions.[3]

The procedures are the following: Level 1: Prevention of abnormal operation and failure, Level 2: Control of abnormal operation and detection of failure, Level 3: Control of accidents within the design basis, Level 4: Control of severe plant conditions, including prevention of accident progression and mitigation of consequences of severe accidents, Level 5: Mitigation of radiological consequences of significant release of radioactive materials. The AWHR is an innovation in renewable energy safety as it will limit the use of uranium-235 and substitute the element with thorium. The extraction of nuclear energy from the 90th element Thorium is set to have more energy than the world's oil, coal, and uranium united. The AHWR has safety features that distinguishes it from normal nuclear reactors. Some of these features consist of: strong safety systems, reduction of heat from core through a built in cooling system, multiple shutdown systems, and a fail-safe procedure that consist of a poison that shutdowns the system in the case of a technical failure(FBR).[3] The potential threat scientist try to avoid in reactors is the buildup of heat because nuclear energy escalates when it reacts with, high temperatures, high pressures, and chemical reactions. The AHWR has features that helps reduce the probability of this occurrence through the: negative reactivity coefficients, low power density, low excess reactivity in the core, and proper selection of material, attributes built in.[8]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "India all set to tap thorium resources.". Dec 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.(2013). Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). Retrieved from
  4. ^ India designs advanced atomic reactor for thorium utilization - agency. (2009, Sep 17). BBC Monitoring South Asia. Retrieved from
  5. ^ "Thorium". 
  6. ^ Shimjith, S.R.(2011). Spatial stabilization of advanced heavy water reactor. Retrieved from:
  7. ^
  8. ^ Vijayan, P., Kamble, M., Nayak, A., Vaze, K., & Sinha, R. (2013). Safety features in nuclear power plants to eliminate the need of emergency planning in public domain. Retrieved from

External links

  • Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) now being designed in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
  • Advanced Heavy Water Reactor. Sept 2008 Detailed design and diagrams
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