Advances in Nuclear Energy Programs in Bolivia, India
August 22, 2014 • 9:14AM

As the present-day leaders of developed nations in Europe and North America have decided to move towards non-nuclear "green energy" sources such as wind, solar et al., nuclear power generation seems justifiably attractive to many less-developed nations.

In Bolivia, where the 7th Gas and Energy Conference opened on Thursday, nuclear power will be the central attraction, with leaders of Argentina's nuclear program heading the panel. Last year, this was the forum where the Bolivian President Evo Morales had announced his country's plan to go nuclear. The government intends to establish an advisory council by the end of this year to develop and oversee implementation of its nuclear commitment, and President Vladimir Putin offered Russia's help in establishing a comprehensive nuclear program, when he and President Morales met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil.

Meanwhile, reports from New Delhi indicate India is about to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan and Australia. Since 2005, India has entered into civil nuclear agreements with the U.S., Mongolia, Australia, Namibia, Argentina, the UK, Canada, Kazakhstan, and South Korea.

The Indian objectives are two-fold. To begin with, India, in order to make its indigenous Thorium-based pressurized reactors the main power generation source in the future, needs to pile-up a large amount of plutonium, the trigger used by India for converting fissionable thorium-232 to fissile uranium-233. Since its first 300 MW thorium-fueled reactor will be commissioned in 2015, India is in a hurry to commission a large number of pressurized heavy water reactors that use natural uranium (uranium-238) to generate plutonium.

In order to achieve that objective, India, a uranium-short nation, needs to import uranium. Following the signing of the cooperation agreement, Australia, with its third-largest uranium reserves, will supply uranium to India along with Canada, France, Russia, Mongolia, Namibia, and Kazakhstan.

The second objective for India is to import as many high-capacity heavy water reactors as possible. Canada, one of the largest producers of pressurized heavy water reactors, can export those reactors to India. South Korea, which manufactures 1,000 MW reactors, can supply them to India in its ongoing capacity program. But signing the civil nuclear agreement with Japan will provide India an access to turbines required for 1,000 MW capacity. Japan is the largest producer of those turbines.