Keywords: prototype FBRs, fast breeder reactors, PFBR, plutonium breeder economics, electricity costs, India, energy policy, Department of Atomic Energy, DAE breeder programme, uranium availability, reprocessing costs, nuclear power, nuclear energy
The costs of power: plutonium and the economics of India's prototype fast breeder reactor
The Indian Department of Atomic Energy plans to expand nuclear power in the country by constructing a large fleet of plutonium fuelled breeder reactors, seen as necessary because of perceived shortage of uranium resources. We analyse the economics of generating electricity at the first such reactor in India, the prototype fast breeder reactor. We find that such electricity will be 80% more expensive than the corresponding cost at pressurised heavy water reactors with our base case assumptions. The economics of breeder electricity is primarily determined by the cost of reprocessing spent fuel to produce plutonium and fabricating it into fuel. Breeder reactors become more competitive as the cost of fuelling heavy water reactors with uranium goes up, but only very slowly. The crossover cost is $1,375 per kilogram of uranium for our base case. At such a high cost, poorer quality ores can be economically mined. We perform an extensive sensitivity analysis to show that the broad conclusions hold even under assumptions that are far more favourable to breeder economics.