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India’s BARC Developing Two Nuclear Reactor Designs for Hydrogen Production

The Compact High Temperature Reactor (CHTR) produces high temperature process heat for hydrogen production by water splitting. Click to enlarge.

Business Standard. Mumbai (India)-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is designing prototype versions of two new reactors that will produce hydrogen for use as a fuel: the Compact High Temperature Reactor (CHTR) and the Indian High Temperature Reactor (IHTR).

Both these reactors will have core temperatures of more than 1,000° Celsius. Current reactor temperatures range around 300° Celsius. BARC director Srikumar Banerjee said that the CHTR and IHTR experimental reactors will be ready by 2012 with the commercial versions expected by 2017.

The experimental reactors will have capacities of 600 MW and will be capable of producing hydrogen by night when the demand for power drops.

India’s 3-stage nuclear program aims to achieve long-term energy security through self-reliance. Click to enlarge.

India currently has six different configurations of power reactors in operation and under development, but these fall into a three-stage nuclear power program. Stage 1 reactors use natural uranium as fuel and produce plutonium which is recovered in reprocessing plants for initiating the second stage.

The second stage—fast breeder reactors—use plutonium as fuel. The third stage of the program is thorium-based reactors, which include an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor and the Compact High Temperature Reactor.

The CHTR uses U233 and thorium-based fuel, molten Pb-Bi coolant, BeO moderator and BeO + graphite reflector material. Coolant exit temperature is 1,000° C.

India’s program is strategically focused on the use of thorium—the country has 40% of the world’s thorium reserves but relatively little uranium. India has the world’s only thorium-based experimental reactor at BARC, the 30 Kw Kamini reactor.

For India to provide power generation to its growing population to enable a quality of life commensurate with other developed countries will require generation of some 5,000 kWh per capita per year—or a total capacity of 7,500 billion kWh per year for a population of 1.5 billion by 2050. More than 25% of that capacity is to be provided by nuclear reactors, and the country is determined to maximize the use of its indigenous resources.

The CHTR produces hydrogen by thermochemically splitting water. The efficiency of the thermochemical splitting of water to produce hydrogen varies between 40% to 57%, according to BARC. By contrast, the efficiency of high-temperature steam electrolysis ranges from 27% to 48%, and the efficiency of electrolysis is about 27%.

In the US, the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative is exploring a range of hydrogen production technologies that could enable various Generation IV nuclear reactors to produce hydrogen across a range of temperatures; however, high temperature processes show the greatest promise. (Earlier post.)



John W.

Is it just me, or does a handful of nuclear reactors with a core temp of 1000 degrees Celcius sound scary to anyone else?


Paul Dietz

sound scary to anyone else?

The Pb-Bi coolant sounds scary. Bismuth is transmuted by neutrons to Po-210, which is 250 million times more toxic than cyanide. It was just in the news in an assassination in England.


"40-57% efficiency H2 production" I assume since they are referring to it as thermochemical that these numbers are based on heat to H2 using some sort of catalyst without an intermediate step. (which would make it more competitive with electricity generated by combined cycle with efficiency up to 60%) Am I wrong?


Hydrogen-oxygen mixture adjacent to nuclear reactor sounds scary too.


The plutonium and U-233 produced are could be used in nukes. U233, Pu238, and Pu239 all have small critical mass values. This makes them ideal for either small fission devices, or multistage fission-fusion thermo nukes. Even if all the U and Pu goes to peaceful energy, paranoid generals, and high ranking officials in Pakistan (and to a smaller degree, PRC) will use this, and similar developments to argue for increased/ enhanced military nuclear strike capabilities. Missile defense will follow close behind.

I thought 40-57% efficiency was a bit low too, until I remembered:

Nuke thermal energy->steam->turbine->electric generator->power transmission

This does not include the energy needed to run pumps and other energy usage inside a fission nuke power plant.

_When all this is considered, it comes out to even, or better total energy efficiency. This is the beauty of directly splitting H2 from H2O using fission Nuke thermal energy. One does not have to go through all the other stages of energy conversion, and associated losses at each process.
_There are issues, such as the fact that Nuke plant has to be near large population centers (NIMBY plus higher property value), to cut down on gas transmission losses, and energy needed to pump the gas down the pipeline. Another problem is that H2 is a low-density gas, and for current/future transportation energy demand to be met by H2, that would require either multiple large pipelines, or liquefaction. Combining H2 with CO2 and/or C to make various alcohols, esters, ethers, and fuels similar to NExBTL are other options.


The plant doesnt have to be near anything but wayter. H2 afterall as a gas can be piped.


where according to the General Atomics report, Japan is the leader
on the research for producing Hydrogen from Nuclear plant.
What is their status on production.


The 40 - 57% efficiency is thermal efficiency for production of H2; co-production of electricity should take the overall thermal efficiency to 60 - 75%.

The favored process for thermo-chemical H2 production appears to be the Sulfer-Iodine cycle. Oxygen is produced by thermal decomposition of H2SO4 into O2 + SO2 + H20 at 800 C; hydrogen is produced by thermal decomposition of HI into H2 and I2 at 450 C, and H2SO4 and HI are regenerated by the reaction of SO2, I2, and H2O. Hydrogen and oxygen are produced in separate reaction vessels physically separate from the nuclear reactor and from each other. H2 and O2 are never mixed, or even in close proximity, so that concern is bogus.

More details can be found here


One can build it anywhere, but the shorter the distace between source and market/consumer, the lower the pumping costs and gas losses will likely be. I do understand the argument for redundancy and flexibility. I also agree with interlinking/networking all production plants and significant markets. However, keeping the plants near major population centers cuts costs, and make them more affordable/economically viable.
__Fission powered H2 generation may be a 1-2 generation (20-50 yrs) step. After which, we should have moved onto renewables. If fusion energy pans out(in one form or another), I can see it serve as base power production.


Well egeneraly speaking any time a bunch of governments all do something as expensive and scarey as this it means they NEED to.

If they realy expected something else would do the job they wouldnt have gone nuke.

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