ITS Campus, ITS News – Currently, Pembangkit Listrik Tenaga Nuklir (PLTN) or nuclear power plants in the world only use Uranium as fuel. However, this cannot be done in Indonesia because of its relatively small uranium reserves. Therefore, the team of students from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) who are members of The Inventhor Team, innovated to use Thorium as an alternative fuel, which is a renewable energy source.
Michael Adrian Subagio, Chair of The Inventhor Team, said that the idea of this innovation originated from the clean renewable energy (zero carbon) crisis and global climate change marked by Global Temperature Rise. Regarding this matter, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, once stated that he would take part in reducing the amount of carbon gas emissions in Indonesia by developing the New and Renewable Energy (EBT) sector.
For this reason, Michael and his two colleagues focused on the use of clean, renewable, and safer energy sources for nuclear power plants compared to energy from coal, natural gas, and biomass. From the analysis, Michael and his team found that Thorium could be used to replace Uranium. “The efficiency of conversion to electrical energy alone can reach 50 percent, compared to Uranium which is only 30 percent,” he explained.
This value, continued Michael, is the largest compared to other power plants, resulting in less radioactive solid waste. To note, the NPP reactor utilizes the fission reaction of radioactive compounds that produce steam as turbine propulsion for electricity production. “In this case, Thorium is safer because its physical reaction does not form compounds that could potentially be used for nuclear bombs,” he said.
The use of Thorium, according to Michael, is also related to the abundance of Thorium reserves in Indonesia. He added that the results of exploration carried out by the Geological Resources Center of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) showed the largest Monazite reserves (minerals containing Thorium) in the Bangka Belitung Islands area. “The thorium content is very large, ranging from 62.9 – 85.7 ppm per gram,” he explained.
Seeing this potential, The Inventhor Team proposed the establishment of a nuclear power plant in the Bangka Belitung Islands Province by taking several aspects into account. Regarding the geological aspect, Michael said that the area was relatively safe from earthquakes and tsunamis. Besides, there is sufficient water supply for the NPP utility system because it is close to the Natuna waters and the Java Sea. “This is related to the on-line processing of Monazite into Thorium Oxide,” he added.
Thanks to their creativity, this idea of Michael and his two colleagues, Kenny Santoso and Brian Setiawan, has won gold medals at the National Applied Science Project Olympiad (NASPO) in the field of Renewable Energy, some time ago. For this victory, The Inventhor Team was fully funded to participate in one of the events held by the Indonesian Young Scientist Association (IYSA), namely the World Invention Competition and Exhibition (WICE) 2021.
The idea was fully supported by the judges who wanted the Thorium PLTN to run in Indonesia immediately. This is because until now, there has not been a single nuclear power plant that uses Thorium in the world and nuclear power plants in Indonesia are still not operating because they are still in the material exploration stage.
“Maybe if necessary and possible, we can consult directly with the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) regarding the condition and potential of nuclear Thorium in Indonesia in the future,” said the student from Surabaya.
Turning back, Michael shared that the Inventor Team was formed when they attended a class at the Chemical Engineering Department, namely Energy Technology. “There, we learned many things about energy both in the world and in Indonesia until finally, our idea emerged to establish a nuclear power plant in Bangka Belitung,” he said.
Michael admitted that the competition was the first experience for Team Inventor in competing. He and the team feel very proud because all of this only started with lecture discussions, but it turned out to be able to earn awards at the end of 2020. “Therefore, for ITS student friends who want to start to compete, stay enthusiastic and always be sensitive to the surrounding situation because there are many things that can be developed,” he advised. (tri/far/ITS Public Relations)
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