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Nuclear Power Programme: Stage-II

Fast Reactor Programme

The second stage of nuclear power generation envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. These fast breeder systems produce more fuel than what they consume. FBRs can increase fuel utilisation by about sixty times of what is possible with PHWRs.

IGCAR started the breeder programme with the setting up of a Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu in October 1985. This reactor, operating with indigenously developed mixed uranium-plutonium carbide fuel has achieved its technology objectives.

The reactor operated at a power level of 17.4 MWt and the turbo-generator was connected to the grid, feeding 1.8 million units of electricity. The fuel has reached a burn up of 1,55,000 megawatt day per tonne (MWd/t), that is more than four times the originally designed value.

Based on the experience gained with the FBTR, the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (BHAVINI-formed in October 2003) is constructing a 500 megawatt (e) Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu. It is a pool type reactor using a mixed oxide of uranium and plutonium as fuel, the design and technology of which were developed at IGCAR. The PFBR is expected to go critical in September 2010. The FBR programme is poised to enhance the electricity potential in India through available uranium-metal resources by a factor of about 100.

The thrust of the R&D programme at IGCAR is oriented towards the design validation of PFBR in the first instance, and subsequently, the design optimisation for future FBRs, to reduce the cost.

Fast Reactor Fuel Fabrication

The Mark-I mixed carbide fuel core, with high plutonium content, has been developed for the first time in the world. Fabrication of Mark-II core is progressing at Trombay. A number of PFBR MOX fuel elements for making experimental PFbR subassembly, for irradiation in FBTR, have been fabricated by BARC.

Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing

For reprocessing of FBTR fuel, the lead Mini Cell, henceforth known as Compact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells (CORAL) has been commissioned at Kalpakkam. It is aimed at establishing the fast reactor reprocessing process flow sheet. For reprocessing of fuel from fast breeders, IGCAR is setting up the Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant (FRFRP). A comprehensive procedure has also been evolved at the Centre for the recovery of uranium and plutonium and separation of the radioactive fission products from the spent fuel solutions.

Fast Reactor Technology Development

Under the technology development programme, IGCAR is pursuing engineering related research & development such as thermal hydraulic and structural mechanics studies, development of components such as control and safety rod drive mechanism and various test facilities such as Sodium Water Reaction Test Facility and Steam Generator Test Facility.

Source: National Portal Content Management Team, Reviewed on: 09-02-2011