500 MW Kalpakkam Reactor to Reach Criticality

According to scientists, fast breeder reactors would make effective utilisation of the depleting uranium resource in the country, and use plutonium as a fuel with significant reduction in radioactive waste.

Published: 28th June 2014 07:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2014 07:54 AM   |  A+A-

Kalpakkam_plant_EPS

CHENNAI: The integrated commissioning of the indigenously developed 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor  (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, which uses liquid sodium to cool the reactor, has commenced and the reactor will attain criticality in the next two to three months, Prabhat Kumar, chairman and managing director of Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), has said.

Disclosing this to Express, he said the sodium is now being heated below 95 degrees Celsius before being transferred from the tank.  “The integrated commissioning of the reactor has started on Wednesday and we are trying to attain criticality in the next few months.”

Significantly, the closed fuel cycle option has been chosen for the PFBR, under which the spent fuel discharged from the reactor is reprocessed and converted into indigenously developed unique plutonium-rich mixed carbide fuel.

According to scientists, fast breeder reactors would make effective utilisation of the depleting uranium resource in the country, and use plutonium as a fuel with significant reduction in radioactive waste.

Construction has resumed to develop the Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility for recycling the fuel from PFBR, including fuel fabrication and assembly, reprocessing and waste management.

The FRFCF got the nod from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in February and construction of the facility is underway at a fast pace, says P R Vasudeva Rao, director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam.

Maintaining that the country has several nuclear reprocessing plants which supply fuel for thermal plants, he says this, however, would be the only facility that would reprocess fuel for fast breeder reactors on a large scale. According to Rao, initially tests were carried out on a pilot plant called CORAL (Compact Reprocessing of Advanced fuels in Lead shielded cells), formerly known as the Lead Mini Cell (LMC). “We learnt reprocessing of fuel catering to PFBR in the last 10 to 15 years,” he revealed. PFBR is also an important milestone for India’s three-stage nuclear power programme. The country has chosen the closed fuel cycle option in view of its phased expansion of nuclear power generation extending through the second and third stages, whereby full energy potential of uranium and thorium could be utilised.

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