CHENNAI: The 500-MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam, an important milestone in the country’s three-stage nuclear power programme, continues to remain elusive as deadlines are getting altered frequently.
Nuclear scientists feel the fast breeder reactor, which breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes, would have been ready by now, but for the stringent regulations laid down by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) after the Fukushima disaster as well as leakage in 220-MW reactor at Kakrapur Atomic Power Station recently.
The norms have been made so stringent by the AERB that nuclear scientists have to focus more on paper work rather than on the research activities. This has irked the scientists, who now have to do the clerical job by jotting down on reams of paper on how each and every part of the reactor works.
India had the fast breeder technology in 1985 and scientists have been working on the project for the last 30 years. Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Shekar Basu had earlier told Express that the project would attain criticality by June. But it seems far from reality.
Union Minister of State (independent charge) Jitendra Singh has said that the project is expected to go critical by the end of the year. But scientists say that with the stringent AERB norms, it is unlikely that the project could be completed by the end of this year.
Already a total of `5,800 crore has been spent on the project and scientists believe there could be cost escalation. Scientists are already facing the heat. On the one hand, they are required to adhere to the AERB norms and on the other, they have to meet the deadline. “It is like being caught between the devil and the deep sea,” says a senior scientist. The delay has hit the morale of nuclear scientists also, who now feel that space scientists have gained an upper hand as they are showing results. There has also been a change of guard at a critical phase with scientist Kallol Roy replacing Dr Perumal Chellapandi as the new chairman and managing director.