First N-fuel recycling plant soon in Tarapur
Spent fuel—end product of first generation nuclear reactors—will be reprocessed to generate more fissile material for strategic programme as well as for fast-breeder nuclear reactors that are currently under construction. India plans to have six commercial breeder reactors in the next 15 years.
There are 20 functional nuclear power plants with a total installed capacity of 4,780 MWe while four 700 MWe units are under construction. In addition, there are two 1,000 MWe units at Kudankulam. All these plants will generate spent fuel.
Nations with ample supply of uranium find it more economical not to reprocess the spent fuel and store it as it is. India plans to reprocess the spent fuel for further extraction of uranium and plutonium.
The Department of Atomic Energy currently runs three small reprocessing units at Trombay (60 tonnes), Tarapur and Kalpakkam (100 tonnes each). A fourth 100 tonne unit is under construction at Kalpakkam and will be ready by 2014. “But the integrated nuclear recycle plant will not only reprocess the spent fuel but also undertake simultaneous waste management. It will reprocess spent fuel from indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors,” Sekhar Basu, director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, told Deccan Herald.
Earlier this month, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd informed the Supreme Court that more reprocessing facilities were being set up with industry participation as the projected nominal capacity was to reach 750 tonnes by 2020.
With limited uranium availability, the indigenous nuclear power is estimated to be about 10,000 MWe by PHWR, without reprocessing. With reprocessing, the capacity could go up to 63,000 MWe by 2032 and 2,75,000 MWe by 2052 if the imported fuel is also recycled.
“One reprocessing unit is required for every six-ten nuclear plants. The safeguarded fuel can be reprocessed with material accounting,” Basu said.
India does not generate a large amount of spent fuel as most power plants are of 220 Mwe capacity. However, if the government succeeds in importing 12,500 MWe of imported nuclear reactor and the high growth trajectory in nuclear sector is continued, then one reprocessing unit needs to be set up in every seven-eight years. Since the reprocessing units do not require large space, they can be housed inside existing campuses, he added.