India committed to fast breeder reactor programme

Speaking at the silver jubilee celebrations of Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) organised by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) here, he said: "As we look forward to expand our nuclear energy programme with imported fuel and large imported reactors, let me assure you that there will be no compromise with or commitment to our three-stage nuclear programme, to our own research and to our own technology".

A fast breeder reactor breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes and is key to India's three-stage nuclear power programme.  Chavan said India has always taken the stand that "irradiated fuel should not be disposed as radioactive waste and that closing the fuel cycle through fuel reprocessing is absolutely essential for ensuring the sustainability of nuclear energy".

India is depending upon utilisation of its thorium reserves, he said. "The successful demonstration of a challenging technology of thorium utilisation shall enable us in winning the confidence of the public and also policy makers in the large scale deployment of nuclear energy in the years to come," Chavan said.

IGCAR director Baldev Raj, recalling the trials and tribulations in setting up and operating the FBTR, said there are around 10,000 technologists working on fast breeder reactor technologies - 2,500 are in the IGCAR and the others in various research and educational institutions.

The 500MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), modelled on FBTR, will be completed by the end of 2011 or during the first quarter of 2012, he said. According to Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee, the FBTR is also the training centre for future fast breeder professionals.

Speaking on the occasion, the government's Principal Scientific Advisor R.Chidambaram said in the context of climate change, closing the fuel cycle assumes greater importance.

"A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between IGCAR, BHEL (Bharat Heavy Engineering Limited) and NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) for joint development of advanced ultra super critical boilers used in thermal power plants," he said

According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General Y.A.Sokolov, nuclear energy is an option which cannot be ignored in the quest to meet the world's increasing energy demand while reducing the release of greenhouse gases.

He said today's installed nuclear capacity across the globe amounts to some 370 GW, contributing around 14 percent of the world's electricity generation. He said LWRs are used to economically and safely produce nuclear electricity. Recycling of uranium and plutonium from the spent fuel is possible there, saving 20-30 percent of natural uranium consumption.

Meanwhile, ICGAR officials said October has been a significant month in India's nuclear programme. The Uranium Corporation was set up on Oct 4, 1967  and the Tarapur Atomic Power Station started commercial operation Oct 2, 1969.

It was Oct 20, 1996 when the Kalpakkam Mini (KAMINI) Reactor went critical. On Oct 22, 2004, fast breeder operating company Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited was set up and finally the fast breeder progamme celebrated its silver jubilee Oct 10, 2010.

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