India to get fast breeder reactor in September

India to get fast breeder reactor in September

As India’s maiden commercial scale fast breeder nuclear reactor is set to be commissioned in eight months, three more 500 MW fast reactors, including one that can overhaul the nuclear energy landscape, are in the pipeline.

The first prototype breeder reactor will be commissioned in September 2014 in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, and electricity from this 500 MW unit would be fed to the southern grid in the first half of 2015. This would be followed by construction of two more reactors of 500 MW capacity each at the same place.

“It is the fourth, which will test new waters. It would be a 500 MW breeder reactor with metallic fuel.

Every 8-10 years, the reactor will generate two tonnes of plutonium, which is good enough to start a new fast breeder reactor. It would be technology demonstration project,” P Chellapandi, scientist and director of the reactor design group at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, told Deccan Herald.

The department of atomic energy, however, is yet to decide on the location of this next generation breeder reactor. India's nuclear programme is limited to indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) and imported light water reactor, first of which is operational at Kudankulam.

The first three breeder reactors will use a mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide as fuel.

They will “breed” more fissile material than the fuel they consume by burning plutonium–generated in uranium-fuelled pressurised heavy water reactors and light water reactors–and converting the fuel’s uranium into plutonium.

The only other country building a large fast breeder reactor is Russia, whose 880 MW BN-800 FBR, too, is scheduled to go on-stream by April, 2014.

Since fast reactors use liquid sodium–a highly hazardous material–as coolant, there are wide-spread concerns on the safety of these reactors.

Asked about the reactor’s safety, Chellapandi said even in a remote case of sodium leakage, there would not be any safety implications because of double containment. “Any severe accident in a fast reactor is not possible because of the design,” he noted.

The technology demonstration reactor will have only metallic fuel without any oxide and will generate more plutonium in a relatively short time.

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