India's fast breeder reactor to go critical soon



India's first 500 MW sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor would go critical by the year-end at Kalpakkam near Chennai, a top official said on Wednesday.

"Commissioning of a nuclear reactor is a four-stage process. We are completing the first stage of integrating the equipment and functioning of all components by this week-end," Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (BNVN) chairman and managing director P. Chellapandi told IANS here.

BNVN was set up by the government under the Atomic Energy Board over a decade ago to generate power through fast breeder reactors (FBRs) by making optimal use of spent fuels like plutonium and uranium piled up over the years from 20 other types of reactors across the country.

In the second stage, technologists will fill control rods with sodium in circuits and conduct performance testing of pumps in September after regulatory clearance.

The company is importing sodium from France in view of its superior quality for cooling in the prototype reactor with other two elements.

"In the third stage, we will load the mox fuel, a mix of 75 percent uranium and 25 percent plutonium to make the reactor go critical for sustained charging and increase power generation gradually," Chellapandi said on the margins of an event.

In the fourth and final stage, power generated from the reactor will be connected to the power grid by August-September 2016 and supplied to discoms (distributing companies) on commercial basis.

"India is the only second country after Russia to design and develop indigenously FBRs, which have more material for a nuclear fission than it consumes," he said.

Though the company will generate power in phases after completing the second stage and supply it to the grid free initially, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has to certify for commissioning and dedicating to the nation by this year-end.

Admitting that the project was behind schedule due to multiple factors and its cost had escalated 20 percent, Chellapandi said changes had to be made in design, materials and equipment for ensuring the reactor was free from hitches or glitches.

"The project got delayed by over a year for technical reasons and improving safety features, as the reactor facility is on the shore of Bay of Bengal, which was lashed by tsunami in December 2004," he said.

The company will build two more fast breeder reactors of 500 MW each by 2021 and 2025 at Kalpakkam, about 80 km from Chennai, and where the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research operates fast breeder test reactor and a uranium-fuelled mini reactor Kamini.

Chellapandi was in the city to deliver a keynote address at the third edition of the two-day "India Technology Congress 2015" on "Transforming India as a global engineering and technology hub - prospects and pathways", organised by the Institute of Engineers in partnership with the central government. - IANS