It will go critical by September next year: IGCAR chief

India’s first commercial fast breeder reactor, the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR),  is almost ready and  it would go critical by September next year,  according to Dr P.R. Vasudeva Rao, Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).

Talking to reporters here on Thursday after delivering the CSIR-CECRI Foundation Day 2013 lecture, Dr. Rao said 96 per cent of the PFBR construction by the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) had been completed. After the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) certified safety aspects in different power levels, the PFBR would start generating power, he said. “As the AERB was very strict on safety measures it will take several months or a year to complete the process.”

Dr Rao said it was proposed to build two more PFBRs in Kalpakkam, besides a very large fuel cycle facility to fabricate and reprocess the spent fuel in the coming years.

Pointing out that the country would face a power deficit of 412 GWe by 2050 and 1.6 billion tonnes of coal would be required to fill the gap, he said India had no option but to go for a combination of nuclear, solar and wind energy.

As India had the world’s highest thorium resource, it could be used for generating power for the next 600 years, he said. However, the thorium had to be converted into a different form, which could be burnt in reactors, he said adding that the fast reactors could convert thorium into uranium 233 and that would enable to build more reactors.

Earlier, delivering a lecture on “Chemistry for Fast Reactors and Associated fuel cycle,” he said fast reactors were important for realising sustainable nuclear energy. The use of plutonium in fast reactor fuels, operation of the fuel at high temperatures, use of liquid sodium as coolant and enriched boron carbide as the control material were examples of features of fast reactors that pose a challenge to the chemists, he said. “The safe operation of reactor, reduction in the generation of nuclear waste and similar objectivities can all be met only through a sustained R&D programme in chemistry exploiting the knowledge base and expertise available in various academic and research institutions,” he said. Future challenges with respect to fast reactors would include the use of pyro-processing schemes for reprocessing the metallic fuels, he added.