India’s first commercial fast reactor is nearly ready and construction activities are expected to be completed by the year-end, said Srikumar Banerjee, eminent nuclear scientist and former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, here on Thursday.

Delivering the Convocation Address at the Indian Institute of Space Science & Technology, he said the fast reactor would be loaded with fuel from next year. “We are coming very close to the operation of fast reactors,” he added.

Dr. Banerjee said India needed a large number of fast reactors that not only produced energy but also gave additional neutrons required for the chain reaction to be sustained in nuclear reactors.

He pointed out that India, unlike Australia, Canada or Kazakhstan, did not have huge resources of uranium. “But we have huge reserves of thorium. The challenge is to develop technology for converting this to fissile material,” he said.

India, he said, was an impoverished country as far as energy consumption was concerned. “We are really on the brink of a disaster of not having adequate energy. Our per capita energy consumption was as low as 700 kWh, while the world average is 2,500 kWh. For many of the developed countries, the figure is as high as 15,000 kWh,” he said.