India’s first commercial fast reactor is nearly ready and construction activities are expected to be completed by the year-end, Srikumar Banerjee, eminent nuclear scientist and former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, said here on Thursday.
Delivering the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Space Science and 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 said.
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.
Observing that 450 million people in India still had no access to electricity even as the country registered a 50 per cent growth in energy requirement over the past five years, he stressed the need to do something to address the inequitable distribution of electricity.
“Solar energy can be harnessed for villages and small farmers. At the same time, we need some energy for the grid. Metros and large industries cannot be supported by solar energy alone,” he said.