Special Correspondent

Electricity generated from PFBR to be sold to State Electricity Boards

  • Breeders to switch over to metallic fuel from uranium-plutonium oxide
  • FBTR at Kalpakkam can operate for another 20 years

    CHENNAI: The Department of Atomic Energy(DAE) will simultaneously construct four more breeder reactors of 500 MWe each including two at Kalpakkam, said Baldev Raj, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam.

    The site for the other two reactors had not been firmed up yet. A Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) of 500 MWe was already under construction at Kalpakkam "and we stand by our commitment to commission the PFBR in September 2010," he said.

    The electricity generated from the PFBR would be sold to the State Electricity Boards at Rs.3.22 a unit. The pre-project activities for the construction of the second and third breeder reactors at Kalpakkam would begin in 2010 and they would go critical in 2017. The tariff for the electricity generated from these would be Rs.2.50 a unit. The Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), a public sector undertaking of the DAE, would build all the breeder reactors in India. The four new breeder reactors would cost Rs.2,500 crore each.

    The new breeders would first use mixed uranium-plutonium oxide as fuel and later switch over to metallic fuel. "We can breed much faster with the metallic fuel. By 2020, the technology of making the metallic fuel will be ready," the IGCAR Director said. The IGCAR has fathered the breeder reactor technology in India.

    Dr. Baldev Raj was speaking to reporters at the end of a one-day awareness workshop on research and career opportunities for physicists and chemists held at the Queen Mary's College by the IGCAR. "By 2020, we will have totally five breeder reactors and we will be the world leader in breeder technology," he asserted.

    The civil construction of the PFBR at Kalpakkam "had reached a high level" and the building of the reactor containment vault was nearing completion. The safety vessel, the main vessel and the inner vessel were under an advanced stage of fabrication. The safety vessel would be lowered into the reactor vault by April 2007. Most of the clearances for the PFBR had been obtained from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and "there will be no major difficulty in commissioning this reactor by 2010," Dr. Baldev Raj said. The IGCAR's efforts were to ensure that its facilities were fully used by researchers and scientists and he was "amazed" by the number of students who were keen on pursuing a career in science. The IGCAR was a constituent unit of the Homi Bhabha National University and the IGCAR had 15 Ph.D. students working on `separation science and technology,' virtual reality, sensors, structural mechanics and so on.

    P.V. Ramalingam, Director, Reactor Operation and Maintenance Group, IGCAR, said the Fast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam, which had completed 20 years of operation, could be operated for another 20 years with modifications. These modifications would cost Rs.40 crore. The capacity of the FBTR, which is a forerunner to the PFBR, would be stepped up to 20 MWt in a year's time. The FBTR's total capacity is 40 MWt. Prof. Eugenie Pinto, Principal, Queen Mary's College, wanted the IGCAR to set up a centre in the field of material science which would be available to students and researchers from Chennai.