Kalpakkam breeder reactor to go on stream

It will signal India’s entry into the next stage of its n-power programme.

July 08, 2015 02:25 am | Updated 02:26 am IST - CHENNAI

The bay where the spent fuel rods of the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor will be immersed in water and stored. File photo

The bay where the spent fuel rods of the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor will be immersed in water and stored. File photo

The 500-MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, near here, is getting ready to be commissioned in September. When the reactor goes critical, it will signal India’s triumphant entry into the second stage of its three-stage nuclear power programme.

The PFBR will use plutonium-uranium oxide as fuel and 1,750 tonnes of liquid sodium as coolant. It is called a breeder reactor because it breeds more fuel than it consumes. “We are committed to making the PFBR attain criticality in September,” said P. Chellapandi, chairman and managing director, Bharatiya Nabikhiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy, tasked with building breeder reactors.

The PFBR construction had been completed and equipment energised. “We are awaiting clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for sodium charging, fuel loading, reactor criticality and then stepping up power generation,” Dr. Chellapandi said.

The AERB had sent several safety committees to the PFBR for inspection of design compliance and component specifications.

Dr. Chellapandi said: “We have kept the sodium frozen in 10 big tanks.

“All heat transport systems, comprising the pipelines, the heat exchanger components and tanks, have been filled with pure argon to avoid any chemical reaction with sodium and oxygen. We have to melt the sodium and pump it into the reactor circuits.”

After the sodium charging, engineers will perform thermal hydraulics experiments to check the functioning of the pumps and the heat exchanger.

Later, the AERB will give clearance for loading the fuel. In the first stage of the nuclear power programme, a fleet of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, running on natural uranium, had been built. In the second stage, a series of breeder reactors will come up. Reactors running on thorium will form the third stage.

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