Prototype reactor to start construction

3 June 2002

Indian scientists are ready to begin construction on a 500MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), according to R Chidambaram, principal scientific officer to the Indian government.

The prototype - a pool-type, sodium-cooled, plutonium-uranium-oxide- fuelled reactor - has been designed indigenously at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, operating under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) at Kalpakkam in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Technological development of the PFBR is almost over, and construction will soon begin, said Chidambaram.

Construction on the PFBR is to commence the second of three stages of atomic power development in India. The programme is designed to tap the country's large resources of thorium as thorium-uranium fuel in the third stage. Uranium resources are limited and are being used for pressurised heavy water reactors in the first stage and plutonium-uranium-based reactors in the second stage.

An important development in firming up technology for the PFBR is that its design life has been raised by 10 years to 40 years.

According to the annual report of the DAE: "Significant progress was made in the design of the systems and components of both the nuclear steam supply system and also for the balance of plant. All the conceptual design aspects of the reactor were completed. Plant life was revised from 30 years to 40 years based on technical considerations." The detailed project report, environmental impact assessment, and environmental management plan have been finalised. These are now awaiting approval of the government's Ministry of Environment and Forests. Action has also been initiated for obtaining consent of the local environmental authorities at the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

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