India enters the second of its three-stage nuclear power programme in the presence of PM Modi

Chennai, March 4 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday witnessed India stepping into the second stage of its three-stage nuclear power programme with the commencement of “core loading” at the first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor (500 MWe) at Kalpakkam near here.

Upon completion of the core loading phase – which includes loading of the fuel, the first approach to criticality will be achieved, leading to generation of power subsequently.

The Prime Minister took a tour of the reactor vault and the control room of the reactor, and was briefed about its salient features.

The 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is built by the Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) with the contribution of over 200 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME).

Once commissioned, India will only be the second country after Russia to have a commercial operating fast breeder reactor.

The PFBR will initially use the uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The uranium-238 “blanket” surrounding the fuel core will undergo nuclear transmutation to produce more fuel, thus earning the name ‘Breeder’.

The use of thorium-232, which, in itself, is not a fissile material, as a blanket, is also envisaged in this stage. By transmutation, the thorium will create fissile uranium-233 which will be used as fuel in the third stage. FBR is thus a stepping stone for the third stage of the programme, paving the way for the eventual full utilisation of India’s abundant thorium reserves, a government statement said.

In terms of safety, the PFBR is an advanced third generation reactor with inherent passive safety features ensuring a prompt and safe shut down of the plant in the event of an emergency. Since it uses the spent fuel from the first stage, FBR also offers great advantage in terms of significant reduction in nuclear waste generated, thereby avoiding the need for large geological disposal facilities.

Notably, despite the advanced technology involved, both the capital cost and the per unit electricity cost is comparable to other nuclear and conventional power plants.



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