Metallic fuel fast-breeder test reactor work begins

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by LETHALFORCE, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1337975.ece

    Initial steps for the construction of another fast-breeder test reactor powered by metallic fuel at Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) complex at Kalpakkam has begun, a senior official said on Monday. "The government had initially sanctioned Rs 25 crore for the 120 MW metallic fuel test reactor (MFTR). Around Rs.6 crore is expected to be spent by the end of this fiscal on geo-technical investigations for the proposed project," an official not wanting to be named told IANS.

    The proposed MFTR will be the third reactor for IGCAR which already has a 14 MW fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) and a mini Kamini (Kalpakkam mini reactor). It will be the seventh reactor as a whole for the Kalpakkam nuclear complex, around 70 km from here. Two pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) of 220 MW capacity of Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) belonging to Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) are already functioning.

    The 500 MW IGCAR designed prototype fast-breeder test reactor (PFBR) is being built by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (Bhavini). A small light water reactor belonging to Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC) is also operational at the Kalpakkam nuclear complex. With Bhavini planning to build two more 500 MW fast reactors sometime in the future, Kalpakkam nuclear complex will become one of the world's noted "island" of fast reactors, housing five units. A fast-breeder reactor is one which breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes. It is the key to India's three-stage nuclear power programme.

    According to the IGCAR official, the MFTR construction is expected to begin in a couple of years. The official added that additional manpower would not be required for MFTR as the existing resources would be sufficient. The MFTR will be the test bed for designing a 1,000 MW fast reactor to be powered by metallic fuel, a mix of 20 percent plutonium and 80 percent uranium. The metallic fuel has better breeding ratio as compared to the mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel that would power PFBR and the two 500 MW fast reactors at Bhavini.
     
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  3. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    LF is this an alternative fuel to uranium and thorium ? is india having a good stock of it - to what level of self sufficiency compared to other countries and how does such a reactor compare to the more traditional fuels in performance ..... finally what does it do ? produce electricity ? can it be used in production of weapons ? ....addressed it to LF but any informed persons most welcome to answer .....thanks in advance
     
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    India's program is a 3 stage program. I will try to summarize as simply as possible:

    Stage I – pressurised heavy water reactor

    In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product. PHWRs was a natural choice for implementing the first stage because it had the most efficient reactor design in terms of uranium utilization, and the existing Indian infrastructure in the 1960s allowed for quick adoption of the PHWR technology.[36] India correctly calculated that it would be easier to create heavy water production facilities (required for PHWRs) than uranium enrichment facilities (required for LWRs).[37] Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238 which is not fissile but can be converted in a reactor to the fissile isotope plutonium-239. Heavy water (deuterium oxide, D 2O) is used as moderator and coolant.

    Stage II – fast breeder reactor

    In the second stage, Fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium. In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the mixed oxide fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239. Thus, the Stage II FBRs are designed to "breed" more fuel than they consume. Once the inventory of plutonium-239 is built up thorium can be introduced as a blanket material in the reactor and transmuted to uranium-233 for use in the third stage

    India's fast breeder reactor is based upon the liquid metal fast breeder reactor. To sustain a chain reaction using fast neutrons, the reactor fuel must be relatively rich in fissile material. The superior neutron economy of a fast neutron reactor makes it possible to build a reactor that, after a relatively large initial fuel charge of plutonium, requires only natural (or even depleted) uranium feedstock as input to its fuel cycle


    This is what is being developed


    Stage III – thorium based reactors

    A Stage III reactor or an Advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232-uranium-233 fuelled reactors. This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium. According to the three-stage programme, Indian nuclear energy could grow to about 10 GW through PHWRs fueled by domestic uranium, and the growth above that would have to come from FBRs till about 50GW. The third stage is to be deployed only after this capacity has been achieved.[57]
    According to replies given in Q&A in the Indian Parliament on two separate occasions, 19 August 2010 and 21 March 2012, large scale thorium deployment is only to be expected “3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of fast breeder reactors with short doubling time”.[66][31] Full exploitation of India’s domestic thorium reserves will likely not occur until after the year 2050
     
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