India's Thorium based nuclear power programme

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by LETHALFORCE, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    India's fast breeder reactor achieves second milestone

    India's fast breeder reactor achieves second milestone


    Chennai: India's first indigenously designed 500MW fast breeder nuclear power project achieved its second milestone albeit silently when the huge main vessel was lowered into the safety vessel, an official said.

    "We have been waiting to do this for quite sometime but were not permitted by the rain gods. As the sky was clear, we decided to go ahead with the lowering of the main vessel and completed it on Saturday," project director Prabhat Kumar told IANS from Kalpakkam.

    The Rs 5,600 crore project is being built by the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (Bhavini) at the Kalpakkam nuclear enclave, around 80 km from here.

    A fast breeder reactor is one which breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes and key to India's three-stage nuclear power programme.

    Lowering of the huge stainless steel main vessel - 12.9 metres in diameter and 12.94 metres in height, weighing 206 tonnes - is considered a major step in completing the 500 MW power project by the September 2011 deadline.
     
  2. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    WMD Insights


    BREEDER REACTORS AND INDIA'S NUCLEAR STRATEGY


    As part of the March 2, 2006, agreement between the United States and India on civil nuclear cooperation, India agreed to separate its nuclear facilities into civilian and military installations and to place the former under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection to verify that they are not being used to support the production of nuclear weapons.

    On March 7, 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented the details of India’s “Separation Plan.” Singh stated that 14 of India’s 22 conventional nuclear power plants, now operating or under construction, would be placed on the civilian, IAEA-inspected list. He then gave particular emphasis to the fact that India would keep its fast breeder reactors, now operating or under construction, off the civilian list. (Breeder reactors are reactors that can create more fissile material than they consume.) On this subject, Singh declared:

    We have conveyed that India will not accept safeguards on the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor [now under construction] and the Fast Breeder Test Reactor [operating since 1985], both located at Kalpakkam. The Fast Breeder Program is at the R&D stage. This technology will take time to mature and reach an advanced stage of development. We do not wish to place any encumbrances on our Fast Breeder program, and this has been fully ensured in the Separation Plan. [1]

    Later in his remarks, Singh again turned to India’s breeder program. Referring to declarations made suo motu (on his own initiative), Singh stated:

    During my Suo Motu Statements on this subject made on July 29, 2005, and on February 27, 2006, I had given a solemn assurance to this august House and through the Honorable members to the country, that the Separation Plan will not adversely affect our country’s national security. I am in a position to assure the Members that this is indeed the case. I might mention:

    i) that the separation plan will not adversely affect our strategic program. There will be no capping of our strategic program, and the separation plan ensures adequacy of fissile material and other inputs to meet the current and future requirements of our strategic program, based on our assessment of the threat scenarios. No constraint has been placed on our right to construct new facilities for strategic purposes. The integrity of our Nuclear Doctrine and our ability to sustain a Minimum Credible Nuclear Deterrent is adequately protected.

    ii) The Separation Plan does not come in the way of the integrity of our three stage nuclear program, including the future use of our thorium reserves. The autonomy of our Research and Development activities in the nuclear field will remain unaffected. The Fast Breeder Test Reactor and the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor remain outside safeguards. We have agreed, however, that future civilian Thermal power reactors and civilian Fast Breeder Reactors would be placed under safeguards, but the determination of what is civilian is solely an Indian decision. [2]

    Singh’s comments suggested that India’s national security in the nuclear arena has two dimensions: sustaining a minimum credible deterrent; and implementing India’s “three stage nuclear program,” aimed at exploiting the country’s vast thorium reserves for energy purposes.

    In an interview given on February 7, 2006, to the Indian Express roughly a month prior to the signing of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), made clear that India’s breeder reactor program does, indeed, have close links to the country’s nuclear weapons program:

    Express: So categorically the breeder will not go under safeguards?

    Kakodkar: No way because it hurts our strategic interest. You follow, no? There’s no way.

    Express: The strategic interest of security or strategic interest of energy security?

    Kakodkar: Both. It is linked through the fuel cycle.

    Express: So will placing the fast breeder reactor program on the civilian list and hence under safeguards hurt India’s efforts at maintaining in perpetuity the “minimum credible deterrent” while hurting its need for long-term energy security?

    Kakodkar: Yes, there can be no doubts on that. Both, from the point of view of maintaining long-term energy security and for maintaining the “minimum credible deterrent,” the Fast Breeder Program just cannot be put on the civilian list. This would amount to getting shackled and India certainly cannot compromise one [type of security] for the other. [3]

    India’s breeder reactors were reportedly a contentious issue during the negotiations with the United States over the agreement. Ultimately New Delhi prevailed on this matter. [4] The prominent role of India’s breeder reactors in the consideration of the separation of Indian civilian and military nuclear facilities raises the question of what specific contributions these reactors, long justified as important to the future of the Indian nuclear energy sector, might make to its military capabilities.

    Background: India’s Three Stage Breeder Program
    In a breeder reactor, fuel containing a substantial proportion of fissile material, such as plutonium, is used to sustain a chain reaction. The chain reaction produces heat and excess neutrons. The heat is used to produce steam to turn electric turbines, and the neutrons are used to bombard “fertile” material in a “blanket” surrounding the core. In the blanket, new fissile material is created, traditionally, plutonium. The neutrons also create new fissile material in the core (in the non-fissile part of the fuel blend). Periodically the blanket is removed and a portion of the core is replaced. The blanket and the removed portion of the core are then processed to separate the new fissile material. Because, in total, more fissile material is created in the blanket and core than is consumed in the core, the reactor is said to “breed” fissile material. The bred fissile material is used as a portion of a subsequent breeder core, until enough bred fissile material is obtained to allow new cores to be made solely from bred material, and the cycle becomes self-sustaining. (The reactors are known as “fast” because they use neutrons that are not slowed by a moderating medium, such as water.)

    India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) and Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) are designed along these lines. Plutonium for the initial cores of these facilities comes from a number of India’s conventional nuclear power reactors, based on a Canadian design, known as the CANDU reactor. In these reactors, natural uranium is irradiated, transforming roughly 0.3 percent of the uranium into plutonium, which is then separated in a reprocessing plant. Because India has extensive deposits of thorium, but more limited deposits of uranium, India is working towards developing a breeder cycle in which plutonium is initially used as the fissile material in the core, thorium is used as the blanket, and uranium-233 is created in the blanket. Eventually, the uranium-233 will be used as the fissile material in future cores. Thus India’s three-stage breeder program begins with the conventional CANDU-style reactors (Stage 1), whose plutonium is used in the first generation of breeder reactors (Stage 2), until enough thorium has been transmuted into uranium-233 to be used in the core of a second generation of breeders designed to use this type of fuel (Stage 3). India is currently actively pursuing the second stage with the FBTR and the PFBR.
    India’s fast breeder reactor program began with an agreement between France and India in 1969. Between 1969 and 1970, a team of Indian scientists and engineers traveled to Cadarache, France, home of the Rhapsodie breeder reactor, to finalize the plan for the FBTR, located at Kalpakkam near Chennai. [5] In 1974, Indian technicians, with the help of the French, began construction of the FBTR and completed it in 1984. Many of the key components for the FBTR were manufactured in India using French technology. [6] Currently the FBTR is testing a mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel, which will be used as the core material in the future for the PFBR. The plutonium for the FBTR’s initial operations is believed to have been extracted from the Madras nuclear power reactors in Kalpakkam and reprocessed at the Tarapur reprocessing facility. [7]

    In the 1990s, a working group began to design and develop India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), a 500MWe pool type liquid metal fast breeder reactor located at the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam. It is intended to be the first of a series of similar reactors to be constructed in the future. Construction of PFBR is believed to have begun in 1997 and is due to be completed by 2010. [8]

    Potential Contribution of the FBTR and PFBR to the Indian Nuclear Weapons Program
    The most immediate benefit that breeders could provide to the Indian nuclear weapons program would be to improve the quality of plutonium available to India for nuclear warheads. Plutonium with low concentrations of the isotopes plutonium-238, -240, and -242 and high concentrations of plutonium-239 is best suited for nuclear weapons. The presence of increased concentrations of the even-numbered isotopes makes nuclear weapon yields less predictable and requires special modifications in nuclear weapon designs. Usually the longer fuel is used in a reactor, the higher the concentration of these undesirable isotopes.

    The plutonium that India is expected to introduce into the FBTR and PFBR comes from nuclear power reactors that have most likely been optimized to produce electricity, which means longer residence times for the fuel and increased presence of the unwanted plutonium isotopes. While less desirable for nuclear weapons, the material is quite suitable as fuel for fast breeder reactors. These reactors can then be used to produce plutonium in their blankets that has low levels of these isotopes -- less than 7 percent in total -- making it ideal for weapons. In effect, as one Indian author has noted, the breeders can act as a cleaner or “laundry” for contaminated plutonium. [9]

    If the 500 MWe PFBR produced proportionally as much weapons-quality plutonium in its blanket as the now closed 1200 MWe French Superphénix breeder reactor, India could produce enough of the material for at least ten weapons annually (based on International Atomic Energy Agency standards, which specify that 8 kg of plutonium, sometimes called a “significant quantity,” is enough to construct one nuclear weapon). [10] Currently, using the CIRUS and Dhruva research reactors, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, in Trombay, India can produce only enough weapons-quality plutonium for 3-4 weapons annually. (These units are also being held off India’s civilian facility list.)

    CANDU-style reactors, it should be noted, can also be optimized to produce excellent plutonium for weapons by moving fuel through the reactor more rapidly than would normally be the case if they were devoted to efficient production of electricity.

    In his interview with the Indian Express, AEC Chairman Kakodkar denied that India planned to take plutonium produced in the breeders for weapons. Rather, he stated, elements of the fuel cycle supporting the breeder – implicitly, the eight CANDU-style power reactors India will keep on its military list, and the facility that reprocesses their fuel at Kalpakkam – are needed for this purpose.

    Express: What you are saying is that you could well be diverting plutonium out of the breeder for security interests.

    Kakodkar: I am not saying that. I am saying the sequential stages are linked through the fuel cycle. The fuel cycle is for the same infrastructure which also feeds the strategic program and I don’t have such a big infrastructure that I divide this saying, ek beta ye aap ke liye, ek beta ye aap ke liye (I can’t divide the family saying this son goes to this part, the second to the other). [3]

    The meaning of Kakodkar’s statements is somewhat obscure. His words suggest that if the breeders themselves are not to be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, then the material for such weapons is likely to come directly from one or more of the eight CANDU-style reactors that India has kept on its military list (two of which are at Kalpakkam). As noted, plutonium from the CANDU-style reactors, whether intended for weapons or for the breeders, would be extracted within the Kalpakkam site, where the FTBR and the PFBR are situated.

    Thus, if Kakodkar’s explanation is accepted, India’s insistence in keeping breeders outside the reach of IAEA inspectors may not be to ensure their availability to support weapons production, but rather to keep inspectors far away from the Kalpakkam site, where their presence might allow them to glean information regarding other facilities used in India’s nuclear weapon program. U.S. decision-makers attempting to track the progress of India’s nuclear deterrent and of its nuclear energy program should be mindful of both possibilities.
     
  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/india\s-first-fast-breeder-reactor-to-be-delayed/385625/

    India's first Fast Breeder Reactor to be delayed


    The 500-Mwe reactor will take another year to be completed

    India’s first Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) for commercial nuclear energy generation is likely to be delayed by a year. The 500-megawatt equivalent (Mwe) reactor, which is being built at Kalpakkam (near Chennai) in Tamil Nadu, was initially expected to be commissioned by 2010-end.

    “There have been some delays in the commissioning of Kalpakkam FBR. This is because many equipment are being made for the first time in India as it is an indigenous reactor,” said a senior official from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

    The official informed that the delay could be a couple of month to one year and FBR would be commissioned in 2011.

    The reactor, when commissioned, would become the second-largest commercial FBR in the world after Russia’s BN-600 reactor, which is operating since 1980. With its commissioning, India would enter the second phase of its “three-stage nuclear energy programme”.

    India, as a part of its nuclear strategy, has embarked on a three-pronged path. First, natural uranium will fuel PHWRs (Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors). The second stage involves using FBRs based on plutonium that will be extracted from the spent fuel of the first stage. Finally, the country’s vast thorium reserves will be used to generate electricity.

    Apart from the Kalpakkam FBR, the government is planning to set up four additional FBRs by 2020. The sites for two of these additional FBRs have already been identified at Kalpakkam.

    The FBR at Kalpakkam would utilise over 75 per cent of natural Uranium that is fed into it — as compared to a dismal 0.3 per cent utilisation of the radioactive fuel in the conventional PHWRs currently installed in India — making it “near-renewable”.

    The prototype FBR, being developed at an estimated investment of Rs 3,492 crore, is expected to provide energy security to the country.

    The reactor is set up by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (Bhavini), the special purpose vehicle set up by the government in 2003 for constructing FBRs in the country under the aegis of DAE. It has been designed at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), DAE’s research body developing the fast breeder reactor technology in India.

    A small sized 13 MWe Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) is already successfully operating in the country since 1985. The FBR technology, which forms the second stage of India’s nuclear energy programme, is expected to allow the country’s nuclear power generation capacity to grow over 300,000 MWe in the long term, without any additional uranium, as it uses the spent fuel from the already installed PHWRs.

    India has a current installed nuclear power generation capacity of over 4,100 MWe, contributed by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) through its 15 PHWRs and two Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs). NPCIL alone produces nuclear power in the country, as the Atomic Energy Act 1962 prohibits private entry into nuclear power generation. The country plans to ramp up its nuclear power generation capacity fivefold to over 20,000 MWe by 2020.
     
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://knol.google.com/k/indian-nuclear-reactors#

    India currently operates 18 commercial nuclear power plants with a total installed capacity of 4,340 MW. Four nuclear power plants with a total installed capacity of 2,440 MW are under construction.

    The nuclear power capacity addition target for the XI plan (2007-12) is 3160 MW which will bring the total installed capacity to 7280 MW.

    Project for 2800 MW capacity addition by 2016/2017 have been approved in the year 2009.

    List of Reactors
    Location Unit Name Capacity (mw) Utility Type Reactor Supplier Percent Complete Expected / Actual Date of Operation
    Kaiga,
    Karnataka Kaiga 1 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    11/2000
    Kaiga 2 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    03/2000
    Kaiga 3 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    05/2007
    Kaiga 4 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 97.0 03/2010
    Kakrapar,
    Gujarat Kakrapar 1 220 NP PHWR DAE/NPCIL 100
    05/1993
    Kakrapar 2 220 NP PHWR DAEC/NPCIL 100
    09/1995
    Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu Kalpakkam 1 220 NP PHWR DAE 100
    01/1984
    Kalpakkam 2 220 NP PHWR DAE 100
    03/1986
    Kota,
    Rajasthan Rajasthan 1 100 NP PHWR AECL 100
    12/1973
    Rajasthan 2 200 NP PHWR AECL/DAE 100
    4/1981
    Rajasthan 3 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    06/2000
    Rajasthan 4 220 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    12/2000
    Rajasthan 5 220 NP PWHR NPCIL 100
    03/2010
    Rajasthan 6 220 NP PWHR NPCIL 99 03/2010
    Kudankulam,
    Tamil Nadu Kudankulam 1 1,000 NP PWR Russia 93.9 09/2010
    Kadunkulam 2 1,000 NP PWR Russia 83.7 03/2011
    Narora,
    Uttar Pradesh Narora 1 220 NP PHWR DAE/NPCIL 100
    01/1991
    Narora 2 220 NP PHWR DAE/NPCIL 100
    07/1992
    Tarapur, Maharashtra Tarapur 1 160 NP BWR GE 100
    11/1969
    Tarapur 2 160 NP BWR GE 100
    11/1969
    Tarapur 3 540 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    08/2006
    Tarapur 4 540 NP PHWR NPCIL 100
    09/2005
    Research Reactors 1Apsara 1 BARC PWR UK 100
    08/1956
    2Cirus 40
    PHWR Canada 100
    1960
    3Dhruva 100
    PHWR BARC 100
    11/1969
    4FBTR 100 NP Sodium Cooled DAE 100
    7/1997
    5Kamini 100 NP Sodium Cooled DAE 100
    1989
    Prototype FBR 500 BARC Sodium Cooled DAE ? 2010

    1This reactor is slated to be moved out of the BARC complex, which along with the research facilities at Kalpakkam will not be subject to safeguards under the purview of the recent nuclear deal with the US.

    2Under the deal India has promised to phase out Cirus over the next five years. The reactor went critical in 1960 and is capable of producing up to 10kg of weapons-grade plutonium in its spent fuel annually. Although the reactor is not under IAEA safeguards, a 1956 Indo-Canadian agreement prohibits the use of plutonium produced in the reactor for non-peaceful purposes. However, the agreement includes no enforcement mechanism and India has interpreted the prohibition to exclude “peaceful nuclear explosions.” India used plutonium produced in the Cirus reactor for its 1974 nuclear test, causing Canada to cease all nuclear cooperation with India, including nuclear fuel shipments.

    3Capable of producing up to 30kg of weapon grade plutonium each year. It is likely that most Indian nuclear warheads use plutonium extracted from this research reactor.

    4Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) uses indigenously developed mixed uranium-plutonium carbide fuel core.

    5The Kamini reactor is fueled by U-233 (irradiated thorium) and is part of India's strategy to eventually use U-233 as the primary fuel for India’s nuclear program. The Kamini reactor is the only reactor in the world fueled by U-233.

    BARC has announced plans to replace the aging Cirus and Druva reactors. A 100MW reactor based on the Dhruva design is very optimistically expected to become operational by 2010.

    Another reactor design team at Trombay has completed a preliminary plan for building a new 500 megawatt electric (MWe) Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) that will burn mixed-oxide (MOX) and thorium fuel.
    Why We Need Eight Unsafeguarded Commercial Reactors

    The uranium fuel rods used in India's heavy-water nuclear power plants can be processed to extract plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons. However, normally for electrical power production the uranium fuel remains in the reactor for three to four years, which produces plutonium of 60 percent or less Pu-239, 25 percent or more Pu-240, 10 percent or more Pu-241, and a few percent Pu-242. The Pu-240 has a high spontaneous rate of fission, and the amount of Pu-240 in weapons-grade plutonium generally does not exceed 6 percent, with the remaining 93 percent Pu-239. Higher concentrations of Pu-240 can result in pre-detonation of the weapon, significantly reducing yield and reliability.

    Under normal conditions, plutonium extracted from commercial reactors is not desirable for use in nuclear weapons due to a low concentration of Pu-239. For the production of weapons-grade plutonium with lower Pu-240 concentrations, the fuel rods in a reactor have to be changed frequently, about every four months or less. Indian heavy water reactors do not have to be shut down in order to change fuel rods. So India has the option to harvest weapons-grade plutonium from those of its 8 commercial nuclear power plants not under safeguard, by changing some of the fuel rods.

    The Nuclear treaty with the US mandates that all future commercial nuclear power plants will be subject to safeguards. In other words, to augment its supply of plutonium in the future India will need to construct dedicated military nuclear plants whose electrical output could not be utilized commercially, something that would drive up the cost of the plutonium exponentially.

    A large part of the plutonium supply from the 8 commercial reactors not under safeguards will need to be diverted to India's fast breeder program which will initially be fueled by plutonium. While it is true that the plutonium fed into a fast breeder reactor can eventually be recovered, the process takes time. Indeed, it was for this reason that putting the fast breeder reactors under safeguards at this stage was unacceptable to India since it would have starved our nuclear weapons program of the quantum required to achieve a credible nuclear deterrence.

    India's military weapon program requires Tritium for producing boosted fission and thermonuclear warheads. India extracts the Tritium from heavy water used in commercial PHWR.
    Fast Breeder Reactors

    The 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor being constructed at Kalpakkam is expected to become operational by 2010.

    Central government has approved four more FBRs of 500 MW each during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period.

    Of the four additional FBRs to be constructed, two will be located at Kalpakkam. A site for the other two reactors is yet to be identified. These reactors are expected to go critical by 2020.
    Planned Russian Reactors

    During the state visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, India and Russia signed an agreement on Friday, December 5, to build an additional four reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant and construct two new nuclear plants in India.

    Russia is seeking two additional plant sites in addition to Kudankulam, one of which has already been allocated at in Haripur, West Bengal.

    Russian ambassador Alexander Kadakin told the Hindu in December 2009 that each of the three plant sites could have 10 reactors each.

    In a separate deal, Russia agreed to supply $700 million worth of nuclear fuel to India.

    During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Russia in December 2009 it was announced that the two new nuclear reactors to be setup with Russian assistance will be located at Haripur in West Bengal.

    Each of the Russian reactors will cost $1.5 billion.
    Nuclear fuel from Russia

    A civil nuclear deal was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday, December 7.

    The deal is described as “better than the 123 agreement” that was signed with the United States since Russia agreed to continue nuclear fuel supply to India for operational reactors of Russian origin in the country in the event that the supply agreement is cancelled for any reason.

    The deal additionally allows India to reprocess the uranium supplied by Russia

    Russian nuclear fuel producer TVEL signed a $780 million contract for supply of 2,000 metric tons of uranium pellets to India on February 11, 2009 in Mumbai.

    The contract made Russia the first country to supply nuclear fuel to India since the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a three-decade ban on nuclear fuel sales to the country on September 6, 2008.

    TVEL delivered its first shipment of nuclear fuel for Indian heavy-water reactors in April 2009.

    TVEL, one of the world's leading manufacturers of nuclear fuel, supplies it to 73 commercial (17% of global market) and 30 research reactors in 13 countries.
    French Evolutionary Power Reactors (EPRs)

    Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and France's Areva singed a MOU on Wednesday, February 4, 2009, for construction of up to six new generation Evolutionary Power Reactors (EPRs) in western India.

    Areva will initially supply two EPRs OF 1,650 mw each for nuclear plants that the company will be build near the village of Jaitapur in the western state of Maharastra on the Arabian Sea. Orders for an additionals four reactors will be placed subsequently.

    EPR reactors feature a leak proof design and four independent cooling systems for safety.

    Areva and India's Atomic Energy Department signed a commercial agreement last December for the supply of 300 tons of uranium to be used in NPCIL nuclear reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
    US Supplied Nuclear Reactors
    Under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, India has dedicated wo nuclear reactor sites in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat to US companies.

    Progress on the construction of US supplied reactors is awaiting the passage of a liability legislation in India as desired by US suppliers.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    India's Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor core being transported & lowered into Safety vessel

    The main vessel of India's first Prototype Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor [PFBR] being transported & lowered in to the Safety Vessel. This process was completed on the 5th of December 2009 & is a maj...

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Meghalaya to seek scientific opinion on uranium mining

     
  8. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    This is the second state that had an issue about uranium mining, In Ladakh they said the uranium content in the rocks was so high they could have supplied the energy needs for decades but the locals made it an issue and mining never started.
     
  9. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.power-technology.com/features/feature78177/

    Fast Breeders Key to Fertile Nuclear Future


    Efforts are increasing to fast track the development of a new generation of nuclear reactors. As concerns grow about long-term shortages of uranium and growing quantities of radioactive waste, David Binning investigates fast breeder reactors, which convert spent fuel back into energy.

    Much faith is being placed in the ability of nuclear energy to alleviate the environmental and energy supply burdens arising from the consumption of fossil fuels, but now concerns are starting to emerge about the long-term supply of uranium.

    Chris Davis, CEO of Perth-based uranium miner Energy Minerals Australia, says that the majority of reactors in use around the world are extremely inefficient at converting energy, and that the continued widespread reliance on them could threaten global reserves of uranium. "If we carry on consuming uranium at this rate we could run out in 100 years," he warns.

    There are currently 436 nuclear reactors around the world, consuming a total of 60,000t of uranium oxide, or yellowcake, a year. However, demand is tipped to increase sharply over the next few years in line with the growing popularity of nuclear energy as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to fossil fuel-based energy.

    Scores of new reactors are planned throughout Europe, Asia, the UAE, Russia and the US in the next five to ten years. Most will be modelled on the current generation of thermal-spectrum, or water-cooled reactors, which today produce most of the world's nuclear energy, with some 99.3% of the uranium fed into them rendered inert and useless.

    "The [uranium] industry is having to face up to the gross inefficiency of older reactors," says Mike Angwin, head of the Australian Uranium Association.

    Fast neutron (FNR) and fast breeder reactors (FBR)

    Since the 1950s, scientists have been developing so-called fast neutron reactors (FNRs) that convert non-fissionable uranium in the fuel into fissionable plutonium. Neutrons shoot about at a much faster rate, which leads to the burning and conversion into energy of what would normally have become waste.

    A small number of FNRs are in operation around the world, some in the commercial production of electricity, but it is the next phase of this technology that is expected to utterly transform the nuclear sector over the next few decades.

    Fast breeder reactors (FBRs) are essentially a more powerful version of FNRs in that they produce more plutonium than they consume. The fast reactor has no moderator and relies solely on fast neutrons to cause fission, which for uranium is less efficient than using slow neutrons. A fast reactor therefore usually uses plutonium as its basic fuel, since it fissions sufficiently with fast neutrons to operate.

    At the same time the number of neutrons produced per fission is 25% greater than from uranium, and this means that there are enough (after losses) not only to maintain the chain reaction but also continually to convert U-238 into more Pu-239. In traditional thermal spectrum reactors, it is the U-235 isotope which is used to produce energy; however uranium oxide contains just 0.7% of it, the remainder being U-238.

    Furthermore, the fast neutrons are more efficient than slow ones in doing this breeding. These are the main reasons for avoiding the use of a moderator. The coolant is a liquid metal (normally sodium) to avoid any neutron moderation and provide a very efficient heat transfer medium. So, the fast reactor "burns" and "breeds" fissile plutonium.

    Fast breeder potential

    Experts say that fast breeder reactors have the potential to convert uranium into energy 60 times more efficiently than thermal spectrum reactors and could extend global uranium supplies by several centuries. They also produce a fraction of the radioactive waste and are able to run on waste from other sources, such as long-lived actinides recovered from used fuel out of ordinary reactors, as well as military plutonium.

    "In 40 or so years we will reach the point where we will have negligible volumes of radioactive waste," says Dr Eric Lilford, a partner and energy expert with Deloitte in Australia.

    The issue of waste is expected to become a major driver for the uptake of fast breeder reactors as governments face mounting community and political opposition to large scale waste dumps. President Barack Obama's recent decision to cancel plans for the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, US, indicated that the world's biggest user of nuclear energy now accepts that it needs to find an alternative.

    In addition to reactors that effectively eat their own and other plants' radioactive waste, new technologies aimed at improving the process of uranium enrichment could help to alleviate some of these concerns. Among the ideas showing promise are gas centrifuge and laser.

    Future fast breeders

    Investment in fast breeder reactors rose sharply five years ago when the price of uranium shot to record highs after several years in the doldrums, and many countries now have advanced programmes to bring them online.

    Many in the industry are watching with interest the Chinese experimental fast reactor (CEFR) project, which is being coordinated by the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission. China and Russia are also working together to build two fast-spectrum reactors in China based on the design of the BN-800 fast breeder reactor being built at Beloyarsk in Russia and due to start up in 2012. The project is expected to lead to bilateral cooperation between China and Russia on fuel cycles for fast reactors.

    India is hoping that fast breeder technology will underpin its accelerating nuclear energy programme, with the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) expected to go live with a large-scale prototype reactor this year. India has indicated that it wants to build several hundred fast breeder reactors to meet its growing energy demands.

    France wants to convert more than half of its nuclear reactors to fast breeder technology over the coming decades, but has faced a number of setbacks. The Superphénix predecessor, Phénix, at Marcoule, is the only commercial-scale fast breeder reactor to have been in operation. It was, however, shut down in 2009 following sodium leaks and fires and a series of potentially serious reactivity incidents.

    Japan's Monju fast breeder reactor experienced similar problems and has been lying dormant since being closed due to public pressure in the mid 1990s.

    There are some who say that the environmental problems with fast breeder reactors have been overstated, and that they are in fact safer than many other types of reactor. This is largely due to their highly robust design, needed to encase vastly more fissile activity, not to mention hellish temperatures, sometimes as high as 500°C.

    As a result, fast breeder reactors are, on paper, significantly more expensive to build than thermal reactors, and early-stage teething problems have created cost blowouts, sometimes forcing programmes to close.

    This new investment in FNR and FBR technology resumes where the industry left off in the 1980s when freefalling uranium prices eroded the business case for their construction. It's fair to say therefore that the future of fast breeder reactors is very much dependent on a higher uranium price. The fact that the spot market price for uranium continues to be lower than the long-term contract price does auger well.

    Deloitte's Eric Lilford concludes optimistically: "The coming year will be an exciting one for the development of fast-spectrum nuclear reactors. We expect to reach many important milestones."
     
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  10. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.india-server.com/news/indian-scientists-draw-roadmap-for-1000-20175.html


    Indian Scientists Draw Roadmap For 1,000 MW Fast Breeder Reactor Design


    Indian nuclear scientists have planned for the design of a 1,000 MW fast breeder reactor that will compensate for the heavy demands of electricity in the country.

    Accordingly, they have already planned a three-step procedure to design this fast breed reactor by 2018. In the first step, there will be a new 120 MW test reactor which would be powered by metallic fuel. In the second step, a 500 MW fast breeder reactor would be set up and in the last phase, the existing fast breeder test reactor's (FBTR) core will be modified to a metallic core.

    A fast breeder reactor has the potential to produce more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes.

    As part of this three-stage nuclear reactor programme in the designing the 1,000 MW fast reactor, there would be initiation to get the right ratio of Plutonium to Uranium, which is to be kept as 20:80 in the new metallic fuel.

    The mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel has some technical challenges that is to be studied in detail.

    The MOX fuel has the advantage in powering India's first seven fast reactors including the upcoming 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR). And, shortly one of them will have the capability to convert to metallic fuel.

    "The proposed 1,000 MW reactor will be powered by metallic fuel. The first step in realising that is to test the metallic fuel pins and sub-assemblies in the FBTR located at Kalpakkam. This will be followed by replacing FBTR's entire carbide fuel with metallic fuel," Baldev Raj, director of IGCAR, told the media.

    "The knowledge acquired in designing the oxide fuel fast reactors will be leveraged in building the metallic core reactors. However, the plant parameters will vary between the two reactors which needs detailed study," Reactor Engineering Group Director S.C. Chetal told the media.

    According to sources, the new 150 MW metallic fuel test reactor at Kalpakkam would acquire the said capability by 2013.

    According to officials two kinds of metallic fuels will be fabricated for testing and the different parts are to be designed by different research organizations in the country. The sodium bonded fuel pins are to be designed by IGCAR. The mechanically bonded metallic fuel pins have been developed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai.

    On the issue of setting up of a new test reactor, P. Chellapandi, director of safety group said, "Worldwide there are not many reactors with metallic core. The normal practice is to have a test reactor, then build a medium-sized one and then go for commercial-sized reactors."

    "The proposed 150 MW test reactor will be the test bed for metallic fuel. The results will be further validated by using the fuel in the flexible dual fuel fast reactor. The FBTR is a small-sized one and will not give the required data," he added.

    According to IGCAR officials, the construction of those six reactors will begin in 2017.

    "Four fast reactors will be ready by 2020 and the balance two by 2023 - one of which will be the flexible dual fuel reactor," said Chellapandi.

    He also said that the reactor design work on the ambitious 1,000 MW fast breeder reactor would be over around 2018 and then construction to start in 2020.
     
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  11. gogbot

    gogbot Regular Member

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Those dead lines are so far away.

    I am disappointed by the time line.

    But thankful , that we are moving forward with our own reactors.
     
  12. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.india-defence.com/reports/3014


    India Begins Exporting Heavy Water Used In Nuclear Plants To United States


    As diplomats in India and the United States work to chalk out the Indo-U.S. Nuclear 1,2,3 Agreement, some heavy water is quietly flowing between the two countries.

    For the first time, India exported 4.4 metric tonnes of heavy water to an American firm -- Spectra Gases, headquartered in New Jersey with branches in the UK, Germany and Singapore.

    Confirming the deal to 'Times Of India', Heavy Water Board (HWB) chief executive A L N Rao, said on Friday the consignment sailed from Mumbai on February 25 and was expected to reach US shores on March 23. He, however, declined to say from which Indian atomic facility the heavy water was sourced. The capacity utilisation of all the heavy water plants till December 2006 was 113%.

    Heavy water molecules have two atoms of the hydrogen isotope deuterium bonded with an atom of oxygen, making its properties slightly different from normal water which is H2O. It's functions as a moderated in nuclear reactors which use unenriched uranium and helps stabilise the fast-paced and volatile chain reactions.

    The development, according to the nuclear fraternity, indicates that tables have turned with India supplying a sensitive nuclear component to a major nuclear power like US. "Generally, it has been the other way round," remarked an atomic official. "The quantity dispatched may be small. But the export of heavy water from India to US for the first time is very important and significant in view of the on going negotiations relating to the nuke deal," said Rao.

    He said that the American firm imported heavy water from India because of its excellent quality and "highest purity" level. India is the world's second largest heavy water producer and has exported it to other countries. India sold 100 tonnes of heavy water to South Korea in 1996 and 30 tonnes to China in June 2003. An official of HWB said India joined the heavy water export club in 1996, two years before its nuclear weapons test in May 1998.

    "We are not a major player at the moment because the quantity we are exporting currently is not very big. We are, however, confident the demand from India will pick up in the coming years because of the excellent quality of our heavy water," he said. Spectra, the US heavy water buyer carries out research in areas like fibre optics, medicine, semiconductors and also high purity gases for handling what is known as the equipment market.
     
  13. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.thehindu.com/seta/2007/04/19/stories/2007041900331700.htm

    Heavy water production: a success story for India


    IF ONLY Dr. Homi Bhabha were alive today, he would have reasons to be immensely pleased. The heavy water production in India is now an enviable success story; the quantity produced is sufficient to meet the domestic demand. The Heavy Water Board (HWB) executed seven orders to export heavy water to South Korea and one to China. On February 25, this year, the Board supplied 4,400 kg of high quality, nuclear grade heavy water to M/S Spectra Gases Inc. USA.

    "Government should explore the possibilities of using cheap hydroelectric power in India for manufacturing heavy water, on the one hand for our own requirements in a pile, and on the other for sale to other countries". Dr Bhabha, the nuclear visionary wrote to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 26, 1948. On March 15, the Heavy Water Day-2007, the HWB family met to review their achievements.


    An ideal moderator


    Heavy water, D{-2}O, is water in which both hydrogen atoms have been replaced with deuterium, the isotope of hydrogen containing one proton and one neutron.

    It is an ideal moderator and not an absorber of neutrons.

    A typical 220 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor needs about 275 tonnes of heavy water. Heavy water technology is complex as it involves concentrating and separating the heavy water or deuterium fraction by processing large quantities of an appropriate raw material.

    First plant


    In 1954, Dr Bhabha proposed the setting up of a heavy water plant at Nangal, based on electrolysis of water. The Nangal plant, the largest plant of its kind in the world, produced the first drop of heavy water on August 9, 1962.

    The cost of electric power at Nangal, fixed by the Bhakra Board was 1.35 paisa per kilowatt-hr, revised later to 6 paisa per kilowatt-hr! Then Nangal heavy water became costly.

    Next to water, hydrogen available from fertilizer plants is the best raw material to produce deuterium. Distillation of water or hydrogen or chemical exchange between hydrogen sulphide and water or ammonia and hydrogen are the processes adopted to produce heavy water.

    HWB set up heavy water plants at Kota, Tuticorin, Thalcher, Hazira, Baroda, Thal, Hazira and Manuguru. The scientists and engineers of the HWB were continuously alive to technological breakthroughs and innovations in the field.

    Heavy water industry is highly energy intensive. Through systematic efforts, HWB achieved 36 per cent reduction in specific energy (energy needed to produce a kg of heavy water) consumption over the last decade resulting in a cumulative saving of over Rs 700 crore.

    Conservation measures help the captive power plant at Manuguru to sell at Rs 11 crore, the extra power of 12 MWe generated by it annually. The plant adopted notable echo-friendly uses of fly ash.

    Miscellaneous activities


    HWB is presently setting up a Technology Demonstration Plant at Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers, Trombay to `pinch' traces of uranium from phosphoric acid to augment uranium resources (Rock phosphate contains 60-150 parts per million of uranium).

    Deuterium-substituted polymers transmit light more efficiently. HWB entered into an MOU with a leading optical fibre manufacturer for the regular supply of 3 per cent dry deuterium gas at the rate of 15 cylinders per month for one year.

    The Board developed processes to make many solvents used for fuel reprocessing, separation of fission products, waste management and the like and to enrich boron, needed in prototype fast breeder reactors as control rod material and for neutron detectors.

    The Board patented a technology for flue gas conditioning to reduce suspended particulate emission from thermal power plants
     
  14. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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  15. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.zeenews.com/news599731.html

    India to vigorously pursue non-nuclear heavy water programme


    Navi Mumbai: With new research opening fresh vistas for its non-nuclear applications, India will continue to sincerely pursue its heavy water programme with cost-effective and energy-efficient techniques, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee today said.


    "India being an established international supplier, we are exploring many more areas of non-nuclear applications of heavy water for societal benefits," he said inaugurating the first national conference on "Non-nuclear applications of Heavy water and Deuterium."

    Speaking about the non-nuclear applications of heavy water, Banerjee said it could be used to replace cold chain for polio vaccine and animal vaccines in far-flung areas. Deuterium and heavy water have vast scope for applications in communication through optic fibre, polymers and pharmaceutical industry, he said.

    Heavy water export is going to be a big business even in the fusion energy sector as Tritium from heavy water has a crucial role. India exports heavy water to the US and South Korea, he said.

    The Bhabha Atomic Research centre recently conducted a study in Uttrakhand to successfully recharge the mountain springs using isotope hydrology, Banerjee said.

    Chairman and Chief Executive of Heavy Water Board (HWB) A L N Rao shared Banerjee's optimism for large-scale non-nuclear applications of heavy water.
     
  16. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://abclive.in/abclive_technology_news/ahwr-leu_india_thorium.html

    India Develops Thorium Based Indigenous Advanced Heavy Water Reactor


    [​IMG]


    Vienna (ABC Live): India has designed a new version of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor which will use low enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel.

    Vienna (ABC Live): India has designed a new version of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor which will use low enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel.

    Information and confirmation to this effect was shared by chairman of Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar announced on Wednesday in Vienna.

    "A new version of AHWR named Advanced Heavy Water Reactor-Low Enriched Uranium (AHWR-LEU) that uses low enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel has been been designed recently," Kakodkar said at the International Atomic Energy Agency's General Conference.


    The reactor has a significantly lower requirement of mined uranium per unit energy produced as compared to most of the current generation thermal reactors, Kakodkar said.


    "This version can also meet the requirement of medium sized reactors in countries with small grids while meeting the requirements of next generation systems," Kakodkar said indicating that India was ready for export of such reactors in the near future.

    Highlighting India as one of the few countries in the world with experience in the ageing management of nuclear power plants, he told the conference that recently the Indian nuclear engineers have completed the Enmasse Feeder Replacement (EMFR) for the unit 2 of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station with a highest degree of safety.


    This complex and technologically advanced project was carried out with entirely indigenously developed technology.

    Announcing that India's indigenous programme is set to accelerate, Kakodkar said "India looks forward to mutually beneficial two-way nuclear cooperation with other members of IAEA.
     
  17. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-111253449.html

    China to import Heavy Water from India.


    Mumbai, Dec 14 (PTI) After Korea, China is all set to import Heavy Water from India.

    The import would be for the annual make-up of its two Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) and the two countries are expected to sign a contract in this regard within a couple of days, according to Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) sources.

    It is for the first time that China will import 30 metric tonnes of Heavy Water from DAE's Heavey Water Board (HWB) here, the sources said adding, Board's chairman and managing director S C Hiremath and two DAE officials - V P Raja and S D Misra - are currently in China to negotiate and sign the contract with the Chinese Nuclear Energy …
     
  18. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://articles.jimtrade.com/1/180_3.htm

    Challenges Faced By India In The Design Of Pressurised Heavy Water Nuclear Power Plants


    The nuclear power industry has been developing and improving reactor technology for almost five decades and is preparing for the next generations of reactors to fill orders expected in the next five to twenty years. Several generations of reactors are commonly distinguished. Generation I reactors were developed in 1950-60s and outside the UK none are still running today. Generation II reactors are typified by the present US fleet and most in operation elsewhere. Generation III are the Advanced Reactors discussed in this paper. The first are in operation in Japan and others are under construction or ready to be ordered. Generation IV designs are still on the drawing board and will not be operational before 2020 at the earliest.

    Reactors derived from designs originally developed for naval use generate about 85% of the worlds nuclear electricity. These and other second-generation nuclear power units have been found to be safe and reliable, but they are being superseded by better designs. A three-stage programme was drawn up to develop nuclear power in India to match with our unique resource position of limited Uranium and large Thorium reserves. For optimum use of our Uranium resources, the first stage of this programme is based on construction of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Indigenously developed Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor technology for 220 MWe units has been a commercial success. Eight such units are in operation and four more are in final stages of construction and commissioning. Total capability for design, construction and operation of these plants has been successfully demonstrated.

    Based on this experience, Nuclear Power Corporation has launched construction of two 500 MWe PHWR units at Tarapur - Tarapur Atomic Power Project, Units 3&4 (TAPP 3&4) in October 1998. Some of the technical challenges, which have been successfully overcome in setting up 220 and 500 MWe PHWR plants, are summarized in this article. Electricity is an essential part of an industrialized society, forming one of the pillars of quality of life today. Electricity is the speed for development of a country. Thermal power generation, a major contributor to electricity production in India, turns 100 this year. About 50 years ago, when we gained our independence, India barely had a total installed capacity of 1300 MWe. This has since been enhanced to over 85,000 MWe today. Thermal power stations are the major contributors in this mammoth achievement. Even then, our per capita energy availability remains much below the world average. It is a challenge for all of us in the electricity generation industry to join forces to secure reliable electric supply on a long-term basis.

    Visionary architects of science and technology of modern India foresaw the imperative need to develop all the necessary technologies for power generation. It was a result of this recognition that a three-stage programme was drawn up to develop nuclear power in India to match our unique resource position of limited Uranium and large Thorium reserves. For optimum use of the available Uranium resources, the first stage of this programme is based on Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). These reactors not only use natural Uranium efficiently but also provide Plutonium as a by-product. The Plutonium recovered from the spent fuel will facilitate use of our large Thorium reserves for power production in subsequent stages of the programme. Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor technology developed in our country for 220 MWe units has been a commercial success. Eight such units are in operation and four more are in final stages of construction and g. Total capability for design, construction and operation of these plants has been successfully demonstrated. Based on this experience, Nuclear Power Corporation has launched construction of two 500 MWe PHWR units at Tarapur - Tarapur Power Project, Units 3&4 (TAPP 3&4) in October 1998.

    General description of 500 MWe PHWR
    A PHWR is fuelled with natural uranium dioxide fuel and is moderated and cooled by heavy water. Separate circuits are used for the moderator and coolant. While the moderator is at low temperature and pressure, the coolant is normally maintained at high temperature and pressure. The reactor vessel, known as calandria, is made of austenitic stainless steel and is located horizontally in a shielded, water filled, concrete vault with stainless steel lining. It houses 392 pressure tubes, also called coolant tubes, made of Zirconium 2.5% Niobium. Zirconium, like heavy water, absorbs only a negligible amount of neutrons. Each pressure tube is surrounded by a thin zircaloy calandria tube. The annular space between the calandria tube and coolant tube is filled with carbon dioxide gas, providing an insulating gap between the coolant and moderator. Each pressure tube contains a string of fuel bundles, each about half metre long. Because a PHWR uses natural uranium, the fuel needs to be replenished on a daily basis. An important feature of the PHWR is that it is refuelled while on power, thus avoiding frequent shutdown of the reactor for refuelling. The fuel bundles are inserted at one end of pressure tube and spent fuel bundles from the channel are discharged at the other end. Bi-directional fuelling in alternate pressure tubes prevents the reactor from having all fresh fuel bundles at one end and irradiated fuel bundles at the other thus resulting in a more symmetrical neutron flux shape. Also, fuelling is normally carried out along the direction of coolant flow.

    The closed loop primary coolant circuit (also known as primary heat transport system) has four mushroom type steam generators, four PHT pump motor units, a pressuriser and connected headers and feeders which are further connected to the 392 coolant tubes containing in all 5096 fuel bundles. The PHT system also incorporates a feed and bleeds system and a purification system. Schematic of a typical nuclear power plant of PHWR type is shown in Figure 1. The cylindrical building, shown on left, houses the reactor and other equipment to produce steam which is delivered to the turbine, shown outside this building. The equipment in the steam circuit, also referred to as secondary circuit, are similar to those of a thermal power plant. The difference between the two is that, in the case of a nuclear power plant, the steam produced is not superheated and hence the steam cycle equipment are larger in size. This article briefly deals with the technological aspects of the nuclear equipment mainly located inside the cylindrical building, including the building itself which is known as reactor building or containment building.

    Technological challenges in the design of a PHWR
    Technological challenges posed in the design and construction of a nuclear power plant are unique in nature. It is a matter of great pride that this technology has been completely mastered by us in India. This article attempts to highlight, in a very brief manner, the summits we have conquered in the following, among many other, fields.
    - Materials technology
    - Design, theoretical and computational expertise
    - Manufacturing technology
    - Indigenisation
    - Project management

    Materials technology
    A PHWR needs, in addition to the commercial and conventional industrial materials, many other special materials and alloys manufactured to stringent specifications. For example, in the basic fuel material, which is required in an exceptionally pure form, the neutron absorbing impurities such as Boron, Cadmium, Dysprosium, Gadolinium, etc are controlled to very low ppm levels. Similar is the case for Zirconium alloys used in pressure tube, calandria tube, and fuel cladding. Likewise, the purity and the chemistry of heavy water is also required to be rigidly controlled. Even conventional materials used in the reactor core and associated systems - like stainless steel or carbon steel - have to meet special requirements, for example very low Cobalt impurity. Processing of materials like Uranium, Zirconium and heavy water has been fully developed in India and the technology has been translated to the production plants which are successfully operating as various units of the Development of Atomic Energy. The point to be highlighted here is that for successful design and operation of a NPP, wide variety of high purity materials and alloys needs to be developed not only at the laboratory scale but also on a regular production basis. (Indeed, establishment of a very strong industrial infrastructure in metallurgical and chemical engineering is one of the major challenges to be mastered by any country (particularly a developing country) wishing to embark on self-sufficient long term nuclear power programme). Even the concrete mix used for the reactor building and its internal structures are of special formulations such as heavy concrete, high performance concrete (M60 grade), etc

    Design, theoretical and computational expertise
    The engineering design of a nuclear power plant is highly complex involving multidisciplinary efforts by reactor physicists and nuclear engineers. Various nuclear and heat transfer processes and structural loads have to be accurately modelled and a large number of usually highly iterative theoretical computations, have to be performed. In order to do this, computational algorithms and computer codes have to be evolved. A host of physical, chemical and engineering properties of all the materials used need to be precisely known in order to satisfactorily evolve the design. Due to the very specialised nature of this field of engineering, these computational techniques are very closely guarded, and are of a proprietary nature.

    These design and calculation methodologies have been indigeneously developed and validated. The components of a nuclear reactor have to be designed taking into account various factors such as pressure, temperature, normally applied loading, seismic loading, postulated accident loading, effect of degradation of material properties due to irradiation ... This list could be very long. Designs have to satisfy several national and international engineering design codes. Furthermore, nuclear power plant technology is subjected to very rigorous regulatory oversight by national regulatory authorities and their safety codes and guides. The designer has also to keep in mind many other important factors such as manufacturability, maintainability, provisions to carry in-service inspection, decommissioning aspects as well. Very often, a designer is confronted with a situation when he finds that optimising the design with reference to one particular aspect may result in a sub-optimal design when viewed from another aspect. The design of a NPP is thus both a highly sophisticated science and a highly skilled art.

    Safety aspects
    Safety of a nuclear power plant is carefully and systematically interwoven in the design of all the systems. A detailed list of accident scenarios is deterministically postulated at the design stage itself. Means are provided in the design of the systems to safely overcome all such postulated situations. Nuclear power plants are designed and built taking into account all postulated external influences. Such influences include seismic and other man made phenomena. The fact that PHWR uses natural uranium fuel, and has a large volume of relatively low temperature moderator water in the core, gives it certain inherently safe characteristics. In addition, the reactor design incorporates built-in safety features for controlling and shutting down the fission chain reaction in the core and ensuring removal of decay heat from the fuel. (Unlike in a thermal power plant, in a nuclear reactor, even after reactor shutdown, the irradiated fuel continues to generate a small amount of heat which must be removed in order to prevent fuel failure). These systems are required to be designed and constructed using proven reliable components in accordance with well established technical concepts. Incorporation of redundancy and diversity right from the conceptualisation stage is a characteristic of a NPP design. PHWR designs rigorously follow these principles.

    Safety functions are fully automatic, having priority over manual operator actions. This means that the possibility of human error is minimised. Even so, the power station staff is required to undergo regular on-going training to ensure that they are able to overcome any instances of malfunctioning in the power plant, to bring it to a safety state.

    Nuclear radiation
    The fission products make the irradiated fuel radioactive. In a NPP, apart from the spent fuel, there are other sources of radioactivity too. Several safety barriers, located one after the other, reliably contain the radioactivity. Even in the severest postulated accident conditions the Uranium dioxide fuel matrix itself retains most of the radioactivity. It is further backed up by the metallic (Zircaloy) cladding used to encapsulate the fuel pellets. The fuel bundles are placed in pressure tubes which are part of the primary coolant system, designed and constructed to withstand high pressures, temperature and material degradation due to irradiation. In addition to all these series safety barriers, an overall containment (reactor building) encloses the entire reactor system.

    The containment structure consists of a cylindrical prestressed cement concrete primary containment with a prestressed concrete dome. This inner containment, which is a marvel in the civil engineering design and construction, is surrounded by a secondary containment of reinforced cement concrete. The interspace between the two buildings is maintained below atmospheric pressure. This ensures that radioactive gaseous leaks from the inner containment, if any, under any operating or accident conditions are properly collected, treated and brought to stipulated safety levels before release to the environment.

    The inner containment is designed to withstand pressure and temperature conditions created within the building, assuming postulated, double ended rupture of the main steam line or primary coolant system piping. Engineered safety features are further provided in this containment building to quickly bring down the pressure and radioactivity associated with such postulated accidents, to low values, to avoid any potential leak.

    Maintainability
    The radiation environment, particularly close to the reactor core, poses a unique challenge to the designer to design the equipment with a requirement that no major maintenance shall be required during their operating life and that adequate in service inspection shall be possible. The coolant channel and its associated components are designed in such a manner that they can then remotely be removed from the core and replaced with new parts in a safe manner. One of the most important aspects of our PHWR design is that provision is made in the containment design for easy replacement of the steam generators, should such a necessity arise during the life of the plant (generally taken to be 40 years). In the 500 MWe design, this provision exists in the form of two circular openings, each of about 5.4 M diameter in the domes of the inner and outer containments. Apart from the areas very close to the reactor core, the environment in the reactor building is subject to a low level of radiation during reactor operation. Thus maintainability of equipment inside the reactor building is given special attention during design so as to provide convenient access. Design, manufacture and operation of remote handling tools for inspection, are in themselves, very fascinating hi-tech fields. India is amongst one of the leading PHWR countries in this area.

    Special equipment
    After prolonged operation, process systems in NPP may contain certain amount of radioactivity. In a PHWR, deuterium in the moderator coverts to tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Also, heavy water is a very costly commodity. For both reasons, process equipment such as pumps, valves, instrumentation fitting, pipe joints, etc are all to be designed for zero leak. This is a challenge to all the equipment designers as well as suppliers. A recent feather in the cap of Indian industry is the development of large capacity canned rotor pumps for use in 500 MWe PHWRs. Automatically controlled fuelling machines and associated fuel transfer systems are incorporated in the design. The fuelling machines are hi-tech robots which open the high pressure boundary of the coolant system, insert fresh fuel bundles at the inlet end of the coolant channel and discharge corresponding number of fuel bundles from the other end and close back the pressure boundary again. The highly radioactive fuel is discharged through a fuel transfer system to under water spent fuel storage facility.

    Similarly, reactivity control mechanisms and shut-off rods which control the insertion of neutron absorbing materials in a precise manner with desired speed of action, have been successfully developed for PHWRs by Indian industries. For manufacturers, these equipment offer a challenge in precision machining to close tolerances. Needless to say that highest level of Quality Control, Quality Surveillance and Quality Assurance is to be maintained at all and by all agencies - designers, manufacturers, construction and commissioning personnel, and operators.

    Indigenisation
    Planning of nuclear power in India laid great emphasis on indigenisation of all requisite technologies from the time the first PHWR unit was built in India. To do so, many innovative design alternatives had to be worked out followed by development exercises to demonstrate acceptability of concepts and designs. Design, manufacture and construction have been amply demonstrated in the currently operating PHWR units. There are still a few areas where our indigenisation levels need to be increased, one such example being, computer and electronics hardware. Large investments in hi-tech equipment and proprietary manufacturing processes, with low volume of production required, appear to inhibit indigenous development of these items. Not withstanding the apparently unfavourable short-term economics, conscious decisions should be taken to make additional investments towards indigenisation, from a long-term perspective.

    Managerial challenges
    "Success" could be measured in many ways. If the mere design and indigenous manufacture of a component were the criterion, then most of what we have achieved so far would be counted as very successful developments. While this may be acceptable during the initial phases of development of nuclear technology in India, at the present time when we have already established a firm-manufacturing base, we need to apply a few more factors in evaluating "success". For a nuclear power to be economical, our present long gestation periods must be shortened. This can be done only through conscious efforts on the part of all of us to meet our commitments to project time schedules and costs.

    In terms of overall project costs, typically a twin-unit 500 MWe PHWR would be a "mega project". Mega projects of this nature can no longer be funded or managed by a single entity such as NPCIL. Thus it is essential to forge partnerships between NPCIL and other industrial establishments in India in such a manner that nuclear power projects can be effectively set up, in an economical manner, within acceptable gestation periods. Since international funding is not available for the nuclear power projects set up in India, we must find ways and means to obtain long-term loans.

    Conclusion
    A few typical examples of design efforts put in for PHWR based power plant are enumerated in this article. The design and development process of these has been quite interesting and experts from various divisions of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Electronic Corporation of India Limited and other DAE units, consultancy organisations and industry have contributed in a large measure in this exercise

    To do so, many innovative design alternatives had to be worked out followed by development exercises to demonstrate acceptability of concepts and designs. Design, manufacture and construction have been amply demonstrated in the currently operating PHWR units. There are still a few areas where our indigenisation levels need to be increased, one such example being, computer and electronics hardware. Large investments in hi-tech equipment and proprietary manufacturing processes, with low volume of production required, appear to inhibit indigenous development of these items. Not withstanding the apparently unfavourable short-term economics, conscious decisions should be taken to make additional investments towards indigenisation, from a long-term perspective.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  19. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/03guest.htm

    How the nuclear deal helps India's power situation

    The Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement has gone through a gestation period much longer than a gajagarbh. The abortionists mounted a serious effort but were unsuccessful. To continue with the analogy, the US as the midwife has managed to get the NSG to agree to a waiver for India, equivalent perhaps to bringing the baby's head out, but its full emergence happened only when the US Congress approved the agreement on Wednesday.

    There is some talk of ordering reactors from other interested countries and refraining from implementing the agreement with the US if the terms turn out to be different from what we were given to understand.

    If even that were to be thwarted, we would be back to square one and carry on in the autarkic mode as before. There will be progress but at a slow rate.

    It is useful, however, to examine whether and how the country could benefit if civilian nuclear cooperation with all countries does become a reality.

    One hears voices on both sides of the divide, for and against reliance on weapons. There is no sign that either side has found unlimited support in any of the governments we have had so far, all of whom have taken a middle path.

    India has been a reluctant nuclear power as someone once said and probably would continue to be so. It took 10 years from 1964, when Dr Homi J Bhabha first suggested nuclear weapons as a hedge against the more powerful nuclear China, to the demonstration of a nuclear device through a test in 1974.

    This was not followed up by efforts towards weaponisation for a long time.

    Another 24 years elapsed before a test of what was described as a weaponised version of the device. The slow progress was not out of lack of technical competence but reluctance on the part of the political leaders.

    They have, however, resisted signing the NPT and CTBT, instead issuing statements of a voluntary moratorium.

    Does the separation plan lead to a cap on the deterrence capability, as some have argued? Considering the number of reactors that are now excluded from safeguards and their potential for fissile material production, the answer is a clear no. But, production has to cease some day when the desired limit is reached. If the limit is modest, that day would perhaps be not too far off.

    There is no likelihood of the voluntary moratorium of 1998 on weapon testing being broken in the near future, as the country is not ready to face the repercussions now. It may never have to be broken. New designs would not seem quite necessary, considering that even a single 15 KT weapon would be capable of devastation of the unfortunate target.

    Cities of today have become much denser and would seem to contain more inflammable material than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Multiple warheads on a single missile would have the same effect as a high yield weapon. Should the CTBT be ratified by the US one day, any talk of a nuclear test would be out of question as it would completely isolate India with or without the deal, and that isolation is best avoided.

    Attention must be focused on constructive aspects related to energy needs, which go beyond the limits of indigenous coal, hydel, solar and other renewable resources. We cannot afford the luxury of discarding the nuclear energy option, certainly not if the rest of the world finds it inevitable.

    Any benefit to security is intangible, while that arising from power generation is very visible. But, how does the deal help in improving the power situation? In at least three ways.

    First, it makes it possible to procure uranium from the world market. But, according to the separation plan indicated by the PM in Parliament, only four reactors with a total capacity of 740 MW out of a total of 4,120 MW come under safeguards this year. Any natural uranium that we buy right now, if we can, would help fuel only these. The relief that would bring for the other operating reactors would be quite small.

    More reactors would be placed under safeguards in 2010, 2012 and 2014, taking the total in this category to 2060 MW with an annual fuel requirement of about 330 tonnes, which could be met by imports. No significant improvement in power generation from imported uranium can be expected for the next few years. Thereafter, annual import of uranium could rise to 1200 tonnes when the total capacity of the safeguarded heavy water reactors reaches 7,660 MW, so as to maximise electricity output.

    Very little of it is likely to come from the US because the US itself relies on imports to meet over 75 per cent of its needs.

    Second, building several light water reactors with outside help could lead to a rapid rise in the share of nuclear electricity. Needless to say, all of these would be under safeguards. The rise would be limited primarily by the size of the investment the country can make given the prevailing capital cost of the reactors -- which seems to range between Rs 9 crore and Rs 13 crores per megawatt -- and the number of teams that could be deployed to build them. To expect around 30 new reactors by 2020 does not seem unrealistic if capital is available. Rather than rush to place orders, it would be wise to negotiate with the different interested suppliers to bring the prices within an affordable range. The Chinese have set a good precedent here.

    Third, new plants are needed for recovery of plutonium in the spent fuel from the heavy water reactors to launch a sizable fast breeder programme. Some thought should be given to establishing quickly a large national reprocessing facility under safeguards. Procurement of some equipment, components and instruments from foreign suppliers might hasten the process. The prototype fast breeder reactor now under construction seems to be making good progress. But, it is not under safeguards. Future breeders could be built in a shorter time, if they were to be placed under safeguards.

    Currently, few other countries have interests similar to that of India. Most are not too keen to reprocess spent fuel, being content to store it away, though this is likely to change some time in the future. They do not also have plans for an early fast breeder programme as India does, being more keen to burn plutonium than breed. Nor do they have a thorium programme. If we pursue our interests unmindful of what others may do, there could come a time when they choose a similar path and follow us.

    Investment on a national enrichment facility to support imported light water reactors needs careful consideration. It may not seem necessary as long as lifetime fuel supply is assured. Such a facility would still depend on uranium supply from external sources, and therefore subject to disruption in operation in the event of a supply cut off.

    Between 1990 and 2007, power generation in the country through use of coal rose by about 75 per cent, from 40,000 MW to 70,000 MW. Assume for a moment that over the next 23 years it trebles to reach 210,000 MW -- that is, coal output increases by over threefold to 1,200 million tones. This is far less than what some think is needed to support continued 8 per cent GDP growth but still no mean achievement, if it happens.

    According to a study by the Centre for the Study of Science, Technology and Policy based in Bangalore, there is a good chance of nuclear power contributing about 57,000 MW by 2030 through LWRs and FBRs. By building more PHWRs too -- with totally indigenous technology, but run on imported uranium fuel -- the level could touch 70,000 MW or higher.

    In effect, the nuclear share could jump in about two decades from six per cent as of now to anywhere between 20 pc and 30 pc of the contribution from coal. That is the growth potential that seems within reach now. But that can be realised only if there is no adverse political implication of the nuclear deal.

    Nuclear scientist L V Krishnan has served as director of the Safety Research and Health Physics Group at Kalpakkam. He has co-authored with C V Sundaram and T S Iyengar the book titled Atomic Energy in India -- Fifty Years. He has also co-authored the book Elements of Nuclear Power with Raja Ramanna
     
  20. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.wmdinsights.com/I4/SA2_BreederReactors.htm

    BREEDER REACTORS AND INDIA'S NUCLEAR STRATEGY

    As part of the March 2, 2006, agreement between the United States and India on civil nuclear cooperation, India agreed to separate its nuclear facilities into civilian and military installations and to place the former under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection to verify that they are not being used to support the production of nuclear weapons.

    On March 7, 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented the details of India’s “Separation Plan.” Singh stated that 14 of India’s 22 conventional nuclear power plants, now operating or under construction, would be placed on the civilian, IAEA-inspected list. He then gave particular emphasis to the fact that India would keep its fast breeder reactors, now operating or under construction, off the civilian list. (Breeder reactors are reactors that can create more fissile material than they consume.) On this subject, Singh declared:

    We have conveyed that India will not accept safeguards on the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor [now under construction] and the Fast Breeder Test Reactor [operating since 1985], both located at Kalpakkam. The Fast Breeder Program is at the R&D stage. This technology will take time to mature and reach an advanced stage of development. We do not wish to place any encumbrances on our Fast Breeder program, and this has been fully ensured in the Separation Plan. [1]

    Later in his remarks, Singh again turned to India’s breeder program. Referring to declarations made suo motu (on his own initiative), Singh stated:

    During my Suo Motu Statements on this subject made on July 29, 2005, and on February 27, 2006, I had given a solemn assurance to this august House and through the Honorable members to the country, that the Separation Plan will not adversely affect our country’s national security. I am in a position to assure the Members that this is indeed the case. I might mention:

    i) that the separation plan will not adversely affect our strategic program. There will be no capping of our strategic program, and the separation plan ensures adequacy of fissile material and other inputs to meet the current and future requirements of our strategic program, based on our assessment of the threat scenarios. No constraint has been placed on our right to construct new facilities for strategic purposes. The integrity of our Nuclear Doctrine and our ability to sustain a Minimum Credible Nuclear Deterrent is adequately protected.

    ii) The Separation Plan does not come in the way of the integrity of our three stage nuclear program, including the future use of our thorium reserves. The autonomy of our Research and Development activities in the nuclear field will remain unaffected. The Fast Breeder Test Reactor and the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor remain outside safeguards. We have agreed, however, that future civilian Thermal power reactors and civilian Fast Breeder Reactors would be placed under safeguards, but the determination of what is civilian is solely an Indian decision. [2]

    Singh’s comments suggested that India’s national security in the nuclear arena has two dimensions: sustaining a minimum credible deterrent; and implementing India’s “three stage nuclear program,” aimed at exploiting the country’s vast thorium reserves for energy purposes.

    In an interview given on February 7, 2006, to the Indian Express roughly a month prior to the signing of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), made clear that India’s breeder reactor program does, indeed, have close links to the country’s nuclear weapons program:

    Express: So categorically the breeder will not go under safeguards?

    Kakodkar: No way because it hurts our strategic interest. You follow, no? There’s no way.

    Express: The strategic interest of security or strategic interest of energy security?

    Kakodkar: Both. It is linked through the fuel cycle.

    Express: So will placing the fast breeder reactor program on the civilian list and hence under safeguards hurt India’s efforts at maintaining in perpetuity the “minimum credible deterrent” while hurting its need for long-term energy security?

    Kakodkar: Yes, there can be no doubts on that. Both, from the point of view of maintaining long-term energy security and for maintaining the “minimum credible deterrent,” the Fast Breeder Program just cannot be put on the civilian list. This would amount to getting shackled and India certainly cannot compromise one [type of security] for the other. [3]

    India’s breeder reactors were reportedly a contentious issue during the negotiations with the United States over the agreement. Ultimately New Delhi prevailed on this matter. [4] The prominent role of India’s breeder reactors in the consideration of the separation of Indian civilian and military nuclear facilities raises the question of what specific contributions these reactors, long justified as important to the future of the Indian nuclear energy sector, might make to its military capabilities.

    Background: India’s Three Stage Breeder Program
    In a breeder reactor, fuel containing a substantial proportion of fissile material, such as plutonium, is used to sustain a chain reaction. The chain reaction produces heat and excess neutrons. The heat is used to produce steam to turn electric turbines, and the neutrons are used to bombard “fertile” material in a “blanket” surrounding the core. In the blanket, new fissile material is created, traditionally, plutonium. The neutrons also create new fissile material in the core (in the non-fissile part of the fuel blend). Periodically the blanket is removed and a portion of the core is replaced. The blanket and the removed portion of the core are then processed to separate the new fissile material. Because, in total, more fissile material is created in the blanket and core than is consumed in the core, the reactor is said to “breed” fissile material. The bred fissile material is used as a portion of a subsequent breeder core, until enough bred fissile material is obtained to allow new cores to be made solely from bred material, and the cycle becomes self-sustaining. (The reactors are known as “fast” because they use neutrons that are not slowed by a moderating medium, such as water.)

    India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) and Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) are designed along these lines. Plutonium for the initial cores of these facilities comes from a number of India’s conventional nuclear power reactors, based on a Canadian design, known as the CANDU reactor. In these reactors, natural uranium is irradiated, transforming roughly 0.3 percent of the uranium into plutonium, which is then separated in a reprocessing plant. Because India has extensive deposits of thorium, but more limited deposits of uranium, India is working towards developing a breeder cycle in which plutonium is initially used as the fissile material in the core, thorium is used as the blanket, and uranium-233 is created in the blanket. Eventually, the uranium-233 will be used as the fissile material in future cores. Thus India’s three-stage breeder program begins with the conventional CANDU-style reactors (Stage 1), whose plutonium is used in the first generation of breeder reactors (Stage 2), until enough thorium has been transmuted into uranium-233 to be used in the core of a second generation of breeders designed to use this type of fuel (Stage 3). India is currently actively pursuing the second stage with the FBTR and the PFBR.
    India’s fast breeder reactor program began with an agreement between France and India in 1969. Between 1969 and 1970, a team of Indian scientists and engineers traveled to Cadarache, France, home of the Rhapsodie breeder reactor, to finalize the plan for the FBTR, located at Kalpakkam near Chennai. [5] In 1974, Indian technicians, with the help of the French, began construction of the FBTR and completed it in 1984. Many of the key components for the FBTR were manufactured in India using French technology. [6] Currently the FBTR is testing a mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel, which will be used as the core material in the future for the PFBR. The plutonium for the FBTR’s initial operations is believed to have been extracted from the Madras nuclear power reactors in Kalpakkam and reprocessed at the Tarapur reprocessing facility. [7]

    In the 1990s, a working group began to design and develop India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), a 500MWe pool type liquid metal fast breeder reactor located at the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam. It is intended to be the first of a series of similar reactors to be constructed in the future. Construction of PFBR is believed to have begun in 1997 and is due to be completed by 2010. [8]

    Potential Contribution of the FBTR and PFBR to the Indian Nuclear Weapons Program
    The most immediate benefit that breeders could provide to the Indian nuclear weapons program would be to improve the quality of plutonium available to India for nuclear warheads. Plutonium with low concentrations of the isotopes plutonium-238, -240, and -242 and high concentrations of plutonium-239 is best suited for nuclear weapons. The presence of increased concentrations of the even-numbered isotopes makes nuclear weapon yields less predictable and requires special modifications in nuclear weapon designs. Usually the longer fuel is used in a reactor, the higher the concentration of these undesirable isotopes.

    The plutonium that India is expected to introduce into the FBTR and PFBR comes from nuclear power reactors that have most likely been optimized to produce electricity, which means longer residence times for the fuel and increased presence of the unwanted plutonium isotopes. While less desirable for nuclear weapons, the material is quite suitable as fuel for fast breeder reactors. These reactors can then be used to produce plutonium in their blankets that has low levels of these isotopes -- less than 7 percent in total -- making it ideal for weapons. In effect, as one Indian author has noted, the breeders can act as a cleaner or “laundry” for contaminated plutonium. [9]

    If the 500 MWe PFBR produced proportionally as much weapons-quality plutonium in its blanket as the now closed 1200 MWe French Superphénix breeder reactor, India could produce enough of the material for at least ten weapons annually (based on International Atomic Energy Agency standards, which specify that 8 kg of plutonium, sometimes called a “significant quantity,” is enough to construct one nuclear weapon). [10] Currently, using the CIRUS and Dhruva research reactors, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, in Trombay, India can produce only enough weapons-quality plutonium for 3-4 weapons annually. (These units are also being held off India’s civilian facility list.)

    CANDU-style reactors, it should be noted, can also be optimized to produce excellent plutonium for weapons by moving fuel through the reactor more rapidly than would normally be the case if they were devoted to efficient production of electricity.

    In his interview with the Indian Express, AEC Chairman Kakodkar denied that India planned to take plutonium produced in the breeders for weapons. Rather, he stated, elements of the fuel cycle supporting the breeder – implicitly, the eight CANDU-style power reactors India will keep on its military list, and the facility that reprocesses their fuel at Kalpakkam – are needed for this purpose.

    Express: What you are saying is that you could well be diverting plutonium out of the breeder for security interests.

    Kakodkar: I am not saying that. I am saying the sequential stages are linked through the fuel cycle. The fuel cycle is for the same infrastructure which also feeds the strategic program and I don’t have such a big infrastructure that I divide this saying, ek beta ye aap ke liye, ek beta ye aap ke liye (I can’t divide the family saying this son goes to this part, the second to the other). [3]

    The meaning of Kakodkar’s statements is somewhat obscure. His words suggest that if the breeders themselves are not to be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, then the material for such weapons is likely to come directly from one or more of the eight CANDU-style reactors that India has kept on its military list (two of which are at Kalpakkam). As noted, plutonium from the CANDU-style reactors, whether intended for weapons or for the breeders, would be extracted within the Kalpakkam site, where the FTBR and the PFBR are situated.

    Thus, if Kakodkar’s explanation is accepted, India’s insistence in keeping breeders outside the reach of IAEA inspectors may not be to ensure their availability to support weapons production, but rather to keep inspectors far away from the Kalpakkam site, where their presence might allow them to glean information regarding other facilities used in India’s nuclear weapon program. U.S. decision-makers attempting to track the progress of India’s nuclear deterrent and of its nuclear energy program should be mindful of both possibilities.
     

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