India's fast breeder test reactor going strong at 25

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Sat, Oct 09, 2010 11:30 hrs

Chennai, Oct 9 (IANS) Even as it celebrates 25 years of operations Sunday, the 13MW fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) in Kalpakkam is still going strong and is expected to serve as the test bed for new technologies developed by Indian scientists for a decade more, an official said.

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

Director Safety Group at IGCAR P. Chellapandi told IANS in an interview: 'The FBTR will be used to test fuel design and its validation.'

In the coming years, FBTR will continue to be the workhorse for the testing of metallic fuels and advanced structural materials being developed at IGCAR for the next generation of fast reactors with higher breeding ratios.

According to IGCAR officials, the conversion of FBTR to be powered by metallic fuel is expected to happen around 2013.

The test reactor would continue to generate science based technologies for sodium cooled fast reactors.

'The FBTR will be used to train people in operating fast reactors that India is planning to build,' Chellapandi said.

As per the life extension studies, the reactor can work for another decade. The FBTR, at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam, around 80km from here, went critical on Oct 18, 1985.

FBTR is one of the six fast reactors currently operating in the world. It was set up mainly to enable Indian nuclear scientists to design and develop a commercial sized fast reactor.

As a matter of fact the IGCAR's design of 500MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) that is fast coming up at Kalpakkam nuclear island is mainly based on the results generated by FBTR's operation over the years.

The FBTR built on the French Rapsodie-Fortissimo reactor design, braved various challenges during the initial years as the West denied access to technology forcing the Indian scientists to come out with their own solutions.

According to Chellapandi, the reactor was constructed by Indians though it was designed by French.

Currently FBTR utilises a novel fuel in the form of carbides of Plutonium (Pu) and Uranium - known as carbide fuel.

According to officials, the operation of FBTR over the years has by and large been smooth except for one incident when there was a leakage of 75kg of sodium in 2002.

'Within three months the reactor was back in operation,' Chellapandi said.

On Sunday, the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Function of FBTR and Radio Metallurgy Laboratory (RML) will be held at IGCAR complex.

Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan will preside over the function and release two books on the history of FBTR and RML.

A special cover to commemorate the Silver Jubilee will be released.

Deputy Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yuri Sokolov, Chairman of Indian Atomic Energy Commissison S. Banerjee, IGCAR Director Baldev Raj, Frank Carre of French Atomic Energy Commission and other officials will be participating in the event.

(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)