Inside World’s Most Efficient Nuclear Reactor, Soon In India

Hidden from public, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal at Kalpakkam near Chennai, Indian nuclear scientists are in the final throes of starting a high-tech giant stove more than 15 years in the making.

This novel nuclear reactor is a kind of an ‘akshaya patra’, the mythical goblet with a never-ending supply of food. The Department of Atomic Energy is getting ready to commission its ultra-modern indigenously designed and locally mastered fast breeder reactor.
Fast reactors can help extract up to 70% more energy than traditional reactors and are safer than traditional reactors while reducing long lived radioactive waste by several fold.”

Easier said than done, since these reactors are also notoriously unstable and hence difficult to run reliably over long periods. Called a ‘Fast Breeder Reactor’, these are a special kind of nuclear reactors that generate more atomic fuel than they consume as they work. India has been running an experimental facility called a Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) now for 27 years.

This is a small nuclear reactor a forerunner for the monster that India has constructed at Kalpakkam called the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR). This will generate electricity commercially using the fast breeder route.

Fast breeder reactors are called such not because they run faster but because the neutrons that sustain the atomic chain reaction travel at a much higher velocity than neutrons that help run the traditional atomic plants. These are called breeders as they generate more fuel than they consume a fact hard to fathom since they seem to defy the laws of conservation of energy. But a very unique quirk of elemental uranium makes this possible.

India’s fast breeder reactor is even more unique as within it the country also deploys special rods of thorium which when they get exposed to or irradiated by fast neutrons they generate U-233 and a normally benign thorium turns into a valuable atomic material. It is well known that India is very energy hungry and as economic growth takes place mega quantities of electricity will be required. Unfortunately, nature has not been bountiful on India as the Indian land mass is not endowed with enough uranium but on the other hand the country has the world’s second largest store of thorium. Today the country in a well thought out strategy is mastering fast breeder reactors that can be an effective via media for utilising the vast thorium reserves.

Here are the Top 10 facts in this big story:

  • The Beloyarsk Nuclear Plant is the only commercially operating fast breeder reactor in the world. Developed over more than 20 years, it started producing power since October 2016. The reactor produces over 800 MW of power.
  • Fast breeder reactors produce more fuel than they consume. They are also considered safer than other reactors, say experts as they are less prone to accidents.
  • While the technology is not mainstream yet, it is expected to take off in the coming decades as the world grapples harder with growing stockpiles of nuclear waste.
  • Plutonium, the by-product of conventional nuclear reactors, is fast becoming a problem. A 1,000-megawatt reactor produces 27 tons of spent fuel a year.
  • But the radioactive material takes more than a million years to be degenerate naturally. Being the key raw material for atomic bombs, it is also in danger of theft by terror groups.
  • For now, it is costing the world billions of dollars to safeguard the Plutonium waste from conventional reactors.
  • Fast breeders use plutonium and waste uranium — which cannot be used to power a nuclear reactor — and converts back into usable uranium.
  • Russia is a global leader in Fast breeder reactors. India is a close second and China is aggressively trying to catch up. US relies exclusively on conventional atomic reactors.
  • India’s very own Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is ready to be started this year. The 500 MW reactor — located at Kalpakkam near Chennai – was built after a 15-year effort led by the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam.
  • India has indigenously developed its fast breeder reactor over the last 25 years. Nuclear technology was denied to India after the nuclear explosions at Pokharan. But the country hopes to ramp up its nuclear capacity by almost three times by 2032. Recently the cabinet approved the construction of 10 new reactors at a cost of over Rs. 70,000 crore.




Source:- NDTV

The post Inside World’s Most Efficient Nuclear Reactor, Soon In India appeared first on Indian Defence Update.

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