India's fast breeder reactor to start generation in September

India's first indigenously designed 500 MW fast breeder reactor is expected to generate power from September and the focus is on not missing the deadline, a top official of the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) said on Tuesday.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 24, 2015, 13:31 PM IST

Chennai: India's first indigenously designed 500 MW fast breeder reactor is expected to generate power from September and the focus is on not missing the deadline, a top official of the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) said on Tuesday.

"This September, the unit will be connected to the southern power grid, generating around 30 percent of the total capacity. Full power generation is expected to begin around April 2016," P Chellapandi, chairman and managing director told IANS.

BHAVINI is setting up the country's first indigenously designed 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, around 80 km from Chennai.

A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes. The PFBR will be fuelled by a blend of plutonium and uranium oxide, called MOX fuel.

While the reactor will break up (fission) plutonium for power production, it will also breed more plutonium than it consumes. The original plutonium comes from natural uranium.

The 30 percent power generation that Chellapandi says is sizeable 150 MW.

The initial power generation would be gradually increased based on various test results.

According to Chellapandi, all the construction related works will be over in a month's time.

"The physical progress achieved by the PFBR is 98 percent. The balance is mainly intellectual or knowledge inputs," Chellapandi said.

He reiterated that there are no external items that are needed for the project's completion.

He said various stages of the project are being tested and officials from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) are regularly visiting the project.

"We are trying to make sure that the deadline is not slipped," Chellapandi said.

The dummy fuel (fuel pins similar to the real fuel pins but without the fission material) pins numbering 1,757 were loaded in 2013.

Meanwhile, the operators are being trained to run the plant.

The successful commissioning of the reactor will be a big feather in the cap of Indian nuclear scientists.

The PFBR is designed by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).

If PFBR gets commissioned this calendar year then it will be the second mega atomic power plant that would go on stream in Tamil Nadu giving the much needed relief to the power starved state.

The second 1,000 MW atomic power plant being set up at Kudankulam by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) is also slated to attain criticality (beginning of nuclear fission process for the first time) in June.

NPCIL is hoping to load the real fuel in the reactor in June after removing the dummy fuel bundles from the reactor.

Dummy fuel assemblies, made of lead instead of uranium, are the exact replica of the actual nuclear fuel assemblies, both in dimension and weight.

The NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, 650 km from Chennai.

The first unit attained criticality, which is the beginning of the fission process, July 2013.

Subsequently it was connected to the southern power grid in October 2013 but the commercial power generation began only December 31, 2014.