Home » India set to start nuclear reactor at Kalpakkam soon
India set to start nuclear reactor at Kalpakkam soon
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.
Experts say to make nuclear energy sustainable, one sure shot way is to make fast breeder reactors mainstream. The 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.
The Fast Breeder Reactor 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.
The world’s only commercially operating fast breeder reactor is situated in the Ural Mountains of Russia at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, not far from Russia’s fourth largest city Yekateringburg. The Russians today are the global leaders in fast breeder reactors having operated a fast breeder reactor called BN 600 since 1980.
Nuclear reactors use a flavour of uranium called U-235 which unfortunately constitutes a minuscule quantity even in super purified uranium. The larger component is what is called U-238 this flavour is the bulk but is essentially a waste product as the atomic reaction cannot be sustained by this elemental flavour. In a fast breeder reactor the very special fast neutrons interact with the so called wasted uranium U-238 and converts it into a valuable resource. This is why fast breeders are akin to an ‘akshaya patra’.
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.
What is a nuclear reactor?
A nuclear reactor is a system that contains and controls sustained nuclear chain reactions. Reactors are used for generating electricity, moving aircraft carriers and submarines, producing medical isotopes for imaging and cancer treatment, and for conducting research.