India to get first fast reactor fuel reprocessing plant

Chennai, Aug 27 (IANS) The foundation for India’s first fast reactor fuel reprocessing plant to be built at a cost of Rs.9,600 crore is expected to be laid in two months’ time at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, a top official has said.

“The soil excavation work for the fuel reprocessing plants is almost over as the rocky layer has been reached. In two months’ time, the foundation for the reprocessing plants would be laid,” P.R. Vasudeva Rao, director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) told IANS in an interview.

Rao said the FRFCF will be the first of its kind plant dedicated solely to reprocessing fast reactor fuels to cater to a commercial-sized reactor.

He said the foundation has been laid for some of the administrative buildings connected to the Rs.9,600 crore Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility (FRFCF).

Though FRFCF will have only fuel reprocessing plants and not a reactor, Rao said the plant buildings have to be seismically qualified and hence the need for deep excavation.

Similarly all other safety aspects are being considered and incorporated in the project construction stage.

Rao said action on tenders for nearly 50 percent of the total project cost is under progress.

He said orders for long delivery machinery and equipment worth around Rs.500 crore have been placed till date.

“The facility is slated to be commissioned towards the end of 2019,” Rao said.

Rao said around Rs.500 crore would be spent on the project this fiscal.

IGCAR, as per its mandate, designed and developed the 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) which is now being built by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) at Kalpakkam.

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

The purpose of FRFCF is to reprocess the spent fuel of PFBR and also other two fast reactors expected to come up at Kalpakkam, around 70 km from here.

According to Rao, the FRFCF can, with little augmentation, reprocess the spent fuel from the additional fast reactors that would come up.

As to the FRFCF’s fuel reprocessing capacity, Rao said every eighth month one-third of the PFBR’s 181 fuel sub-assemblies have to be taken out of the reactor for reprocessing and new fuel sub-assemblies loaded in.

The FRFCF is expected to employ around 1,500-2,000 people and Rao said work on building residential quarters for the employees is also progressing simultaneously.

He said the FRFCF is designed by IGCAR, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai.

“The FRFCF is not water-intensive and plans are there to meet the water needs through desalination plants,” Rao said.

He said IGCAR would shortly commission a new two million gallons per day desalination plant built an outlay of around Rs.40 crore.

“We have the experience in reprocessing fast reactor fuel used in fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) at IGCAR,” Rao said.

Asked about the finalisation of reactor design for the next two fast reactors, Rao said the design is yet to be finally approved.

He said the new fast reactor design would not only incorporate the learning from PFBR but also ensure that the design is cost-effective.

“The new design is expected to reduce the material cost at least by 10 percent as compared to PFBR,” Rao said.

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