Daily News Analysis » March 2024 » India’s Indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor – A Leap Forward: 14 Mar 2024

India’s Indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor – A Leap Forward: 14 Mar 2024

Background and Development:

  • The project, initiated two decades ago, aims at developing India’s nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.
  • Expected to be the second country after Russia with a commercial FBR, addressing technological challenges delayed the project.
  • Aims to utilize India’s thorium reserves for electricity generation through a three-stage nuclear power program.
  • The FBR plays a crucial role in converting ‘fertile material’ to ‘fissile material’ for efficient energy production.

Three-Stage Nuclear Program:

  • First Stage: Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) use natural uranium and heavy water. Enhanced by imported Light Water Reactors (LWRs).
  • Second Stage: Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) and associated facilities aim to multiply fissile material inventory.
  • Third Stage: Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) based on the Thorium-Uranium-233 cycle.

FBR Technology and Fuel:

  • Initially uses Uranium-Plutonium Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.
  • Plans to use thorium as a blanket to produce more fissile Uranium-233, key for the program’s third stage.

Implications for Energy Security:

  • The combination of reactors from all stages is projected to ensure India’s long-term energy security.
  • The transition to thorium utilization will commence once sufficient fissile material (U233 or Pu239) is available.

Next Steps and Future Goals:

  • The ongoing core loading sets the path for utilizing thorium in significant quantities.
  • India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) targets a nuclear power contribution of 22,400 MWe by 2032, with plans for rapid construction of new reactors.

Why in news:

  • The ‘core loading’ process at Kalpakkam’s Fast Breeder Reactor recently started which marks  a pivotal achievement in India’s nuclear program. (Core loading is the process of placing nuclear fuel assemblies inside the core of a nuclear reactor.)