Chennai, Feb. 20: The finance ministry has cleared India’s first plutonium-based commercial “fast breeder reactor” at Kalpakkam to generate 500 mw-power, thus opening a new chapter in the country’s second-phase nuclear power programme.
Plutonium-based fast reactors have a big advantage for these produce more energy than the reactor initially consumes to generate electricity.
The Rs 2,800-crore project, called the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), is now awaiting the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs’ final clearance, S.B. Bhoje, director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, said here today.
The research centre is fully indigenously designing and building the reactor at Kalpakkam, 55 km from here.
Bhoje said the Cabinet committee’s approval was expected in three months. Bhoje, an internationally reputed nuclear technologist who built the Fast Breeder Test Reactor, the PFBR’s predecessor, at Kalpakkam was recently awarded the Padma Shree.
Once the committee approval comes through, a company will be floated for the project and will call for tenders to source nuclear components and the civil work. The project has already obtained other clearances, including those from the Planning Commission and the environment ministry.
“The actual pouring of concrete will happen four months hence and the time lag for the reactor attaining criticality from the day of the final sanction is seven years,” Bhoje said.
As the project nears completion, the cost is expected to go up to Rs 3,400 crore. The per-unit cost of power will then work out to Rs 3.40, which is a competitive price, Bhoje said.
In its first-stage nuclear energy programme, the country had opted for the pressurised heavy water reactor model. The heavy water reactor used naturally occurring uranium as fuel, which contained 0.7 per cent of the uranium isotope called U-235. The isotope underwent fission in the reactor to produce energy.