India is confident of commissioning the first-of-its-kind Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) next year with the technology challenges confronting it having been overcome.
The 500 MWe reactor, being developed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), uses a unique mix of uranium and plutonium which significantly enhances the capability to generate electricity per tonne of fuel utilised.
"Our anxiety about technological challenges for the construction of the country's first 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is over and we are at the closure for technology delivery," IGCAR Director Baldev Raj told PTI.
The indigenously-developed PFBR is at an advanced stage of construction under the aegis of state-owned Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (BHAVINI) and is expected to be commissioned early next year.
Raj said the technology developed by scientists at IGCAR was unique and the Indian PFBR would be the first such nuclear plant to be commissioned.
Some other countries, including Korea, are also developing fast breeder reactors but they could be commissioned only in 2025.
"We are confident of successfully commissioning the PFBR and are very cautious to deliver high capacity and high safety reactor of the second stage of the country's three-stage programme closed fuel cycle," Raj said.
"The confidence has been reviewed by the DAE as well as commented upon by the international peer review -- all favourably," he said.
The sodium-cooled PFBR uses Uranium-Plutonium mixed oxide as fuel.
The scientists have also successfully loaded 1,500 tonnes of the molten sodium which will be the coolant of the reactor. The total requirement is about 1,700 tonnes.
"We do not see any concern in commissioning the PFBR," he said.
This is a result of decades of focused research at IGCAR towards mastering the technology with which we now have 400 reactor years of experience, he said.
"We were able to overcome the technological challenges due to synergistic efforts of scientists of IGCAR, BHAVINI, the Indian manufacturing sector and about 200 academic institutions who have network with us," Raj said.
He said the technology development was done seven to eight years before launching PFBR in 2003.
India plans to have at least five more 500 MW fast breeder reactors by 2020, two of which could be set up at Kalpakkam.