BARC’s ‘Apsara’ reactor operational after 9 years
Nine years after Apsara – the country’s first and oldest atomic reactor – was shut down, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) set in motion Apsara-upgraded (U) on September 10 at 6.41pm.
Indigenously constructed, Apsara U is a swimming pool type research reactor that uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of low enriched uranium.
Under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal separation plan, the imported enriched fuel used in the Apsara reactor would be replaced by indigenous low enriched uranium fuel in line with current international practices. The reactor was designed and built by India, but nuclear fuel was supplied from the United Kingdom.
“Using high neutron flux, the reactor [Apsara-U] will increase the indigenous production of radioisotopes for medical application by about 50% and will also be extensively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding,” read a statement by the department of atomic energy.
The production of radioisotopes in the country commenced with the commissioning of Apsara. Radioisotopes generated via power generation in nuclear reactors, research reactors, accelerators and spent fuel are used in agriculture, healthcare, industry and even municipal waste management.
Apsara, in addition to being the first nuclear research reactor in India that reached criticality on August 4, 1956, was also the first in Asia. The one-megawatt Apsara research reactor that was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was also a pool-type reactor.
Till date, the country has housed eight research reactors of which, only two – Dhruva and Kamini –were operational till Monday. The remaining six research reactors – Apsara, Cirus, Purnima I, Purnima II, Purnima III and Zerlina have been decommissioned between 1973 and 2010.