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A world first in N-power programme
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu), June 11
India has made a big leap forward in its nuclear power programme by achieving reprocessing of nuclear fuel with high plutonium content with a high burn-up mark for the first time in the world.

Addressing a press conference here today at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), about 70 km from Chennai, Dr Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy, said for the first time the plutonium and uranium-rich carbide fuel with a high burn-up mark of 147.8 giga watts day per tonne had been achieved.

He said: “The fast breed test reactor here is unique because it is using carbide fuel. It was a bold step and as a part of cautious approach the target for burnup was fixed at 25,000 mega watts day per tonne. But what has been achieved is six times of the target.”

Dr Baldev Raj, Director, IGCAR, said: “The department is committed to efficiently closing the fast reactor fuel cycle by safely reprocessing future discharges of spent fuels with increasing burnups and in achieving the energy security for the country”.

He said while the fast breed reactors (FBR) had been using oxide and carbide fuel the facility had decided to “ leapfrog into using metallic fuel in specially designed FBRs”.

Dr Kakodkar said: “The IGCAR is focused on developing metallic fuel for specially designed FBRs. We have been using oxide and carbide fuel but we will leapfrog into using metallic fuel in the next 10 years.”

He said scientists at the IGCAR had been working on reprocessing of nuclear fuel and had been successful.

Explaining the scientific process of reprocessing of nuclear fuel and how much energy it can generate he said: “To put it for a layman I would say 100,000 mega watts day per tonne mean that just one gram of fuel can keep a 50 watt bulb lighted for three to four years.”

He said the country was going to be living with energy shortage as 50 years from now the demand would be 1300 to 1400 giga watts day per tonne in India. “We have to extract maximum energy from the minerals and hence reprocessing is very important,” he added.

Asked how much plutonium was extracted, Mr Kakodkar said: “I have no answer for such questions and you should know which questions not to ask”.

The extraction of plutonium or uranium is one of the country’s top secrets as it will give away the stocks and also indicate how much of it was being diverted for manufacturing nuclear weapons.

He said: “We have a plan to rapidly go on to the second phase of our nuclear power plan which will consist of more FBRs. They will be designed to meet India’s request which is different from rest of the world. The modest quantity of uranium in our soil was enough to meet the requirement”.

“Our nuclear programme is unique dictated by our own conditions. We are placing very high emphasis on research.

We will take more steps to strengthen domestic research and technology,” he added.


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