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Essay on Our Nuclear Power Resources

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The spent fuel, when reprocessed, yields plutonium which will be used as fuel along with depleted uranium in the second stage fast breeder reactors (FBRs).

Reprocessing of the second stage spent fuel will result in production of more plutonium and uranium-233 when thorium is used as a blanket. The third stages reactors will be using uranium-233.

A Power Projects Engineering Division was established in 1967 to assume responsibility for building nuclear power stations. In August 1984 this Division was re-constituted as the Nuclear Power Board to implement the nuclear power programme in the country.

For greater operational flexibility, the Nuclear Power Board was converted into the Nuclear power Corporation which started functioning from 17 September 1987 . Generation of electricity from unclear energy commenced in 1969 with the commissioning of Tarapur Atomic

Power Station (TAPS) consisting of two enriched uranium fuelled boiling water reactors of 210 MWe capacity each. Two prototype PHWR units of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS), using natural uranium as fuel and 220MWe capacity each, attained critically in December 1972 and April 1981 at Rawatbhatta (Rajasthan).

On 27 January 1984, the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam, near Madras started commercial operation, and the second reactor followed suit on 21 March 1986.

These were the first reacttors which were indigenously designed and constructed. This was followed by two more reactors at Narora in Uttar Pradesh, which went critical on 12 March 1989 and 24 October 1991.

The Narora reactors are standardised version of 22 0MWe reactors and all the future 220 MWe PHWRs will be off this design.

A 220 MWe reactor of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) has synchronised with the grid on. With this the installed nuclear power generation capacity in the country is 1,720 MWe. The second reactor of KAPS is fast approaching completion.

Four more reactors of 220 MWe series are under construction two each at Rawatbhatta and Kaiga (Karnataka) and four are at planning stage at Kaiga. The design of the 220 MWe has also been upgraded to 500 MWe. Six reactors of this capacity will be set up at Tarapur (two units) and Rawatbhatta (500 units).

Two pressurised water reactor units (WER type) of 1000 MWe capacity each will be set up at Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu) in collaboration with Russia.

On 18 October 1985, the 40 MWt sodium cooled fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) using indigenously developed plutonium carbide fuel, attained criticality at Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu). With this a beginning was made in the second stage of the nuclear power programme.

Heavy Water Production : Heavy water is used as moderator and coolant in PHWRs. The country’s first heavy water plant set up at Nangal (Punjab), has been in operation since 1962. The heavy water plants using ammonia-hydrogen exchange process were subsequently set up at Baroda (Gujarat), Talcher (Orissa), Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu), Thai (Maharashtra) and Hazira (Gujarat).

Heavy water production technology using hydrogen sulphide water exchange process was developed indigenously. Based on this process, the first commercial plant was set up at Rawatbhatta (Rajasthan), followed by second plant commissioned at Manuguru (Andhra Pradesh) in 1992.

Nuclear Fuel Production : Exploration, mining and fuel fabrication, the front-end activities of the nuclear power programme have been established in the country through totally indigenous technology.

Significant quantities of ura­nium, thorium and other nuclear minerals have been added to the mineral inventories. The uranium reserves are suffi­cient to support the first stage 10,000 MWe (PHWR) of nuclear power generation over the design life. Exploitation of thorium reserves would lead to supporting about 2, 50,000 MWe.

The natural uranium oxide ore is processed and converted to yellow cake at the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, Jaduguda (Bihar) which is an input for fuel fabrication activities at the Nuclear Fuel Complex established in 1971 at Hyderabad. India has also developed technologies for reprocessing of spent fuel and waste management.

Since the sixties, spent fuel has been reprocessed indigenously and the waste management programme is also well established. India is now amongst a few countries in the world who have developed the technology which converts high level radioactive waste into glass.

Research Development: Research is carried on in fast breeder technology and frontline areas such as lasers, accelerators and superconductivity. R&D activities of DAE are concentrated at four research centres namely the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay; Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kaipakkam; Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, and Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Calcutta.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre : Set up in 1957, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is a premier research institution of the country working in nuclear sciences and related fields.

The country’s first 1 MW research reactor APSARA’ was built indigenously in 1956. In 1960, a 40 MW research reactor “CIRUS” was commissioned at Trombay for developmental work including production of isotopes, experimentation, and training.

“CIRUS” is still in operation. A new high flux indigenous 100 MWe reactor DHRUVA was commissioned in August 1985 for research in advanced nuclear Physics and production of isotopes.

Other facilities of BARC include a research reactor Purnima 111 using uranium-233 as fuel, a neutron source reactor KAMINI (at Kaipakkam), a 5.5. MeV Van-de-Graff accelerator at Trombay, a 14 MeV peiletron accelerator at Colaba, Bombay set up in collaboration with TIFR, a Beryllium Plant at Vashi (New Bombay), Power Reactor Fuel Reprocessing plant (PREFRE) and Waste Immobilisation Plant at Tarapur, and as seismic station at Gauribidanur (Karnataka).

The Radiation Medicine Centre of BARC at Bombay uses radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

BARC provides the much needed R&D backup for the nuclear power programme, and other units of the industry and mineral sector. This Centre has also developed tech­nologies in peaceful uses of atomic energy such as applica­tions of radioisotopes in industry, medicine and agriculture.

The outcome of the research work done has resulted in production of radiopharmaceuticals, and labelled compounds, high yielding crop varieties, preservation of spices and sea foods by irradiation.

A number of technologies developed at BARC have been transferred to industries for commercial use. The Centre has a Health Physics Division which provides countrywide health monitoring services for radiation workers.

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research : Set up in, 1971 at Kaipakkam, near Madras, the Centre carries out R&D activities relating to fast breeder development. This Centre has set up a fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) presently operating at a power level of 1 MWt.

Based on the experience gained from (FBIR) this centre has evolved a design for the prototype 500MWe reactor (PFBR) and is equipped with modern laboratories for carrying out work in metallurgy, radiochemistry and fuel reprocessing related to fast reactors.

Centre for Advanced Technology: The Centre, set up in 1984 at Indore, has been developing technologies in the area of lasers and accelerators.

The synchrotron radiation source being set up here, will be a major research facility in the country, the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) at Calcutta is a national centre for advanced work in nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, production of isotopes for various applications and radiation damage studies on reactor materials.

Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology : Radio­isotopes find extensive use in medicine, crop improvements, food irradiation, industry and research. To carry out activi­ties in the above fields on commercial lines the board was set up in 1988 for producing and supplying various radioisotope products.

It operates regional centres for radiopharma­ceuticals at Bangalore and Delhi, RIA Centre at Dibrugarh, and irradiation plants ISOMED at Trombay.

Uranium Corporation of India Limited : The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) was formed for mining, milling and processing of uranium ores.

It operates a uranium mill at Jaduguda (Bihar), and two uranium mines at Jaduguda and Bhatin (Bihar). It also has facilities to recover minerals such as copper concentrates and molybdenum from the ores.

Indian Rare Earths Limited : In 1950, the Indian Rare Earths Limited was incorporated as a company of DAE. It has mineral sand separation plants at Manavalakurichi (Tamil Nadu) and Chavara (Kerala). Rare Earths Plant for monazite processing at Alwaye (Kerala) and the Orissa Sands Complex (OSCOM) at Chhattarpur (Orissa).

The major products of IRE are: ilmenite, rutile, zircon, rare earths chloride and others. The corporation is a major, exporter of rare earth minerals and value added products.

Electronics Corporation of India Limited : In operation since 1967, ECIL has pioneered the production of wide-ranging indigenously developed sophisticated electronic systems and instruments for use in the nuclear power programme and other industries.

The Corporation is one of the leading organisations of the country in the field of manufacture of computers, control and instrumentation, communication systems and consumer electronics.

International Cooperation : India is one of the designated members of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors.

The Department has been offering training facilities, fellowships, and scientific visits, and makes available the services of its scientists for expert assignments both through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and countries with which bilateral agreements for cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy have been entered into.

Support to Research : The Department has been funding four institutions namely the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) and Institute of Physics (IOP).

The TIFR set up in 1945 at Colaba, Bombay, is engaged in fundamental research mainly in the fields of mathematics, physics, astrophysics, molecular biology and computer sciences.

The facilities under TIFR include: The Balloon Facility at Hyderabad, Radio Astronomy at Ootacamund (Tamil Nadu), and FT-NMR (Fourier Transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) National Facility at Bombay. TIFR is also setting up a giant metre wave radio telescope at Narayangarh near Pune, which will be world’s largest telescopes in the metre wave range.

The Tata Memorial Centre at Bombay is the foremost institution in the country in research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Saha Institute of Physics at Bhubneshwar has facilities for advanced research in nuclear sciences. A 3 MV tandem pelletron accelerator is a major research facility of the institute.