India’s FBR Programme (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     14th March 2024        
output themes

Context: The vital second stage of India’s three-stage nuclear programme got a boost with the commencement of ‘core loading’ at the country’s first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, earlier this month.

India’s FBR Programme

  • About: Efforts to establish an FBR began two decades ago, representing a strategic move towards comprehensive nuclear capabilities encompassing the entire fuel cycle.
  • BHAVINI and the PFBR: In 2003, during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure as Prime Minister, BHAVINI was formed to spearhead India's most advanced nuclear reactor project, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR).
  • Technological Hurdles and Delay: Initially slated for completion by September 2010, the PFBR project encountered significant delays owing to technological obstacles.
  • Revised Completion Timeline: Despite setbacks, the project received last-minute approvals with a revised completion target set for October 2022.
  • India's Position in FBR Technology: Upon commissioning, India will become the world's second nation, following Russia, to operate a commercially viable Fast Breeder Reactor, showcasing its advancements in nuclear technology.
  • Global Landscape: While India and Russia lead in FBR development, other nations like China have smaller programs, while countries such as Japan, France, and the United States have halted their FBR initiatives due to safety concerns.

Three stages and FBR

  • Stage One: Progress is underway in setting up Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and associated fuel cycle facilities.

oPHWRs utilize natural uranium and heavy water as coolant and moderator.

  • Stage Two: The second stage involves establishing Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) alongside reprocessing and plutonium fabrication plants.

oFissile material multiplication aims to enhance inventory for future stages and facilitate thorium utilization.

  • Stage Three: The third stage will center on the ThU233 cycle, leveraging U233 produced through thorium irradiation in PHWRs and FBRs.

oProposal for an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) to facilitate U233 production and further program advancement.