[Answered] Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of fast breeder reactor programme in India?

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What are various Advantages of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR)?
Conclusion. Way forward.

It was Dr Bhabha’s vision that India should become self-reliant in the field of nuclear energy. Initially, it was the DAE that implemented the nuclear power development programme till the creation of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL). Accordingly, India adopted a three-stage nuclear power development programme based on indigenously made reactors and fuel processed from domestic resources. 

Growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India:

  1. India’s journey in the field of nuclear science and technology began with the formation of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1954. The aim was to harness nuclear resources for peaceful purposes. India had to surpass the obstacle of technology denial by capable nations. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) headed by the prime minister started functioning since then.
  2. As a part of an agreement with the USA, India set up its first nuclear power station (410MW) in 1963 at Tarapore in Maharashtra. It was based on Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) using enriched Uranium fuel supplied by the USA. This project started commercial operation in 1969. Tarapore marked the beginning of India’s nuclear power development effort.
  3. It was in 1988 that India signed an agreement with the then Soviet Union for setting up a 2x1000MW capacity power project based on Soviet manufactured pressurised water reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.
  4. The  three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Dr. Homi Bhabha in 1950s to secure country’s long term energy independence, through use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.
  5. The three stages adopted were
    • Natural uranium fuelled pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PWHR)
    • Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) utilizing plutonium based fuel
    • Advanced nuclear power systems for utilisation of Thorium.
  6. The first stage was based on indigenously manufactured Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) that used natural Uranium from domestic sources as fuel and indigenously produced Heavy Water as both the moderator and the coolant.
  7. In the second stage, Plutonium-239, separated from the spent fuel in the first stage, was to be used in indigenously developed Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) for generating electricity.
  8. In the futuristic third stage, it is envisaged to use the indigenously available Thorium raw material from the sea sands along the coast and produce Uranium 233 which in turn would be the fuel for electricity generation.
  9. Currently, all the components and equipments, especially the oversized heavy components have been successfully manufactured by Indian industries and erected in PFBR project. By following the above approach, India has mastered the design and manufacturing of sodium cooled Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR).

Advantages of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR):

  1. FBRs are designed with several safety measures and features which follow redundancy and diversity principles. Fast Breeder Reactors are safe and efficient apart from the benefits from environmental considerations.
  2. Economic viability of FBRs depends on successful operation of PFBR and subsequently successful commissioning and operation of FBRs in the country.
  3. Electricity generated by FBR would be a source of green energy as the waste from the first stage nuclear programme is reprocessed and used as fuel in FBR. The spent fuel from this reactor can be fed back into the reactor core several times, till the spent fuel contains only short lived fission products.
  4. The advantage with a breeder reactor is that it generates more fissile material than it consumes. Also in the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use Plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium.
  5. Breeder reactors use a small core, which is important to sustain chain reactions. Besides, they do not even need moderators for slowing down neutrons, as they use fast neutrons.
  6. Further there is no need of large quantity of fuel materials for the annual external feed and thus eliminates the need for large capacity waste storage spaces with complex construction features.

India has achieved much in nuclear technology. Entry to NSG group is important for India to achieve further advancement. Nuclear technology are future and can help by providing India as a sustainable energy resource.

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