[Solved] 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? ( UPSC GS-3 Mains 2017)
With a view to optimally utilize limited uranium reserves and large thorium reserves in the country, the Department of Atomic Energy has adopted a three-stage nuclear power programme, based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle, for generation of nuclear power and for achieving long term energy security.
- The three-stage nuclear power programme, which is to be implemented sequentially, aims to multiply the domestically available fissile resources through the use of natural Uranium in Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (first stage), followed by use of Plutonium obtained from the spent fuel of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors in Fast Breeder Reactors, in the second stage.
- Large scale use of Thorium will subsequently follow making use of Uranium-233 that will be bred in Fast Breeder Reactors, when adequate nuclear installed capacity in the country has been built. Accordingly, the utilization of Thorium as a practically inexhaustible energy source has been contemplated during the third stage of the Indian nuclear programme, which can be reached after a few decades.
- For the near term, the Government in July 2014, had announced tripling of the then existing capacity of 4780 MW in the next ten years, that is by the year 2024. A capacity of 1000 MW has already been added with the start of commercial operation of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Unit-1 (KKNPP 1) in December, 2014. The nuclear power capacity is expected to reach 10080 MW on progressive completion of projects presently under commissioning/construction by the year 2018.
- Besides nuclear sciences, research and development work in fields such as electronics, medicine, biology, agriculture, metallurgy is also being done at some nuclear centers.
- Advantage of fast breeder reactor
- A fast breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes.
- In a nuclear reactor, fissile materials, such as U233 or U235 or Pu239 are harnessed for producing energy through fission. U233 and Pu239 are produced by conversion of the fertile materials Th232 and U238, respectively. The ratio of fissile material produced and fissile material destroyed is termed as ‘conversion ratio’. The conversion ratio, if greater than 1, is called breeding ratio.
- In view of higher operating temperatures specifically in SFR (>40%), it is possible to have high thermodynamic efficiency. High thermodynamic efficiency has additional advantage of less thermal pollution to the environment. With the use of advanced materials for the fuel clad and wrapper, higher burn ups of 100–200 GWd/tonne can be achieved, compared to 55 GWd/tonne for LWRs and 7 GWd/tonne for PHWRs.
- 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. This is the concept of FBR with closed fuel cycle. Hence, 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 limited indigenous uranium (<“110 kt) and hence, FBRs are important due to its capability of efficient utilization of uranium. However, India has abundant thorium.
- The fast reactors also play important and essential role to exploit the thorium resources. Since thorium cannot straightway be used as nuclear fuel as it has no fissile isotopes, it can breed to give fissile isotopes (U233) by placing as blanket of Pu–U fueled fast reactors.
- However, premature introduction of thorium hampers the growth: increases the doubling time and hence, the introduction of thorium in the second stage would have to be done in a timely manner.
- Introduction of thorium without going to FBRs is extremely counterproductive, since the installed power capacity with thorium and plutonium being used together in thermal reactors will be insignificant given the India’s requirements.
- The peak power level achieved briefly, with such premature use of thorium is very low (typically 36 GWe for a brief period) as compared to very high levels reachable through an optimum deployment strategy. Indian thorium is of the best quality available in the world and studies indicate that once the FBR capacity reaches about 220 GWe, thorium based fuel can be progressively introduced in the FBR in order to accelerate the third stage.
- Apart from above, the Sodium cooled Fast Reactors (SFR), in particular would provide critical liquid metal technology and high temperature design inputs for fusion and high temperature reactor systems, being pursued in the country.
- These systems can provide electricity at competitive costs over long periods. In view of above advantages, FBRs are considered to be the most suitable and strong options for providing sustainable and environmentally acceptable energy systems and would be the mainstay of nuclear power programme in India.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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./nuclear science/
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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):
- 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.
- Economic viability of FBRs depends on successful operation of PFBR and subsequently successful commissioning and operation of FBRs in the country./nuclear science/
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nuclear program in India started after independence with the initiative of Dr.Homi jahangeer baba. In the development of nuclear science we started initially with help of Canada for peaceful purpose i.e., producing electricity using nuclear reactors. According to the nuclear energy development program there are three stages , in that first stage is already in implementing stage./nuclear science/
- In that we us natural uranium as fuel heavy water as a moderate and coolant, this is also known as pressurized heavy water reactor. In the second stage it is a breeder sector, in this uranium oxide and plutonium oxide used (also known as mixed oxide fuel) as a fuel (recovered from spent fuel of stage-I reactor)and natural uranium as a blanket material. When fast moving neutron bombard with this blanket material it convert into fissile material.
- In this way it breed more fuel than what it consume. In stage -III, it is the thorium based fast breeder reactor, in that blanket material is thorium. The significance of this reactor is , thorium is most abundant material in our country, if we develop this fuel is not at all be a problem. Moreover you no need to reprocess the spent fuel . It is a closed system. The breeder test reactor is working at kalpakam, tamilnadu./nuclear science/
In this reactor blanket material used inside the reactor. This blanket material is fertile material. Once the reaction is started when you bombard the MOX fuel with slow moving neutron, along with the production of energy it will generate much more neutrons, these will in turn bombard with the blanket material and convert that entire fertile material into fissile material. Here the amount of fuel produce is more than what it consume , that is why we call this reactor as breeder reactor. Once you reprocess that material we can use that as a fissile material in other reactors.
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