INDIA TO FOLLOW CLOSED-FUEL CYCLE NUCLEAR POLICY
Press Information Bureau 15 October 1999
India has chosen to follow a closed-fuel cycle policy to ensure long term energy security. This calls for the setting up of reprocessing plants and breeder reactors. Our Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam, over a decade old has achieved all technological objectives. The indigenously developed and hitherto untried mixed Uranium-Plutonium carbide fuel has reached a burn-up level of 49,000 MWd/t up to July this year and has performed excellently as revealed by post-irradiation examination. A programme of irradiation of zirconium-niobium capsules for irradiation creep measurements has also been carried out. With the rich experience gained from the FBTR operation, the indigenous design and development of the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is progressing as per schedule and the construction is expected to begin sometime in 2001. The preliminary Safety Analysis Report on Reactor Assembly, Heat Transport System and Component Handling have been completed. A four-legged walking robot for in-service inspection of the PFBR steam generator has also been designed and developed.
Mature technologies for reprocessing, waste management and recycle of plutonium have been demonstrated and are readily available. Progress is underway on the Thorium-Uranium 233 cycle, also. In this context it is worth mentioning that because of India’s great interest in the closed nuclear cycle we have always considered spent fuel as a vital resource material. This was emphasised by India during the negotiations on the joint convention of the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the safety of radioactive waste management. The closed fuel cycle adopting a "Reprocess to Recycle Pu" approach after extended period of spent fuel storage, has several advantages. It renders reprocessing and nuclear waste management a more viable and safe technology, with reduced expenditures since it minimises the complications due to the presence of Americium-241 in the recycled fuel fabrication process. The planning of reprocessing capacity should be such that the needs of the fast reactors/advanced Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors etc. which facilitate the utilisation of Plutonium and Thorium while reducing the input of natural uranium can be met on "Just in Time" basis in materials management. Americium is not of any proliferation concern and this has also been borne out by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s recent decision in this regard.