India set to commission nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu this year

India plans to commission its first fast breeder reactor (FBR) by the end of this year at Kalpakkam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. 

Making India the second country in the world to commercially produce power through a fast-breeder reactor, the unit is claimed to be “ultra-modern, indigenously designed, and locally mastered', reported Press Trust of India.

Russia owns the other commercially run FBR, the Beloyarsk Nuclear Plant. Countries such as the US, France, and Japan have also experimented with fast breeder technology programmes.

India’s Prototype Fast Breed Reactor will produce 500MW of power. FBRs are claimed to generate more nuclear power than they consume.

"Fast reactors can help extract up to 70% more energy than traditional reactors."

PTI quoted International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Yukiya Amano as saying: “Fast reactors can help extract up to 70% more energy than traditional reactors and are safer than traditional reactors while reducing long lived radioactive waste by several fold.”     

For the last 27 years, India had been operating an experimental set up of the FBR at Kalpakkam. This programme is part of India’s aim to be energy sufficient.

Nuclear reactors generally use a rare isotope of uranium called U-235, while a majority of U-238 isotopes are left unused. In FBRs, the accelerated neurons can utilise the idle U-238s and convert them into usable fuel.

FBRs are said to produce less waste and generally considered to be safer than regular nuclear power plants.