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PWR building shows indigenous capability, says Kakodkar

T.S. Subramanian

Photo: Special Arrangement

A BEGINNING: The 80 MWe indigenous PWR at Kalpakkam. In the foreground is the pressure hull and behind is the shield tank that contains water and the reactor. —

CHENNAI: India building an 80 MWe Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) at Kalpakkam near here “marks the beginning of its indigenous PWR capability,” Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Anil Kakodkar said on Sunday.

An identical PWR of the same capacity would propel the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant that was launched on July 26. The two PWRs were built by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Enriched uranium would fuel them, and light water was both coolant and moderator. The Rare Materials Project at Ratnahalli, near Mysore, produced the enriched uranium. “For nuclear power generation also, the PWR technology is most popular worldwide,” Dr. Kakodkar said.

On Sunday, reporters were shown the PWR built on a beachhead at Kalpakkam. The reactor, built under a highly secretive project called Plutonium Recyling Project (PRP), has been operating from September 2006. The non-descript PRP building has the display of a sculpture of a dolphin outside.

The PWR, housed in a huge hall, has a massive pressure hull, a shielding tank with water and reactor inside, a reactor pressure vessel made of special steel, a control room and an auxiliary control room.

“The reactor is running now. All the safety related parameters are monitored in the auxiliary control room,” said A. Moorthi, scientific officer, BARC, who showed reporters round the reactor. The land-based reactor and the PWR that has been packed into Arihant’s hull are on a 1:1 scale.

Dr. Kakodkar said the PWR at Kalpakkam was an addition to the nation’s family of reactors. The Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which use natural uranium as fuel, “are world class.” “Our Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) are globally advanced. Our Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) is globally unique,” he added.

The FBRs would use plutonium-uranium oxide as fuel. The AHWR, to be built, would have thorium as fuel.

Srikumar Banerjee, Director, BARC, called the introduction of indigenous PWR technology in the country “a major step” in the activities of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). The BARC was mandated to develop a land-based prototype PWR and also a compact nuclear pack for submarine applications.

“The complexity increases manifold in a submarine due to the miniaturisation of the already complex systems,” Dr. Banerjee said. Besides, power should rise fast from 25 per cent to 100 per in a few minutes in the reactor of a nuclear-powered submarine. It should reach full speed in a few minutes. So, special attention had to be paid to the design of the reactor.

S. Basu, Director of BARC Facilities at Kalpakkam, said the successful operation of the PWR at Kalpakkam for the past three years generated data for the submarine version.

Arihant was a joint project of the DAE, the Navy and the DRDO.

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