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Sunday, October 04, 2015

FBR-600 - India's Next-gen Commercial Fast Breeder Reactor [CFBR]

Generating electricity, plus a stockpile of Fissile materials, greater than it consumes, required for future power generation plans.

India's ticket to energy security, the 3-stage Nuclear programme, is about to cross an important milestone. The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor [PFBR] is set to go Critical, expectedly, this year. It is, currently, undergoing Commissioning, under the uncompromising watch of the regulator, AERB. With this, India would have truly marked its entry into the 2nd stage.


At the helms of affair is IGCAR, the organisation spearheading India's Fast Reactor efforts. Applying the knowledge & experience gained from the PFBR programme, it is proceeding with R&D of its successor - generically referred to as, either, the FBR-600 or Commercial Fast Breeder Reactor [CFBR]#. Designed to "burn" a mixture of Uranium Oxide & Plutonium Oxide to generate 600 MWe of power each, current plans involve building 6 Units, co-locating 2 at any given place. This arrangement would facilitate cost-rationalisation, using common auxiliaries to serve both Reactors.

In addition to electricity generation, the Reactor's primary goal, actually, would be to increase the stockpile of fissile material for use in the 3rd stage of the programme. Transmutation of fertile Uranium-238 would produce fissile Plutonium-239, while Uranium-233 fuel would be obtained from fertile Thorium-232 when introduced in the Reactor. The useful fissile materials would later be extracted through Reprocessing. The 1st twin Unit would come up at Kalpakkam, close to the PFBR site itself.


The September 2015 issue of the Indian Academy of Sciences' 'Pramana' carries details of the CFBR. It would, for example, have an operational life of 60 years, up from the PFBR's 40 years. Undertaking design optimisation, IGCAR has reported weight & size reduction of major components of the Reactor. Having Simplified Fuel Handling System For CFBRimproved the performance of the Steam Generator [SG], fewer SG units now need to be used to achieve desired heat transfer. The Reactor's structure, in general, is expected to be around 25% lighter in weight compared to its predecessor. Erection time too is being being brought down to around 6 years [Vs. the PFBR's planned 7.5 years], learning from the lessons of earlier erections project, as well as a simplified design.

Enhanced safety considerations involve introduction of, both, active & passive shutdown features. One such feature being design is an "ultimate shutdown system (USD) that work on dropping of either liquid (Li-6) or granules (enriched B4C powder)", absorbing major portion of the Neutrons in the Reactor, bringing the Fission Chain Reaction to a halt, preventing further damage.

The Reactor's performance will be incrementally increased to attain a burn-up to 200 Giga Watt days per tonne. Higher burn-up value indicates ability to extract higher amount of heat energy from a given bundle of fuel, thus needing fewer replacement of fuel bundles. If all goes as per plan then the 1st such twin Unit would attain Criticality around 2024, so that it "can be commercially exploited beyond 2030 towards realizing significant contributions targeted from nuclear option.".


Interestingly, this IGCAR plan for a 600 MWe successor design appears to be a circa 2015 development. Prior to 2014, plans only involved building 500 MWe CFBRs. In 2014, one began seeing information of a 600 MWe Reactor, as a possible improved alternative to the 500 MWe design. Starting 2015, however, it appears IGCAR zeroed-in on the sole pursuance of development of FBR-600. From the information gleaned, so far, it appears that, apart from the higher output of the FBR-600, other design consideration remain unchanged vis-à-vis the 500 MWe CFBR, such as the Inner Vessel's surface, shaped as part of a Torus, or replacing the Inclined Fuel Transfer Machine [IFTM] of the PFBTR with a simpler system that would need to move only horizontally & vertically [see diagram above].

Sodium-Fast-Breeder-Reactor-Plan-20142014 Sodium-Fast-Breeder-Reactor-Plan-JPG2015

In December 2013, when IGCAR released a pre-qualification document for, "Manufacture, Integration, Inspection, Testing, Packing, Transportation and Supply of Integrated Reactor Assembly of Permanent Components", it shared fabrication drawings of a 500 MWe design. It was also, perhaps, for the 1st time that it released clear schematic drawing of the CFBR, the answer to the question asked here.

Interesting times, testing times ahead for India's Nuclear establishment.


Also Read: Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse [NEMP] Simulator For DRDO's VRDE Facility

# - IGCAR's 2014 Annual Report used the term FBR-600