Powerful leap

IGCAR scientists will soon realise their dream of designing and building a 500mw prototype fast breeder reactor. It's not a mean achievement

Kalpakkam: The mood is jubilant and gung-ho at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, 80 kms off Chennai. Why? IGCAR scientists are in the process of realising their dream of designing and building the 500mw prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR).

Not many even dreamed that PFBR would ever become a reality. The eighties saw India joining the select club of nations (sixth in the world) to possess a fast reactor when it commissioned the 13mw fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) with French assistance at Kalpakkam. But it was the graduation from the test reactor to a commercial one that delayed the process.

For nearly 20 years the PFBR project just remained on paper. But the last two years saw the paper project gaining momentum and early this year the pre-project work started at Kalpakkam. With that IGCAR is actualising the second stage of India's three-phase nuclear power programme.

Dr S M Lee"Even before FBTR went operational we tried to get Plan funds for PFBR but didn't succeed," says Dr S M Lee, director, safety research, health physics, information services, instrumentation and electronics group. At that time the government wanted to see the test reactor's performance before committing funds as India was kept under the 'atomic sanctions' list by the West.