Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) Director at Kalpakkam Baldev Raj has been elected Chairman of a 7 nation collaborative project to define a futuristic fast reactor with closed nuclear fuel cycle capable of generating 300-500 GWe nuclear energy. Expected to be complete by 2050, the project will meet specific safety, economy, non-proliferation, technology, environmental, waste management, and infrastructure requirements of India, Russia, China, France, Japan, South Korea, and Ukraine.
The initiative is under the auspices of the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycle (INPRO) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reports indicate that US and Canada are likely to join the project at a later time. With an ability to generate a 1000 mw of power, the new age reactor will address energy needs of more than half the population of the world although the fuel for this reactor has not been identified.
Raj said that the cost of uranium, which is an important fuel option, has gone up three fold in the past 10 years and is also limited to the few sources in the world. Hence, one key requirement is to make the reactor sustain itself by making it reprocess the spent fuel internally. Unlike the Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR), this new model will not produce new fuel or waste.
There is worldwide interest in FBR because of the inherent property to generate new fuel and India already has a 13 mw test reactor and another 500 mw prototype reactor at Kalpakkam. It plans to build 4 more 500 mw FBR reactors before 2020. Other than India, Russia, France, and Japan are the only nations which have operational FBR. China is only now experimenting with FBR. Given the price of fossil fuel, India and China are keen to accelerate implementation of their respective FBR programs.
Raj says that the 7 nations met thrice assessing status of nuclear power to conclude that to conclude that closed cycle is “an inevitable option if a large amount of energy is to be provided at a reasonable cost and less waste.”