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Science & Technology

Nuclear Power Plants in India

  • 13 Mar 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, the government provided details related to various nuclear power plants in the country.

  • Presently, India has 22 operating nuclear power reactors, with an installed capacity of 6780 MegaWatt electric (MWe). Among these eighteen reactors are Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and four are Light Water Reactors (LWRs).
    • The nuclear energy programme in India was launched around the time of independence under the leadership of Homi J Bhabha.
  • Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is being implemented by the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), a wholly owned Enterprise of the Government of India under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor

  • PHWR is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel. It uses heavy water (Deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator.
  • The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a typical pressurized water reactor.
  • While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it yields greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel enrichment facilities.

Light Water Reactor

  • The light water reactor is a type of thermal- neutron reactor that utilizes normal water as opposed to heavy water.
  • It is fuelled by Low Enriched Uranium.
  • It uses water as both a coolant method and a neutron moderator.
  • It produces heat by controlled nuclear fission.

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor

  • A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes. These are designed to extend the nuclear fuel supply for electric power generation.
  • Breeder reactors achieve this because their neutron economy is high enough to create more fissile fuel than they use, by irradiation of a fertile material, such as Uranium-238 or Thorium-232 that is loaded into the reactor along with fissile fuel.
  • PFBR is a 500 MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu).
  • It is fuelled by Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel.

Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel

  • MOX fuel is manufactured from plutonium recovered from used reactor fuel, mixed with depleted uranium.
  • Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel provides almost 5% of the new nuclear fuel used today.
  • MOX fuel also provides a means of burning weapons-grade plutonium (from military sources) to produce electricity.

Depleted Uranium

  • In order to produce fuel for certain types of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, uranium has to be "enriched" in the U-235 isotope, which is responsible for nuclear fission.
  • During the enrichment process the fraction of U-235 is increased from its natural level (0.72% by mass) to between 2% and 94% by mass.
  • The by-product uranium mixture (after the enriched uranium is removed) has reduced concentrations of U-235 and U-234. This by-product of the enrichment process is known as depleted uranium (DU).

Source: PIB

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