Fast reactor fuel reprocessing plant dedicated to nation by Indian Prime Minister

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India’s Demonstration Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant (DFRP) located at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu state, was dedicated to the nation earlier this month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

The DFRP, built at a cost of Rs 400 crore ($48 million), is the world’s only industrial-scale plant capable of handling both carbide and oxide used fuels from fast reactors, according to an official statement. 

Equipped with an indigenously developed unique design, the DFRP is a crucial enabler for the next generation of breeders and fast reactors, the statement said.  

“The dedication to the nation of DFRP by Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscores India’s commitment to realising the dream of Net Zero by leveraging the full potential of India’s uranium and thorium reserves and providing abundant green energy through the three-stage nuclear power programme,” the statement said. 

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) describes the DFRP as a crucial step towards the establishment of large commercial-scale fast reactor fuel reprocessing plants supporting the country’s commitment to achieving self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. It is designed to reprocess fuel from the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) being developed by India. 

The state-run fast reactor power generation company, Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI), also based in Kalpakkam, played a leading role in the DFRP project.  

BHAVINI is currently setting up the PFBR and has plans for two additional fast breeder reactors in the future. 

According to the DAE, the integrated commissioning of the 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor, managed by BHAVINI, is well underway. 

Also located at Kalpakkam, an under construction Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility (FRFCF) is expected to be completed by December 2027. The FRFCF is designed to reprocess used fuel from fast breeder reactors.  

The PFBR is a key element of India’s nuclear power programme that was conceived in the late 1960s as a closed fuel cycle to be achieved in three stages. The spent fuel generated from one stage would be reprocessed and used in the next stage of the cycle to produce power. A fast breeder reactor breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes.   

The programme envisages the introduction of plutonium fuelled fast breeder reactors as the intermediate stage, between operating pressurised heavy water reactors (PWHRs) and thorium-uranium-233 based reactors in the future.  

The closed fuel cycle was designed to “breed” fuel and to minimize generation of nuclear waste. This three-stage nuclear power production program in India had been conceived with the ultimate objective of utilising the country’s vast reserves of thorium. India is estimated to have the largest reserves of thorium in the world, possessing around 25 percent of the global reserves.