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The prime objective of the atomic energy programme as defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1948, is the development control and use of atomic energy solely for peaceful purposes namely the generation of electricity and the development of nuclear applications in research agriculture industry medicine and other areas. To achieve this objective, efforts were initiated to build up versatile infrastructure of research facilities trained scientific and technical manpower raw material processing centres and the know-how and capability to manufacture nuclear components and electronic equipment to support the atomic energy programme and make India turley self reliant. Thus India stared work on the peace full utilization of nuclear energy at a time when it was essentially very much of a frontier science into which a few developed countries alone had ventured.

India’s long term nuclear power programme is based on utilizing the vast indigenous thorium resource for electricity generation India’s uranium resource can support a first stage programme of about 10,000M We based on Pressurized heavy water Reactor using natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator and coolant.

The energy potential of natural uranium can bouncers to abut 3,00,000 Mwe in the second stage through FBTRs which utilize plutonium obtained from recycled spent fuel of first stage along with thorium as blanket to produce U-233 with the deployment of thorium in the third stage using U-233 as fuel the energy potential for electricity generation is large and substantial.

The Department of Atomic Energy formed on August 03, 1954 is engaged in the development of nuclear power technology applications of radiation technologies in the fields of agriculture medicine industry and basic research.

The programmes being followed by DAE emanate from the mandate that involves:

  •    Increasing the share of nuclear power through deployment of indigenous and other proven technologies and also develops fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors with associated fuel cycle facilities.
  •    Building and operation of research reactors for production of radioisotopes and carrying out radiation technology applications in the field of medicine agriculture and industry
  •    Developing advanced technologies such accelerators lasers etc. and encouraging transfer of technology to industry
  •    Support to basic research in nuclear energy and related frontiers areas of science interaction with universities and academic institutions support to research and development projects having a bearing on DAE’s programmes and international cooperation in related advanced areas of research and

Contribution to national security.

An integrated group of organizations the department has five Research Centres three Industrial Organizations five Research Centres three industrial organizations five public sector undertakings and three service organizations it has two boards for promoting and funding extramural research in nuclear and allied fields and mathematics. It also supports seven institutes of international repute engaged in research in basic sciences astronomy astrophysics cancer research and educations and a society that provides educational facilities to the children of DAE employees.


DAE has been pursuing a 3 stage Nuclear Power Programme the first stage which is already in the commercial domain comprises the setting up of pressurized heavy water reactors that use natural uranium as fuel. The second stage which is in the technology demonstration stage, is geared to set up fast breeder reactors using plutonium produced by reprocessing of spent uranium fuel from the first stage. The third stage in the technology development stage will be based on the thorium uranium 233 cycle, in specifically designed reactors Uranium 233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium.


  •        Natural uranium di-oxide as fuel matrix
  •        Heavy ate4r as moderator and coolant

The first stage started with natural uranium fuelled pressurized heavy water rector producing power and plutonium as by product.

Application of Front End Fuel Cycle

Exploration and Mining: For augmentation of atomic mineral resources required fort eh atomic energy programme of the country the atomic minerals directorate for exploration and research contused resurvey and exploration following were the major achievements.

6632 tonnes of additional Uranium resources were established at lotion wahkyn West Khasi hill, Rohil Sikkar district Rajasthan and Wahkyn West Khasi Hills district Meghalaya. Significant uranium mineralization was intercepted in the bore  holes in Mhendragarh district Haryana Bastar district Chhattisgarh kadapa and Nalgonda distress Andhra Pradesh Uranium corporation of India Ltd. Produces uranium required for pressurized heavy water reactors of the country.

The promising uranium anomalies were located in the Proterozoic and Phenerozoic basins Pur-Banera Basin Rajasthan Kaladgi Badamii basins Karnataka satpura Gondwana basin Madhya Pradesh, Mahadek basin Meghalaya and Pakhal basin Andhra Pradesh.

Comprehensive process flow sheet was developed for extraction of uranium from dolostone hosted Tummalapapple ore kadapa district.

Evolution of PHWR Design

India’s first stage of Nuclear Programme was based on the PHWR Technology for the following advantages.

  •    Optimum utilization of the limited uranium resources
  •    Higher plutonium yield for the second stage fuel.
  •    Availability of indigenous Technology.
  •    The most Significant Feature of the PHWR Design is
  •    Multiple pressure tube configuration instead of a large pressure vessel
  •    The first two reactors were built at Rwawatbhata near Kota in Rajasthan with the Canadian collaboration in 1973 and 1983.
  •    Two units located at Kalapakkam near Madras built later were of the same design but using indigenous technology in 1984 and 1986
  •    Subsequently the Reactors at Narora Uttar Pradesh offered first opportunity to evolve an indigenus design based on operating experience and other requirements such as stringent safety norms and seismic design in 1991 and 1992.
  •    The Units of 540 Mwe Tarapur Atomic Power Project TAPP 3 and 4 as made critical on March 6, 2005 in less than 5 years. The unit became commercial on Sep. 12, 2003.

Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors and Light Water Reactors: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Operates 16 reactors with a total capacity of 3900 MWe. In addition it is engaged in the construction of 6 nuclear power reactors of which four are pressurized heavy water reactors which four are pressurized heavy water reactors of 220 megawatt each and two are light water reactors of 1000 megawatt each totalling 2880 MWe capacity. During the year 2006 generation of electricity from nuclear power plants of NPCL was 17794 million units (Mgs.),

Fuel Fabrication

The Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad fabricates nuclear fuel for the power reactors and produces currently products and seamless steel tubes. NFC also produces certain special materials for critical industries and very high purity materials needed by electronics industry.

In addition to meeting the regular re-load fuel requirements of all the operating PHWR 220 units and BWRs NFC manufactures and supplied the entire initial full core fuel requirement of the second PHWR 540 MWe unit.

At NFC the full core requirement of Seamless Calandria Tubes Pressure tubes and Garter springs for the forthcoming Rajasthan Atomic Power project coolant Tubes and Garter Springs for replacement requirement of NAPS-1 and NAPS-2 were also successfully manufacture and supplied to NPCIL well ahead of schedule.

For efficient utilization of uranium resources NFC successfully manufactured large quantities of PHWR fuel bundles containing Depleted Uranium material.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle: The stage 1 of the Nuclear power programme has a number of ancillary operations which from Nuclear fuel cycle.

The front end of the cycle includes mineral exploration mining and processing of ore and fabrications of fuel.

Atomic Minerals Exploration and Extraction

The Atomic Mineral Division is one of the first units stared by the AEC with headquarters at Hydrabad the division is interested with exploration prospecting and related research and development activates for atomic mineral resources. The in vestigations conduced so far for uranium have indicated that almost all major deposits are located in the Peninsular shield the major part of the reserves being the state of Jharkhand. The search for favorable localities for uranium mineralization in the Peninsular shield culminated inc the discovery of the jadugada deposits in Jharkhand.

As a result of the extensive survey work carried out so far it has been estimated that India’s total uranium reserves are about 73,000 tonnes. India’s thorium resources contained in the monaziete beach sand as well as some inland deposits are estimated at about 363,000 tonnes the largest in the world.

In 1992 a rare earths production plant was set up at Alwaye in Kerala to process monazite from the beach sand deposits. This plant produces uranium thorium concentrate as a by product. By 1995, a thorium plant was set up at Trombay to recover form this by product thorium nitrate and uranium fluo ride. This plant is still in operation and has provided all the thorium needed for various research and development programmes.

The Heavy water board operates six heavy plants at Baroda, Tuticorin, Hazira, Thai (Maharashtra), Kota (Rajasthan) and Manuguru (Andhra Pradesh)

The back end of the nuclear fuel cycle is a strategically important activity due to its sig-nificance both in terms of the sensitivity as well as safety. Fuel reprocessing technology was developed and standardized entirely by in house R and D efforts.

The Heavy water board operates six heavy plants at Baroda, Tuticorin, Hazira, Thai (Maharashtra), Kota (Rajasthan) and Manuguru (Andhra Pradesh)

The back end of the nuclear fuel cycle is a strategically important activity due to its sig-nificance both in terms of the sensitivity as well as safety. Fuel reprocessing technology was developed and standardized entirely by in house R and D efforts.

Application of Back End Fuel Cycle

The Back-End of the Cycle covers reprocessing of spent uranium fuel and management of nuclear waste.


The facilities at Trombay, Tarapur and Kalpakkam for reprocessing for spent fuel from research /power reactors operated well, plutonium plant at Trombay resumed operation after the up gradation for improved process performance and safety. Spent fuels form both CIRUS and Dhruval were reprocessed. The re-processing plant at Tarapur continued to reprocess the spent fuel from PHWRs. Flow sheet for recovery of plutonium and americium from fluoride matrix was developed using a combination of solvent extraction and precipitation.

Reprocessing of Spent Fuel: Open cycle refers to disposal of the entire waste after subjecting to proper waste treatment.

This results in huge under utilization of the energy potential of Uranium.

Closed cycle refers to chemical separation of U-238 and Pu-239 and further recycled while the other radioactive fission products were speared sorted out according to their half lives and activity and appropriately disposed off with minimum environmental disturbance.

  •      Both the options are in practice
  •      As a part of long-term energy strategy Japan and France has opted closed cycle.
  •      India preferred a closed cycle mode in view of its phased expansion of nuclear power generation extending through the second and third stages.

The radioactive wastes generated at various stages of nuclear fuel cycle are categorized as low intermediated and high level wastes. The plants for management of all types of radioactive wastes operate at many nuclear facilities. The high level wastes generated in very small quintiles are fixed in glass matrix. India has become one of the six countries who have developed the Joule Heated Ceramic Melter and set up such facilities for verification of high level waste.


India’s second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors. India first 40 MWt fast Breeder Test Reactor attained criticality o 18th October 1985.

India became the sixth nation having technology to built ad operate FBTR besides USA, UK, France Japan and the then USSR.

FBTR can increase uranium utilization by about 60 times of what is possible by PHWR.

  1. Fast Breeder Test Reactor: It is India’s first step towards the second phase of nuclear power programme. It is based on the design of reactor of France. It has been established at Kalpakkam by the IGCAR. It was commissioned in 1985 to carry on Research and Development in F.B.R. It is a 15Mw capacity reactor. It makes use of Plutonium-Uranium-Carbide fuel which is a mixture of 70% Plutonium and 30% Uranium. It uses liquid sodium as a coolant. It has been build to test the conversion of Thorium into conversion of U-233.

The successful operation of FBTR has led to the designing of 500Mw PFBR by IGCAR.

  1. Prototype Fast Breeder Test Reactor: It’s construction started at Kalpakkam in August 2004. It is expected that it will take eight years to commission the PFBR. It will cost about 3500 crore Rs. It will use Plutonium-Uranium- Carbide fuel and liquid sodium as the coolant. India is the only country in the world that is at present engaged in the development of F.B.R. and the conversion of thorium into U-233. The Department of Atomic Energy has established Bhartiya Nabhikya Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (BHAVINI) which has been entrusted with the responsibility of project management of P.F.B.R. The PFBR will be a major technology development for the development of atomic energy and it is comparable to technological breakthrough made by India in developing the Integrated Guided Missile Development programme by DRDO under which five different missile including Prithvi and Agni Missile have been developed. It is also combinable to LCA and nuclear sub marine project.

The development of breeder technology is significant because India has a unique resource imbalance as for as nuclear fuel is concerned. With only 60,000 tonnes of uranium deposit of which 0.7% being fissile uranium. India can only generate about (10-15), Mw nuclear power in the next 20-25 years. On the other hand, if India can develop breeder technology it can help in converting the vast thorium deposit into U-233 which can help India in generating about 1.5 lakh Mw of power for the next 100 years. Further the breeder technology help in converting the 70 to 80% of non fissile uranium into plutonium; one of the means by which India can achieve energy security is by way establishing breeder technology in the country.

The Breeder Technology has the following Advantage:

  1. F.B.R. can provide an increase in fuel utilization by 60 times of what is possible in case of PHWR.
  2. PFBR generates electricity and helps in building a fuel inventory in the form of Pu and U-233.
  3. The radio activity released into the atmosphere is less.


The nuclear chain reaction in the uranium fueling a thermal reactor is sustained by slowing down the neutrons by a moderator on the other hand is an FBTR the chain reactions is sustained by un moderated fast neutrons. When fission is induced by fast neutrons the number of neutrons releases per fission is more compared to that in thermal reactor. The extra neutrons are available for absorption in the uranium 238 to transform it to fissile Plutonium 239.

In a nuclear reactor heat is produced through the fission of U-235 and Pu-239 nuclei, and at the same time the non fissile uranium 238 gets converted to plutonium through neutron capture and radioactive decay. The efficiency of the conversion is judged by the ration of fresh fuel produced to fuel consumed. In a pressurized heavy water reactor this ratio is about 0.8 whereas it is more than one in a typical large size FBTR on account of the better neutron yield and economy. Thus in producing electricity though the operation of FBTRs the total energy potential in natural uranium can be much better harnessed. In a thermal reactor typically only about 1- 2 per cent of the natural uranium is utilized whereas in FBTRs the utilization is increased 60 to 70 times.

The main features of FBTR are

Pu-239 serves as the main fissile element in the FBR

A blanket of U-238 surrounding the fuel core will undergo nuclear transmutation to produce fresh Pu- 239 as more and more Pu-239 is consumed during the operation.

Besides a blanket of Th-232 around the FBR core also undergoes neutron capture reactions leading to the formation of U-233, u-233 is the nuclear reactor fuel for the third stage of India’s Nuclear Power Programme.

It is technically feasible to produce sustained energy output of 420 GWe from FBR.

Setting up Pu-239 fuelled fast Breeder Rector of 500 MWe power generation is in progress. Concurrently it is proposed to use thorium based fuel along with a small feed of plutonium based fuel in advanced Heavy water reactors. The AHWRs are expected to shorten the period of reaching the stage of large scale thorium utilization.

On July 18, 2006 FBTR completed 20 years of its successful operation at Kalpakkam.

Year 2006-07 A Watershed Year: The year 2006-07 was epoch making for the Department of Atomic Energy. The Department achieved many successes. 500 MWe PHWR Tarapur Atomic Power Project-3 achieved first criticality on May 21,2006 and was synchronized to the grid on June 15,2006. 200MWe PHWR Kaiga-3 achieved first criticality on Feb.26 2007. India signed an agreement to join ITER on November 21,2006. Homi Bhabha National Institute a deemed to be university started functioning during the year. For several reasons 2006 is a watershed in the history of India’s nuclear power programme. On March 2, India and united states agree dot cooperate in nuclear power technology PM Manmohan Singh set a revised tragedy of generating 40,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2030; the indigenously built third reactor at Tarapur, Maharashtra with a capacity of 450 MWe was commissioned on my India formally joined the international thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project as an equal partner in Brussels on May 24; pre-project work got under way at Rawatbhatta in Rajasthan and Kakrapar in Gujarat to build at each site two indigenous reactors of 700 MWe capacity and Russia reactors of 700 MWe capacity and Russia delivered on its promise to supply 60 tonnes of enriched uranium to the first two reactors at TAPS.

India has consciously proceeded to explore the possibility of taping nuclear energy for the purpose of power generation and the Atomic Energy Act was framed and implemented with set objectives of using two naturally occurring elements Uranium and Thorium having good potential to be utilized as nuclear fuel in Indian Nuclear Power Reactors. The estimated natural deposits of these elements in India are

  •        Natural Uranium deposits – 70,000 tonnes
  •        Thorium deposits – 3,60,000 tonnes

Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing: The Indira Gandhi Centre for atomic research of DAE had started breeder programme with the setting of a fast breeder test reactors at kalpakkam in October 1985.

IGCAR created a new international bench mark by successfully reprocessing the mixed carbide FBTR fuel, which had undergone a burn up of 100,000 MWd/t, in the Lead Mini Cell (LMC).

The Demonstration fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant which will reprocess fuel form FBTR on a regular basis and some oxide subassemblies form the first cone of PFBR reached reprocessing plants were completed.

Boron Enrichment plant at Kalpakkam achieved an enrichment above 65% in Boron-10 which is the requirement for PFBR. Some enriched boric acid was produced for conversion to element boron. Based on the technology demonstrated a plant is being set up at Mangluru to produce enriched boron for PFBR.


The third phase of India’s Nuclear Power Generation programme is breeder reactors using U-233 fuel. India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuel. India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors. It will be based on the thorium producing more uranium than they burn.


The Nuclear fuel i.e. extracted from a reactor after it has been burn is known as spent fuel. The fuel that is obtained is not entirely a waste it contains various radioactive substances such as Plutonium and Mixed oxides of Uranium (MOX) which can be subsequently used as fuel in a nuclear reactor.

India became the fifth country in the world in developing nuclear reprocessing technique. It established its first reprocessing plant at Trombay in 1964. The plant was modernized and its capacity was enlarged and renamed as Power reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant(PRFRE). It has a capacity to reprocess 100 tonnes of spent fuel per annum.

The second reprocessing plant was established at Tarapur with a capacity of 100 tonnes . The third plant as established at Kalpakkam called KARP (Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant) with a capacity of 125 tonnes per annum. The third reprocessing plants provide Indian hold over a dual use technology which is capable of producing Plutonium-239 and Plutonium-240 isotopes. This helps in building up Plutonium base to fuel the second generation and F.B.R. and developing the nuclear weapons for its National Security. These plants also produce MOX which is used as the fuel in thermal reactors.


  1. Kamini-(Kalpakkam-Mini): It has been established jointly by BARC and I.G.C.A.R. at Kalpakkam. It was commissioned in 1993 and became critical in 1996. It has the capacity of 30kw. KAMINI operates from the fuel derived from thorium i.e. U-233. It is the world’s 1st reactor that makes the U-233 as the fuel. It makes use of U- 233 produced by Poornima III. It uses L.W. as the coolant and moderator. It has been built by I.G.C.A.R. as a first step in harnessing the vast energy potential of the deposits of the country. KAMINI represents the third phase of India’s nuclear power programme which aims at establishing LWR which will be Thorium cycled reactors.
  2. Dhurva: It was established by BARC at Trombay in 1985. It has a capacity of 10OMw. It is the largest research reactor of India. It makes use of natural uranium as the fuel and heavy water as the coolant and also as moderator. It us used in the field of basic and applied research and for the production of Radio-isotopes and their application in the fields of agriculture, medicine and in the industry. Some of the isotopes produced by DHRUVA are Indium -192, Iodine -131, 10dine -125, Molybdenum -90, Chromium -51. Dhruva is the largest facility for the production of radio isotopes in the country.
  3. Cirrus: It was established in 1960 at Trombay by BARC with Canadian assistance . It has 40kw capacity. It is used for carrying out engineering experimental work with facilities for material testing and production of Radio isotopes. It is the second largest facility for the production of radio isotopes.
  4. Poorinma I: This fast reactor attained criticality on May 18, 1972.
  5. Poorinma II: It is a modified version of Poornima I. It is situated at Trombay and was established by BARC in 1984. It is a Zero energy reactor.
  6. Poorinma II: It was commissioned by BARC at Trombay in 1990. It is the world’s first reactor that converts Thorium into U-233.
  7. Apsara: It was the first reactor to be established in ASIA outside the former soviet union. It was commissioned in 1956 at Trombay by BARC. India’s nuclear research programme commenced with the commissioning of APSARA. It is 1MW capacity reactor.
  8. Zerlina: It is a zero energy reactor and was established at Trombay by BARC in 1961.


For putting up India’s first stations, the Tarapur site near Mumbai in western India was chosen in 1958 after a comprehensive survey of a number of possible sites all over the country. Two boiling water reactors of 200 MW each were purchased from USA in 1964 as a turnkey project but with maximum participation of Indian personnel in all stages of design construction testing and training operations. The station weren’t into commercial operation in late 1969 however since 1970 the enriched uranium fuel elements for the station are being fabricated in India based on importee hexafluoride. as the Tarapur reactors are amongst earlier BWRs several modification have been progressively carried out based on operational experience to each operation and minuteness of equipment reduce personnel radiation exposures minimize radioactive discharges to the environment and improve reliably and or all performance of the station.

In 1960 it was decided that first stage natural uranium reactors would be of the heavy water type. These reactors would enable the maximum utilization of the country’s limited uranium resaves. By 1962 as decided that the second atomic power station would be located near Kota in the state of Rajasthan and that the two 220 MW reactors would be based on the Canadian design which at that time was considered as proven. Canada was responsible for the design and supply of major equipment for the first unit while India design and supply of major equipment for the first units while India took up the responsibility for construction and installation activities. Right from the start of this project efforts were made to manufacture as many composes as possible in India. Thus the Rajasthan station opened up opportunities for many Indian inducted to enter the nuclear power field band develop sophisticated technologies indigenously, some of eh nuclear equipment manufactured n the county for the second unit include the reactor vessel end shields dump tank shield tank steam generators fuelling machines sealing and shield plugs etc.

The third power station near Chennai consists of two units of 235 MW each. Though these reactors are similar to the Rajasthan units several design modifications have been introduce for reasons of economy and duet special conditions at the site some of the modified features include pre-stressed concrete reactor containment building stainless steel end shields submarine tunnel for drawing cooling water from the sea and an indoor switchyard. The madras station makes the coming of age of the Indian atomic energy programme as full responsibility for the execution of the project including design constriction commissioning the operation rests with Indian engineers and scientists.

The Fourth is the 2×235 MW reactor at Narora in Uttar Pradesh the first units of the country’s fifth twin unit PHWR station set up at kakrapar ahs just attained critically.

Work has been initiated recently by the newly formed Nuclear Power Corporation at a new site Kaiga in Karnataka and at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan as an expansion of eh existing Rajasthan Atomic Power Station Each of these projects consists of two units of 235 MW.

U-233 is obtained from the nuclear transmutation of Th-232 used as a blanket in the second phase Pu-239 fuelled FBR.

Besides U-233 fuelled breeder reactors will have a TH-232 blanket around the U-233 reactor core which will generate more U-233 as the reactor goes operational thus resulting in the production of more and more U-233 fuel from the Th-232 blanket as more of the U-233 in the fuel core is consumed helping to sustain the long term power generation fuel requirement.

These U-233 / Th-232 based breeder reactors are under development and would serve as the ministry of the final thorium utilization stage of the Indian nuclear programme. The currently known Indian thorium reserves amount to 358,000 GWe-yr of electrical energy and can easily meet the energy requirements during the next century and beyond.

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