India’s first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

The Prime Minister witnessed the commencement of “core loading” at India’s first indigenous Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (500 MWe) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.

More about the news:

  • The PFBR has been fully designed and constructed indigenously by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) with significant contributions from more than 200 Indian industries, including MSMEs. 
  • PFBR is an advanced third-generation reactor with inherent passive safety features ensuring prompt and safe plant shutdown in an emergency.

What is the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PBFR)?

  • The PFBR is a nuclear reactor that produces more nuclear fuel than it consumes.
    • PFBR uses fast neutrons to generate more nuclear fuels than they consume while generating power, dramatically enhancing the efficiency of the use of resources. 
    • The Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) will initially use the Uranium-Plutonium Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.
    • PFBR also uses liquid sodium, a highly reactive substance, as a coolant.
      • Sodium absorbs fewer neutrons than light water, and more neutrons remain within the reactor. 
      • An increased number of neutrons causes a higher proportion of Uranium 238 to convert into Plutonium 239, yielding more plutonium than the original nuclear fuel.
  • FBRs are designed to produce more plutonium than the uranium and plutonium they consume.
  • Since it uses the spent fuel from the first stage, FBR also offers a great advantage in significantly reducing the amount of nuclear waste generated, thereby avoiding the need for large geological disposal facilities.
  • The core-loading event of the PFBR is being hailed as a “milestone” because the operationalisation of the PFBR will mark the start of stage II of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme.

India’s three-stage nuclear power programme.

  • The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has planned the use of large deposits of Thorium available in the country as a long-term option.
  • A three-stage nuclear power programme has been chalked out to use Thorium as a viable and sustainable option right at the inception of India’s nuclear power programme. 
    • In the first stage, India used pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and natural uranium-238 (U-238), which contain minuscule amounts of U-235, as the fissile material.
      • The first stage produces plutonium-239 (Pu-239) and energy.
    • In stage II, India will use Pu-239 and U-238 in the PFBR to produce energy, U-233, and more Pu-239.
    • In stage III, Pu-239 will be combined with thorium-232 (Th-232) in reactors to produce energy and U-233.
  • The three-stage nuclear power programme aims to multiply the domestically available fissile resource through the use of natural Uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, followed by the use of Plutonium obtained from the spent fuel of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors in Fast Breeder Reactors.
  • Large-scale use of Thorium will subsequently follow using the Uranium-233 that will be bred in reactors.
  • The utilisation of Thorium as a practically inexhaustible energy source has been contemplated during the third stage of the Indian Nuclear Programme.
  • Building a nuclear reactor using Thorium (Thorium-232) alone is impossible due to its characteristics. 
    • Thorium has to be converted to Uranium-233 in a reactor before it can be used as fuel.

Significance of stage II:

  • On a significant scale, commercial utilisation of Thorium can begin only when abundant supplies of Uranium-233 or Plutonium resources are available.
    • Large-scale introduction and utilization of Thorium in the programme has been contemplated after an adequate inventory of Plutonium becomes available from our Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), comprising the second stage of the Indian nuclear power programme. 
    • This will be after a few decades of large-scale deployment of FBRs. 
  • In preparation for the utilisation of Thorium in the Third Stage of India’s Nuclear Power Programme, efforts towards technology development and demonstration are made now so that a mature technology for Thorium utilisation is available in time.


The growth of the Indian nuclear power programme is imperative to meet the twin goals of energy security and sustainable development. As a responsible nuclear power with advanced technology, India remains committed to expanding peaceful applications of nuclear technology, both in the power and non-power sectors, while ensuring the security of nuclear and radiological materials.

Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI)

  • BHAVINI is a Government company under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
  • It was incorporated in 2003 with the objective of constructing and commissioning the first 500 MWe Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu.
  • Its objective is to pursue the construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of subsequent Fast Breeder Reactors for the generation of electricity in pursuance of the schemes and programmes of the Government of India under the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act,1962.
  • BHAVINI has constructed a 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam
    • The PFBR is the forerunner of the future Fast Breeder Reactors and is expected to provide energy security to the country. 
    • The PFBR is built with the design and technology developed at the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) located at Kalpakkam.

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