News Excerpt
Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) being constructed by BharatiyaNabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) is expected to get commissioned by October 2022. On completion of commissioning, PFBR will be adding 500 MW of electrical power to the national grid.

Pre-Connect
•    A Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) is a nuclear reactor that uses fast neutron to generate more nuclear fuels than they consume while generating power, dramatically enhancing the efficiency of the use of resources.

India's three-stage nuclear power programme
•    It was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s to secure the country's long term energy independence, through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.
•    India has huge deposits of Thorium in the monazite sands. But it can’t be used at the present stage.
•    However, if we follow the three-stage plan, in future the Thorium can be used in producing Nuclear energy.
•    Stage 1: Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor

Stage 2: Fast Breeder Reactor
Stage 3: Thorium Based Reactor
•    The first stage would see the creation of a fleet of ‘pressurised heavy water reactors’, which use scarce Uranium to produce some Plutonium.
•    The second stage would see the setting up of several ‘fast breeder reactors’ (FBRs).
•    These FBRs would use a mixture of Plutonium and the reprocessed ‘spent Uranium from the first stage, to produce energy and more Plutonium (hence ‘breeder’), because the Uranium would transmute into Plutonium.
•    Alongside, the reactors would convert some of the Thorium into Uranium-233, which can also be used to produce energy.
•    After 3-4 decades of operation, the FBRs would have produced enough Plutonium for use in the ‘third stage’.
•    In the third stage, Uranium-233 would be used in specially-designed reactors to produce energy and convert more Thorium into Uranium-233—you can keep adding Thorium endlessly.

Highlights
    The PFBR is a nuclear power reactor currently under construction at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.
    Fast breeder reactors, or FBRs, in general produce more fissile material than they consume.
    The PFBR in Kalpakkam will use a mixed oxide of plutonium-239 – derived from reprocessed spent fuel from the thermal pressurised heavy water reactors – and uranium-238 as fuel to generate energy in a nuclear reaction.
    This reaction will also produce – or ‘breed’ – more plutonium-239.
    This is possible because the reaction converts both uranium-238 in the fuel mix as well as a blanket of depleted uranium surrounding the core into plutonium.
    This plutonium will then be processed and used as nuclear fuel in a chain of commercial FBRs that constitutes stage II of the nuclear programme.
    The stage will also include FBRs that will use thorium-232, mined in India, as a blanket.
    Thorium will get converted to uranium-233, which will serve as the fuel for advanced reactors in stage III.
    Ultimately, these reactors will burn uranium-233 and convert thorium-232 to more uranium-233, creating a self-sustaining cycle of nuclear power generation.