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History

Beginning of reprocessing in India

  • The Plutonium Plant (PP) in Trombay was the first plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in India
  • It reprocessed spent fuel discharged from CIRUS reactor at BARC
  • PP was designed and commissioned by engineers from first 3 batches of BARC training school with H. N. Sethna as Project Engineer and N. Srinivasan as Design Engineer
  • Indigenous equipment fabrication with minimal pilot plant studies
  • PP commissioned in 1964 well within scheduled time and cost
  • This established the capability and credibility of Indian engineers internationally
  • PP operation offered opportunity to solve many challenges and provided valuable inputs to design subsequent reprocessing plants

Evolution of Fast reactor fuel reprocessing program in India

  • Bhabha's vision of 3 stage INPP with reprocessing program embedded in it to meet India's energy demand for centuries
  • Dec 1958 - Decision taken to set up the PP at Trombay to reprocess the CIRUS discharged fuel
  • PPs experience led to the setting up of Reprocessing Development Laboratories (RDL) at Reactor Research Center (RRC), Kalpakkam to support the Fast Reactor program with dedicated R&D focused on FRFR
  • In 1972, G. R. Balasubramanian, a member of the team that designed and operated PP, was chosen to lead the FRFR program at Kalpakkam
  • With GRB as nucleus the team grew with regular induction of engineers and scientists from 14th batch of BARC training school

Emergence of Fast reactor fuel reprocessing philosophy

Reprocessing methodology: Aqueous and Non aqueous routes

Aqueous route: In 1960s this was the only method with sufficient data accessible for us in the form of international conferences held in Geneva

Non aqueous route: Requires matured remote handling technology and advanced material development technology. Hence it was decided to defer the adoption of this methodology till these technology matures to a reasonable extent as undertake R&D efforts on aqueous route

With the experience of PP on solvent extraction using TBP and the limited literature that was accessible, feasibility of adopting Purex process for FRFR technology was envisaged which led to the formulation of the fast reactor fuel reprocessing program at Kalpakkam

Formulation of Fast reactor fuel reprocessing program

Various areas of development identified considering the handling of high levels of Pu and activity in fast reactor fuel reprocessing

  • Chemistry of solvent extraction of Pu rich nitric acid solution
  • Critically safe batch type pulsed thermosyphon and continuous rotary dissolvers
  • High speed feed clarification centrifuges
  • Short residence time centrifugal contactors
  • Air pulsed type mixer settlers for extraction cycles with low doses to solvents and diluents
  • Fuel wrapper cutting systems
  • Single and multipin choppers
  • Continuous precipitators
  • Feed metering devices and so on

Since high conc. of Pu were to be handled, remote maintenance constituted the core feature of the design

RDL goes hot

Project approval obtained in 1972 as a part of master plan of RRC

Various engineering facilities commissioned from 1976 onwards

Single solvent extraction cycle loop with natural uranium was conceived, designed and installed in concrete cells

Clearance was obtained for commissioning the laboratory with Pu in 1980s

U233 Campaigns precede Pu239 Campaigns for

  • Providing sufficient amount of U233 for KAMINI reactor
  • Validating the special equipments developed for FRFR
  • Providing operating experience and feedback to RDL designers

Two J-rod campaigns to recover U233 were successfully undertaken subsequently

Birth of CORAL

When the unique MC (70%Pu) was chose to drive FBTR, the Electro Oxidative Dissolution Technique (EODT) was formulated to dissolve them based on series of several experiments; this further strengthened the confidence of the whole FR program in Kalpakkam

New standards and codes relevant for FRFR was designed by a special task force set up in 1991

Upgraded equipments to handle high Pu and radioactivity were fabricated

Hot cell upgraded to Lead Mini Cell (LMC) which was later rechristened as CORAL

CORAL: Cold commissioned in 2002, hot commissioned in 2003

Successful reprocessing of 25, 50, 100 & 150 GWd/t mixed carbide fuel by 2008 - a testimony to the dedication of the design, operation and maintenance teams

Road ahead for RPG

To construct and operate DFRP successfully

To conceive, design and operate FRP, FRFCF successfully