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Nuclear reactors offer a powerful source of electricity generation. However, a traditional concern is the limited use of fuel and the creation of spent fuel waste. India’s Fast Breeder Reactor program tackles these issues head-on, aiming for efficient fuel usage and reduced waste.

Unlike conventional reactors that solely use readily fissionable uranium-235, a fast breeder reactor (FBR) goes a step further. It creates more fuel than it consumes while generating electricity. This “breeding” process is achieved by utilizing alternative fuel sources like uranium-238 or thorium, which are more abundant in nature.

India’s Fast Breeder Reactor program at Kalpakkam leverages the nation’s abundant thorium reserves. Here’s a breakdown of the three-stage process:

  • Stage 1: Natural uranium is used as fuel, generating electricity and producing plutonium as a byproduct.
  • Stage 2: Plutonium from Stage 1 is reused as fuel, while thorium is introduced and converted into usable uranium-233 (U-233) within the reactor.
  • Stage 3: U-233 obtained in Stage 2 becomes the primary fuel source.

FBRs can potentially extract up to 70% more energy from the same amount of fuel compared to traditional reactors. By creating new fuel and efficiently using spent fuel, FBRs significantly reduce the amount of long-lived radioactive waste generated. This translates to a smaller need for vast waste storage facilities. FBRs require less frequent refueling due to their ability to breed new fuel internally. This reduces reliance on external fuel supplies and simplifies logistics. Despite their complex nature, FBRs incorporate multiple safety measures, including automatic shutdown systems in case of emergencies.

India’s Fast Breeder Reactor program holds immense promise for a sustainable nuclear energy future. By maximizing fuel efficiency, minimizing waste, and utilizing abundant resources like thorium, FBRs offer a clean and efficient path for India’s growing energy needs.