What is a fast breeder reactor? Comment on its suitability in the Indian context. (250 words)

The fast breeder or fast breeder reactor (FBR) is a fast neutron reactor designed to breed fuel by producing more fissile material than it consumes. The FBR is one possible type of breeder reactor.

     India has an active development programme featuring both fast and thermal breeder reactors. India’s first 40 MWt Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) attained criticality on 18 October 1985. Thus, India became the sixth nation to have the technology to build and operate an FBTR after US, UK, France, Japan and the former USSR. India has developed the technology to produce the plutonium rich U-Pu mixed carbide fuel. This can be used in the Fast Breeder Reactor.

     At present the scientists of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), one of the nuclear R & D institutions of India, are engaged in the construction of another FBR – the 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor – at Kalpakkam, near Chennai.

    India has the capability to use thorium cycle based processes to extract nuclear fuel. This is of special significance to the Indian nuclear power generation strategy as India has large reserves of thorium — about 360,000 tonnes — that can fuel nuclear projects for an estimated 2,500 years. The higher construction expense of the Fast Breeder Reactor in comparison with the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) in use is one of the main reasons why India is looking at the cheaper option – uranium fuel.

       Electricity generated from breeder reactor is very costlier and hence India needs to look on cost-benefit analysis and make strategies to control costing.

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