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India's first indigenous reactor in 10 years: BARC

Last updated on: October 21, 2005 12:24 IST

India's first indigenous experimental Accelerator Driven Systems will be ready in a decade and may be intended for thorium fuel utilisation schemes, according to scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

The core group of scientists in BARC, Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata, and Centre for Advanced Technology are working on stage-wise development of critical new technologies for all three systems of ADS in 10th plan projects, aggregating about Rs 50 crore, S Banerjee, BARC director, said.

ADS is a subcritical reactor operated for fission power by a source of external neutron. These neutrons are produced by reaction of high energy proton beams on a heavy metal target.

The technology development of target using molten lead-bismuth alloy and sub-critical reactor is taking shape in BARC, K Nema, senior scientist, Nuclear Physics Division, said.

The three subsystems of ADS will be accelerator, neutron generating target and sub-critical reactor. While BARC is working on low-energy segment of accelerator, Centre for Advanced Research, Indore, and VECC will work on the high-energy part. BARC, CAT and VECC are working on various types of particle accelerators.

There is also a coordinated plan of actions among them on developing specific technologies, including proton accelerator for ADS applications, Banerjee added.

Human resource development in many new areas is also planned to initiate more elaborate development projects in the next five-year plan, Banerjee said.

Asked whether India has any internaional collaboration on these technologies, Nema said the scientists have some form of informal exchange of information on discrete subsystems like accelerators, as the free access of information was restricted under the technology control regime.

The scientific community of BARC says that, now, Indian scientists may be allowed free access to information on ADS. With the recent recognition of India by the US as a responsible nuclear power country, it may waive the technology control regime in these areas of research to ease the free exchange of information, which will be beneficial to both the countries, scientists said.

The technology of high power proton accelerators and ADS are covered under technology control regime of Nuclear Suppliers Group.

As such, India finds few collaborators or partners in this area, Nema said. He added that although India participates in projects like CERN's LHC and is negotiating with GSI, Germany in FAIR and Fermi Lab, USA NLC, these collaborations do not make much contribution to ADS technologies.

Asked whether India has any plans to collaborate with other countries, the BARC director said, "Yes, it a good suggestion. The Indian scientists have already made an informal suggestion to International Atomic Energy Agency for initiating an international collaborative programme on ADS, to get rid of radiotoxic waste lodged in almost 2,00,000 metric tonnes of spent fuel that increases every year by 10,000 MT."

"This has to be argued more forcefully in future and at formal meetings," Banerjee added. Meanwhile, a few Indian universities are pursuing international collaboration on different aspects of ADS.

Two type of ADS driver accelerator systems are possible, of which BARC and CAT plan high power proton linac and VECC team is working on cyclotron, Nema said.

If India has to be a leader in ADS technology, it is imperative to take this effort to a national level by encourging collaboration with more universities, IITs and other capable research centres in order to bring many scientists into the fold as is done in Europe, BARC scientists said.

This would also help in reducing the time scale in developing and accelerate the scope of ADS in the country.

The number of people working on ADS in India, compared to the number of people working in Europe, Russia, China and Australia is extremely small.

Lalitha Vaidyanathan in Mumbai
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