Fast breeder reactor has quite a few firsts

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS,

Chennai : The 500-MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) fast coming up at Kalpakkam, 80 km from here, has several firsts to its credit.

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“For the first time in the country’s nuclear power plant construction history, components are being fabricated on site owing to their huge size and weight,” Prabhat Kumar, project director, Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (Bhavini) told IANS.

According to him the Rs.35 billion (Rs.3,500 crore/$700 million) plant is also the first nuclear power project to have several huge buildings coming up on a common raft.

The raft measuring 100m x 100m will have buildings housing the reactor, steam generators, fuel rod, electrical, controls, fuel storage, services, switch yard, pump house, turbine generator, sea water and service water pump house, jetty and sea water intake structure.

“It is the largest and deepest (20m) excavated pit next to the sea and dewatering was a major challenge. The 12 concrete pours spread over three and a half months constituted the largest in India,” Kumar said.

PFBR also has the dubious distinction of being the first reactor site to be affected by a tsunami, the one that hit in December 2004.

Sea water and debris carried in by the huge waves filled the huge concrete pit, submerging many equipments including concrete mixing trucks, thereby putting the construction back by a couple of months.

Around Rs.80 million worth of concrete poured in the raft had to be discarded and fresh concrete poured.

Many construction workers were reluctant to start work again, at least till Bhavini officials spent time at the construction site themselves.

The fast breeder project that remained on paper for more than two decades, with many terming it the idle dream of some Indian nuclear scientists, is now a few months away from turning into a reality.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])