India starts new unsafeguarded reprocessing plant

A new 100-ton per year capacity reprocessing plant was inaugurated by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 6 January 2011 at the Tarapur nuclear site. Singh used the occasion to praise India's long term plan to use thorium and termed the plant, "a milestone in India's three-stage nuclear programme."

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, cited by World Nuclear News, the new facility is not covered by any safeguards regime. The Tarapur site already has a reprocessing plant (PREFRE) with a capacity of 100 tons/year that was commissioned in 1977 but has not operated consistently. Over the last decade, the plant has been refurbished extensively. It is not clear if this line is intended as a replacement for the existing line or if the capacity of the plant is being increased for the long term.

India has been attempting for years to build up a full-scale plutonium economy, with multiple reprocessing plants and fast breeder reactors. The first large scale breeder reactor, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), has encountered multiple delays and is several years behind schedule. Currently it has been delayed and is expected to start up between 2012 and 2013.

(with M. V. Ramana)