Yet another delay in commissioning India's Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor

by M.V. Ramana

India's Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) has been delayed again. This latest delay means that the time between the start of construction (in 2004) to reactor start-up is now more than double the originally "stipulated time of seven years" to achieve criticality.

In April 2017, an unnamed official from the Department of Atomic Energy told the Deccan Herald that "the middle of 2018 was being looked at [as] a more realistic target to put the new reactor into operation."

The new date for PFBR start-up pushes back by more than one year the start-up date that had been announced in a July 2016 answer to a question in the upper house of the Parliament of India about the "details... and the reasons for the delay." At that time, it was announced that the PFBR would reach "first criticality by March 2017."

A subsequent statement presented in Parliament on 9 February 2017 claimed "All the construction activities of 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) have been completed and the integrated commissioning activities have started. PFBR is expected to go fully functional by October 2017."

The 9 February 2017 parliamentary statement attributed the continuing delay primarily "to augmentation of certain additional assessments and checks on the installed equipment prior to commencement of their commissioning, which have essentially emanated owing to both increased regulatory requirements and as a matter of abundant caution."

As noted previously on this blog, problems with plutonium production and fuel fabrication have contributed to the delay.

Additional evidence for this came in October 2016 when the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission credited "never before [seen] performance of our nuclear recyle plants" that resulted in the "delivery of first core for PFBR" during his annual speech at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.