Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC)

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Last Updated: September 1, 2003
Other Name: N/A
Location: Hyderabad, India
Subordinate To: Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)
Size: Unknown
Facility Status: Active

In 1971, the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), an industrial unit of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), was established in Hyderabad to supply nuclear fuel and reactor core components for India's entire nuclear program. The history of nuclear fuel fabrication in India began at Trombay in mid-1959 with the first indigenously fabricated fuel bundle. Today the Nuclear Fuel Complex is responsible for supplying zircaloy clad uranium oxide fuel assemblies and zirconium alloy structural components for all 14 operating atomic power reactors in India. These include 12 pressurized heavy water reactors (PWHR), two boiling water reactors (BWR), and several research reactors. The NFC processes uranium ore concentrate and zircon sand from Bihar and Kerala through a series of chemical and metallurgical operations using indigenously developed flow sheets. The NFC also produces seamless tubes of stainless steel, carbon steel, titanium and other special alloys of nickel, magnesium, zirconium, tantalum, niobium, and silver. The products of the NFC are supplied to the Department of Atomic Energy, the Indian Navy, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and other defense organizations, as well as chemical, fertilizer, and ball bearing industries.

The NFC facility at Hyderabad converts yellowcake (U3O8) into uranium oxide (UO2). The uranium oxide is then processed into nuclear fuel assemblies. The Hyderabad plant has a capacity to produce 250Mt of UO2 per year and is being expanded to a 600Mt per year capacity. While the vast majority of the work done by the Nuclear Fuel Complex is in support of India's civilian nuclear power program, there are activities of proliferation concern. The production of materials such as tantalum oxide and nuclear-grade calcium, which can be used in the casting of weapon cores, could directly contribute to India's nuclear weapons program. Another area of concern is the production of specialized equipment like vacuum arc furnaces (can be used to produce nuclear weapons cores) and copper blanks that are supplied to Prithvi missile production units at the Defence Armament Factory. None of the NFC's facilities are subject to IAEA safeguards unless they handle imported low-enriched uranium or supply fuel to safeguarded facilities.

Sources:
[1] Andrew Koch, "Selected Indian Nuclear Facilities," Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1999, www.nonproliferation.org.
[2] "Atomic Energy in India: Nuclear Fuels & Structural Components," Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), 14 February 2002, www.barc.ernet.in.
[3] DAE (Government of India) Annual Report 2000-2001, Executive Summary available at www.dae.gov.in.
[4] DAE (Government of India), www.dae.gov.in.
[5] "Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Nuclear Fuel Fabrication and Development," DAE (Government of India), 14 February 2002, www.dae.gov.in.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.