Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research

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Last Updated: September 1, 2003
Other Name: IGCAR
Location: Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu
Subordinate To: Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India
Size: Unknown
Facility Status: Operational

The Department of Atomic Energy established the Reactor Research Center in 1971. Following the death of Indira Gandhi in November 1984, the Reactor Research Center was renamed the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR). Located 80km south of Chennai at Kalpakkam, the Center's primary mission is the research and development of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR), India claims such reactors are an intermediary step towards a thorium-fueled nuclear energy complex, the ultimate goal of India's nuclear power strategy. IGCAR is the DAE's second-largest research and development institute, second only to the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). The facilities at IGCAR include two operating research reactors: the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) and the Kalpakkam Mini Reactor (KAMINI). The FBTR first reached criticality in 1985. Based on the French "Rapsodie" model, the FBTR uses a plutonium-uranium mixed carbide fuel to produce 40MW of thermal power and 13.2MW of electrical power. Using the experience gained from the operation of the FBTR, the center is designing and constructing a 500MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR). The KAMINI reactor is a Uranium-233 (irradiated thorium) fueled reactor that was jointly designed and built by BARC and IGCAR. This 30KWt mini reactor first reached criticality in 1996 and is used for research in neutron radiography, neutron activation analysis, and the irradiation of samples for experimental and forensic purposes.

Reprocessing activities at Kalpakkam include the construction of the Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant (FRFRP) and the Kalpakkam Fuel Reprocessing Plant (KARP). KARP extracts plutonium from the spent fuel of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) and the FBTR. The unsafeguarded facility has a design capacity to reprocess 100Mt of spent fuel each year. In order to fuel the center's fast breeder reactor program, a laboratory scale facility utilizing the sol-gel method was commissioned for the preparation of uranium oxide microspheres to be used in MOX fuel production. Waste produced by the FBTR, Kamini Reactor and IGCAR's reprocessing activities, will be processed at a waste immobilization (vitrificaton) plant at Kalpakkam.

Kalpakkam is also home to a joint BARC-IGCAR project to design and build the nuclear power supply for India's nuclear submarine, the so-called "Advanced Technology Vehicle."

India's attempts to build fast breeder reactors raise proliferation concerns because such reactors produce more plutonium than they burn. The excess plutonium could, therefore, be stockpiled or machined into weapon cores.

Sources:
[1] Andrew Koch, "Nuclear-powered submarines: India's strategic trump card," Jane's Intelligence Review, June 1998. pp. 29-31.
[2] Andrew Koch, "Selected Indian Nuclear Facilities," Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), 1999, www.nonproliferation.org.
[3] "Annual Report 2000-2001," Executive Summary, DAE (Government of India), www.dae.gov.in.
[4] David Albright and Mark Hibbs, "India's Silent Bomb," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 1992, www.thebulletin.org.
[5] IGCAR, www.igcar.ernet.in.
[6] T.S. Gopi Rethinaraj, "ATV: all at sea before it hits the water," Jane's Intelligence Review, June 1998, pp. 31-35.

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