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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research [IGCAR ]
Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant [KARP]

Kalpakkam is situated about 80 km south of Chennai. It takes about 3 hours to reach Kalpakkam by State Transport Bus and about 2 hours by Taxi. Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research [IGCAR], the second largest establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy next to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, has a staff strength of 2290 including 930 Engineers and Scientists. IGCAR was established in 1971 with the main objective of conducting broad based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced Engineering, directed towards the development of Fast Breeder Reactor [FBR] technology.

The Madras Atomic Power Station [MAPS] in Kalpakkam, near Chennai (Tamil Nadu), is a comprehensive nuclear power production, fuel reprocessing, and waste treatment facility that includes plutonium fuel fabrication for Fast Breeder Reactors [FBRs]. Two pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Kalpakkam started commercial operation in 1984 and 1986. They were designed, built and operated with indigenous expertise, establishing Indian capabilities in design, construction, and operation of nuclear power plants. Construction of the Waste Immobilization Plant (WIP) in Kalpakkam started in 1983 with commissioning in 1993. An Interim Storage Facility [ISF] is also located in Kalpakkam.

The Indira Gandhi Centre has established a comprehensive R&D infrastructure over the entire range of FBR technology spanning reactor engineering, metallurgy and materials, chemistry of fuels and materials, fuel reprocessing and reactor safety studies, control and instrumentation, computer applications, and has developed a strong base in a wide variety of disciplines related to this advanced technology. IGCAR successfully built the 40 megawatt(th) sodium cooled Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) which uses indigenously developed mixed uranium-plutonium carbide fuel core. FBTR was synchronised to the southern grid, in July 1997.

Based on the experience in the design, construction, commissioning and operation of FBTR the Department has undertaken the development of a 500 megawatt(e) Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam. The technology development for all major components for this reactor is in an advanced stage and the construction is expected to start in the next few years.

In September 2002, in a bid to provide long-term energy security as well as to utilise resources available to the fullest, it was announced that construction of India's first 500 MW prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) would commence shortly. This reactor would prove to be an important link in India's three stage nuclear power programme and would ensure that the vagaries of the world fuel supply market do not affect the country. The utilisation of natural uranium in FBRs increases to over 75 per cent as compared to 0.6 per cent in nuclear reactors based on Pressurised Heavy-Water Reactor technology. With the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FTBR) already running at Kalpakkam since 1985, India has valuable experience to ensure the smooth functioning of FBR. It would take seven years to construct the prototype FBR. The Department of Atomic Energy has proposed not only to build four more FBRs of similar capacity by the year 2020 but also to undertake designing and development of FBRs with the capacity of 1000 MW.

Plutonium for nuclear weapons, which is also the fuel for the second stage reactors of the Indian nuclear power program, is obtained from spent uranium fuel of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). Fuel reprocessing aims at recovering the reusable fissile and fertile component of the spent fuel. Fuel reprocessing started in India at a time when it was regarded as an exclusively nuclear weapon related activity. Understandably, no collaboration was forthcoming in this field and so India had to develop this technology entirely by indigenous efforts. In India today there are three reprocessing plants to extract Plutonium from spent fuel, one at Trombay, the second at Tarapur and recently the third one was cold commissioned at Kalpakkam.

The Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant [KARP] facility, with a capacity 100 tonne per annum, with several novel features and concepts, was successfully commissioned at Kalpakkam in 1998. The plant at Kalpakkam incorporates a number of innovative features such as hybrid maintenance concept in hot cells using servo-manipulators and engineered provisions for extending the life of the plant. This plant will cater to the needs of reprocessing fuels from MAPS as well as FBTR.

The Fuel Reprocessing Plant Kalpakkam reprocesses spent fuel from the Kalpakkam reactors and from the 15-MWe FBTR commissioned 1985. It uses the PUREX process, with a separate line for FBTR mixed-carbide fuels. The capacity was originally 0.5 tHM/d for PHWR fuels. A plant for reprocessing of fast reactor fuel (FRFRP) is under construction at Kalpakkam. The Kalpakkam facility will separate even larger quantities of plutonium than the similar Tarapur facility, both of which can supply plutonium to India's nuclear weapons program.

The tritium extraction plant is the facility at at Kalpakkam most directly related to the nuclear weapons program. It could provide tritium to build a large arsenal of boosted fission or thermonuclear weapons.

It is reported that indigenously enriched uranium was used in the two low-yield weapons tested in 1998, leading to speculation that the material may have been obtained Rare Materials Plant in Mysore, site of BARC's uranium enrichment plant, or possibly from the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) project at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam. However, most of the fissile material used in the tests probably came from BARC in Trombay.

The reprocessing plant at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Facility, Kalpakkam, was temporarily closed down following high levels radiation exposure suffered by three staff members on 21 June 2003. Workers at the plant went on a flash strike forcing the facts into public domain two engineers and a worker had already suffered excessive exposure to radiation. The exposure incident reportedly occurred on 21 January 2003.

Photographic Evaluation Report

High resolution imagery is only available from declassified CORONA imagery. As of 28 April 2000 Russian 2-meter resolution KVR-1000 imagery coverage was not available via the SPIN-2 service on TerraServer, nor was archival Space Imaging IKONOS 1-meter imagery available on the CARTERRAT Archive.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:40:42 ZULU