Founderís Day Address Ė 2007

by

Dr. Srikumar Banerjee
Director, BARC


Dr. Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, senior members of the DAE family present here and dear colleagues.

It is indeed a matter of great pleasure and proud privilege for me to extend a warm welcome to you all to celebrate the 98th birth anniversary of Dr. Homi J. Bhabha Ė the founder of this great institution, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. 

As a mark of our collective salutation and admiration to Dr. Bhabha, every year we assemble here on 30th October to celebrate his birthday by taking stock of our achievements during the previous year and rededicating ourselves to accelerate the pace of our work towards improving the quality of life of our people through the development of nuclear science and technology. We are also committed to pursue R&D activities to remain at the forefront of nuclear science and technology and to contribute towards the national security.

I am extremely happy to announce that last year has been yet another successful year in our developmental efforts. The list of achievements made at our Centre during the last year is too long to narrate and, therefore, I will attempt to give only a flavour of them by selecting a few illustrative examples taken from areas such as Reactor Technology, Fuel Cycle Technology, Basic Research, Health Care, Food Preservation and Agriculture.

Research Reactors

All the three research reactors APSARA, CIRUS and DHRUVA have been operational with availability factor in the range of 82% to 90% with very high level of safety. This has helped us to meet the committed weekly supply of radioisotopes to different medical establishments. Our research activities, such as testing of different types of neutron detectors, studying irradiation behaviour of materials, shielding studies, neutron scattering experiments etc., also were successfully carried out in these reactors by a large number of researchers from within and outside BARC. 

The high pressure, high temperature critical facility (P4) and the fuel temperature cycle test facility have been commissioned during the year. Commissioning of various systems of Critical Facility for reactor physics experiments of AHWR and future PHWRs has been completed. Fuel assemblies and shut-off rods have been installed. Heavy water addition to the moderator system has been initiated. This facility is expected to attain first criticality very soon. 

PHWR Program

As a part of our continued R&D support for the PHWR program, a BARC designed hydraulic, remotely operable three leg micrometer has been deployed at RAPS-2 for the measurement of the internal diameter of pressure tubes. BARC participated in the Proof test and Integrated Leak Rate Test on TAPP-3 containment building. 

AHWR Programme

Several important design and safety features of AHWR were reviewed by the Pre-licensing Design Safety Committee of AERB. The Committee concluded that there were no potential issues coming in the way of licensing of AHWR. Based on the tubular critical heat flux experiments performed in 3 MW Boiling Water Loop, the critical power of AHWR was estimated. It was demonstrated that the thermal margin considered for design is conservative. An MoU has been signed with NPCIL for setting up integral test facilities at the R&D Centre, Tarapur. Full power thermal hydraulic tests and fuelling machine related studies will be conducted in these test facilities. The design of Inclined Fuel Transfer Machine for AHWR has been completed. A small scale model of AHWR fuelling machine was designed for performing shake table testing for seismic qualification. 

A micro-control based Advanced Alarm Annunciation System configured in modular, redundant architecture with hot standby features and automatic alarm logging and presentation has been deployed in AHWR critical facility. 

A prototype control room consisting of operator workstation and large display panels has been set up to demonstrate and validate Advanced Control Room concepts for AHWR. As a starter, the prototype control room is being configured for Dhruva operation to validate the man-machine interaction aspect. 

A variety of high temperature, high pressure and high radiation environment sensors have been developed. These include single point and multi point level sensors, absolute pressure sensors and a few temperature sensors.

The setting up of a natural circulation loop with liquid metal, Lead-Bismuth Eutectic, as coolant is in an advanced stage of completion. An alternative control system in high temperature reactor has been proposed, based on the axial movement of beryllium oxide reflector blocks. For the coupled neutronic and thermal hydraulic analysis of CHTR, a space time analysis code based on time dependent diffusion theory is developed. Process for TRISO coating with pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide has been demonstrated on surrogate fuel material using high temperature spouted bed furnace. Also, the first prototype carbon-carbon composite tubes for hot channels of CHTR have been fabricated.

Nuclear Fuel 

BARC has an important role in supplying fuels for the FBTR and PFBR (under construction) at Kalpakkam. The performance of BARC supplied fast reactor fuel, both mixed carbide and mixed oxide, has been excellent with no fuel failures all these years. A new fabrication line for FBTR carbide fuel production has been set up with exclusive state-of-the-art laser based automatic pellet inspection system. We have also started manufacturing of MOX fuel pins for PFBR at our Tarapur facility and 434 full length MOX fuel pins required to make 2 Fuel Assemblies of PFBR have been fabricated.

A state-of-the-art fuel fabrication facility (IF3) for manufacture of dispersion fuels was commissioned on 9th June, 2007. Dispersion fuel supplied for the PRP project is performing well at the designed value of linear heat rating. NDT equipment based on Eddy current and Radiometry have been developed for characterization of dispersion fuel. 

As a part of R&D on metallic fuel with high breeding ratio for the Fast Breeder Reactors, an injection casting system for casting of metallic fuel has been commissioned and mechanical bonding of metallic fuel in a zirconium lined D9 cladding tube has been demonstrated. Evaluation of thermo-physical and thermo-mechanical properties of several Uranium-Plutonium alloys are in progress. 

Powder metallurgy techniques have been successfully employed in fabricating uranium silicide and U-Mo fuels for modified core of APSARA and for the multipurpose research reactors.

A Thorium Metal Fuel Processing Laboratory capable of producing thorium metal powder has been commissioned.

Post-Irradiation Examination facilities have been augmented in new hot cells and fracture toughness of Zr-2.5% Nb pressure tube irradiated in KAPS-2 for 8.5 effective full power years has been determined. We have undertaken pool side inspection on 37 element PHWR fuel bundle in the spent fuel storage bay of TAPS-4, using under water camera.

The fabrication process for the special super conducting cable known as cable-in-conduit-conductor has been demonstrated. This is designed for carrying 30 kilo Ampere current to meet IPR requirement. 

Materials

During this year, the Government has given clearance for setting up uranium mine and mill by UCIL at Tummallapalle based on the pressure alkali leaching technology provided jointly by BARC, AMD and UCIL. The pilot plant set up at UCIL has been operated both in the batch and in the continuous mode. Currently, studies are in progress for generating data on heat recovery and regeneration of the lixiviants.

Laboratory studies on another uranium deposit hosted in alkaline rocks in Gogi have also been carried out to establish the process flowsheet. An experimental bio reactor set up to study bio- degradation of the nitrate effluent from uranium metal production was continuously operated. Effluent containing 40 gpl nitrate was successfully treated. 

A high strain rate test facility has been set up for establishing constitutive flow behaviour of structural materials at strain rates higher than 104 per sec. 

Spent fuel processing and waste management

Significant achievements in the back-end of fuel cycle include commissioning of Spent Fuel Storage Facility (SFSF) at Kalpakkam, production of 200th canister of vitrified waste product at Waste Immobilisation Plant (WIP), Trombay, completion of one year of continued operation of Advanced Vitrification System (AVS), Tarapur resulting in conditioning of 130 m3 of high level radioactive waste and commissioning of transportation system for vitrified waste product overpacks from WIP, Trombay to S3F, Tarapur for interim storage. All the depleted uranium required for refueling NAPS-1 and Kaiga was supplied by BARC on priority and during last six months, PREFRE achieved a record production.

The transit storage facility for alpha radioactive solid waste has been commissioned at RSMS, Trombay. This has enabled us to remove alpha wastes from Radiological Labs accumulated over the years.

A full scale facility addressing removal of residual uranium and plutonium from high level waste and demonstration of minor actinide partitioning is being set up at S3F, Tarapur. A uranium and plutonium separation facility is also being set up at Trombay on similar lines.

For the utilisation of 137Cs in blood irradiator, a demonstration set up for cesium pencil facility has been made operational. The facility consists of an induction melter, a process pot and an indexing system which allows controlled pouring of molten glass in 12 pencil moulds. 

Lasers & Accelerators

A process for plasma spray deposition of yttrium oxide on various substrates including tantalum, stainless steel and graphite has been developed. 

Experimental demonstration of laser-assisted decontamination of metal surfaces has been carried out using a Nd-YAG laser. The studies involved deposition of aqueous solution of Cs137NO3 on the SS substrate and subsequent decontamination by laser radiation. High decontamination factor could be obtained by this technique. 

A novel technique of direct laser etching of thoria pellets for metallographic examination has been successfully demonstrated. The etched surfaces revealed grain structures with well-defined grain boundaries with minimum associated surface damage. 

Simulation of Plasma and ADS Target Dynamics has been carried out in the BARC-VJTI Centre for Computational Fluid Dynamics. 

High power copper vapour pumped dye laser system has been installed for large scale laser photo ionization experiments.

Nuclear Physics 

The superconducting heavy ion LINAC project reached the milestone in July, 2007 with all seven accelerator modules energized to accelerate 28Si beam to an energy of 209 MeV, highest achieved so far in the country. This project is jointly implemented by BARC and TIFR.

A large number of 600 mm diameter spherical mirrors with 8000 mm radius of curvature are fabricated using the vacuum forming technique. These mirrors will be used for imaging element array of TACTIC telescope. 

Design, Manufacture & Automation 

For the prestigious Chandrayaan-1 Moon mission programme of ISRO, BARC has designed and supplied Servo Control Systems for steering and tracking 32 meter solid, parabolic dish antenna of 130 tons with very high tracking speed of 0.4 deg/sec. The structural analysis of the system was independently verified. A five axis positioning mechanism for the sub-reflector (3.2 meter dia.) has also been designed and tested.

BARC has developed Bhabhatron-II, the advanced version of the indigenous telecobalt machine. The machine has a battery back-up for use in rural areas, better performance parameters and improved user interface. An MoU was signed between IAEA, India and Vietnam for BARC to supply and install one Bhabhatron-II at Can Tho General Hospital in Vietnam. In this context, Chairman, AEC has handed over a model of Bhabhatron-II to Dr.Mohamed El Baradei, Director-General of IAEA during his visit to India at a function organised by ACTREC at Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. 

Chemistry 

As a part of the developmental work, a high resolution Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometer has been designed and fabricated at Centre for Compositional Characterisation of Materials, Hyderabad. The spectrometer, with an energy resolution of 2keV, can provide composition and thickness related information on ultra-thin multi-layers, comprising elements with close atomic numbers. 

Experiments on flow assisted corrosion and corrosion under partial boiling conditions of PHT piping materials are under way for understanding the mechanism and for arriving at suitable remedies.

Next generation seawater desalination technologies producing ultra-pure water (> 10 mega ohm-cm) based on Multi-Effect Distillation - Vapor Compression (MED-VC) and Low Temperature Evaporation integrated with Cooling Tower (LTE-CT) have been developed and commissioned at Trombay.

Crown Ether DCH18C6 of required purity has been successfully synthesized on laboratory scale. 

Six interface connect bars required by ISRO as a component for Scan Assembly of Very High Resolution Radiometer for INSAT satellites, was fabricated out of hot pressed beryllium. 

Health, Safety & Environment

Under the Indian Environmental Radiation Monitoring (IERMON) programme of BARC, new IERMON systems are fitted with GSM Mobile Phone Network for data communication and solar energy for powering the system. Already 56 systems are deployed in the IERMON network. The data obtained from the IERMON stations located at the tailings pond, UCIL colony and several villages around UCIL, Jaduguda will be displayed on a large display system at a suitable place accessible to the public at Jaduguda to increase the public awareness about radiation levels around the uranium mine.

On 13th September, 2006, Chairman, AEC inaugurated one of the 18 DAE-Emergency Response Centres (ERC) being established by BARC all over the country to respond to any nuclear/radiological incidents. 

Nuclear Agriculture & Biotechnology Division

BARC continued to make progress in the field of nuclear agriculture. Five new Trombay crop varieties were released and Gazette notified in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India for commercial cultivation. With these, the total number of notified crop varieties has reached 32.

Food Technology 

On April 26, 2007, KRUSHAK Irradiator at Lasalgaon became the first cobalt-60 gamma irradiation facility in the world to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) for phytosanitary treatment of mangoes. Consequently, this year the facility enabled export of 157 tons of mangoes, mainly of alphonso and kesar variety to United States of America, after a gap of 18 years.


Radiation Biology & Health Sciences Division

Health audit survey has been completed in 51500 households covering a total population of 2,32,000. 1,15,223 newborn children have been monitored for malformation till date. Malformation index is 21 per 1000 and still birth index is 4.9 per 1000. Chromosomal anomalies have been studied in total of 27117 cases till now and total anomalies index is 5.09 per 1000. As far as chromosomal anomalies and congenital malformation are concerned, this study has shown that there are no significant differences in their frequencies among the subjects from high and normal background radiation areas. 

Antioxidant chlorophyllin, a derivative of the natural plant pigment, chlorophyll, was shown to enhance both cell mediated and antibody mediated immune responses.

Supercomputing 

In the area of supercomputing, the new BARC developed Anupam Ajeya system has achieved a performance rating of 9 Terraflop in high performance Linpac bench mark. This capability will correspond to a world ranking of around 110 in the family of top 500 supercomputers. The DAE grid has now connected 4 grid centres, namely, Trombay, Kalpakkam, Kolkata and Indore.

Future programmes and priorities

Dear colleagues, let me highlight some of the priorities we have today. The first and foremost is to meet our commitment to supply fuel for the PFBR. As you are aware, this is a very big task, which involves reprocessing large quantity of spent fuel and converting the recovered plutonium into fast reactor fuel of exacting specifications. Our colleagues in the Nuclear Recycle Group and Nuclear Fuels Group have been working against time to meet this immediate requirement. I urge my colleagues here to extend all possible help to them so that this very important task of BARC is completed within the time schedule.

It is well known to all of you that the programme of expansion of the installed capacity of nuclear power depends critically on our ability to supply fuel for fast reactors. The reprocessing capability, therefore, needs to be augmented and this has to be done within the shortest possible time. We have plans to integrate reprocessing and waste management plants and to scale up the plant size considerably to be able to augment reprocessing capacity very fast. This will also bring the desired economy of scale. The programme has several components starting from basic process development, design of innovative plant layout, development of a variety of equipment, remotisation of the operation and so on. As I see, participation of a large body of scientists and engineers drawn from different disciplines will be essential in achieving this goal.

BARCís involvement in the development of 700 MWe PHWR is yet another area which needs urgent attention. Reactor engineering, safety research, materials development, reactor control are some of the disciplines in which BARC can make important contributions towards setting up of 700 MWe PHWRs. We have started examining the option of using enriched uranium in PHWR fuel to obtain extended fuel burn up. Experimental program towards this goal will include fabrication of enriched uranium bearing fuel, their experimental irradiation in both research reactor and power reactor and post-irradiation evaluation of these fuels. The facilities available today in BARC are adequate for taking up this challenging task, which will again involve multidisciplinary effort from reactor physicists, engineers, fuel and materials specialists. We have taken steps for enhancing the capacity of production of enriched uranium and for improving the separating work of our centrifuge cascades with the ambition of achieving cost competitiveness in this vital activity. 

As has been mentioned in our Plan document, we are going to start construction of AHWR during this Plan period. Scientists and engineers who have been working for several years towards this important project are looking forward to see the beginning of construction of this indigenously designed reactor, which fulfills most of the design objectives and safety features of the next generation reactors. 

In the area of basic research, BARC researchers will soon have Indus-2 Synchrotron facility at Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Research, Indore, which will provide a unique opportunity for studies in physics, chemistry, biology and materials science, using high brilliance tunable light sources. The beamlines which BARC has committed to develop are getting ready and the synchrotron facility at Indore will soon become the hub of intense research activity of the multitude of research workers drawn from research and academic institutions. The superconducting Linac coupled with 14 MeV pelletron at TIFR will enable nuclear physicists to explore nuclei at extremes of stability and approach the super heavy region. Several new facilities around Dhruva reactor and the refurbished Cirus will allow us to do fission fragment spectroscopy, phase contrast imaging and promt neutron activation analysis. In addition, condensed matter research will get a fillip with the availability of a cold neutron source. 

In the area of microelectronics, we have a comprehensive programme starting from drawing single crystal silicon and germanium, cutting wafers, developing detectors in chips for physics experiments, fabricating micro electromechanical systems and Application Specific Integrated Circuits and finally building sophisticated scientific and medical equipment. Infrastructure is being set up for micro machining, polishing, binding and packaging for mems, sensors and ASICs. 

We are expanding our scope of activities in advanced energy technologies by including programmes in hydrogen energy, solid oxide fuels and solar thermal power technologies. Basic science aspects of energy conversion have been included in the thrust areas of research.

Based on the desalination and water purification technologies developed in BARC, we are now embarking upon an ambitious programme of setting up facilities across the country, which will have a major impact on a large population.

On this occasion of the Founderís Day, I am bringing out some challenges that lie ahead of us mainly to excite our younger generation who can take the lead in fulfilling some of these cherished dreams. We have already entered second stage of nuclear power production and we are about to enter the large scale thorium utilisation stage with the induction of AHWR. In the present scenario of our unprecedented economic growth, which can be sustained only by matching growth in the energy sector, the expectation the country has from us is very high. The opportunities and challenges are enormous. As a premier R&D centre of the country, it is our responsibility to rise up to the occasion to develop nuclear energy systems and play a dominant role in providing long term energy security to the country. At the same time, we continue to advance our activities towards non-power applications of nuclear energy for a variety of societal needs. 

Dear colleagues, the achievements we made so far have been possible only because of the dedication and hard work from all of you. I would like to mention that the contribution made by every segment of our scientific, technical, administrative and auxiliary personnel are equally important in maintaining the overall excellence. The synergy of activities of BARC personnel is the key to our success. 

Dear colleagues, finally on this occasion of Founderís 
day celebration, let us rededicate ourselves to continue our pursuit of excellence in the frontier areas of nuclear science and technology for the betterment of life of our people. Our pledge, I believe, will be the best homage to our founder, Dr. Homi J. Bhabha. 


- Thank you -

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