Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
|Research type||Atomic research center|
|Budget||670 million (US$11 million) per annum|
Field of research
|Atomic Energy, Material Physics, Nano-Sciences, Electronics and Instrumentation, Reactor Engineering, Metallurgy|
|Director||Dr. P.R. Vasudeva Rao|
|Location||Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, India|
|Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India|
The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) is one of India's premier nuclear research centres. The centre is engaged in a broad-based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced engineering directed towards the development of Fast Breeder Reactor technology. The Reactor Research Centre set up at Kalpakkam, India, 80 km south of Chennai in 1971 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was renamed Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in 1985.
The Director of IGCAR is Dr. P.R. Vasudeva Rao (1 February 2013 onwards).
The Reactor Research Centre was established in 1971. The Central Workshop, Safety Research Laboratory and Materials Sciences Laboratory were constructed in 1975–1976. Soon, the Radio-Chemistry Lab, and Electronics and Instrumentation Lab were constructed.
The FBTR attained first criticality in October 1985. RRC was renamed as IGCAR the same year.
A few years later, in 1994, SQUID, ASIC and Diamond Anvil Cells were developed. In the same year, High-Power Physics and Engineering Experiments were undertaken in the FBTR.
In 1996, Kamini (reactor) reached criticality. State-of-the-art Neutronic Channels were commissioned for FBTR in 1999. A Boron-Enrichment Plant was commissioned in April 2001.
A BARC Training School was started in 2006. In 2009, FBTR was operated at a maximum power level of 18.6 MWt with 55 sub-assemblies for 1732 hours.
From 1 February 2013 onwards Dr P.R. Vasudeva Rao is the director of the centre.
There are two reactors at IGCAR.
- FBTR is a liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor rated and maintained by Reactor Operation and Maintenance Group(ROMG).
In addition the Research Facility also built the 100MWe reactor for India's first nuclear submarine the Arihant class submarine project and operated it on land for testing purposes since it attained criticality in December 2004. The submarine to be launched on 26 July 2009 has been fitted with this reactor.
The Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant [KARP] facility has been estimated to have a capacity to reprocess 100 tonnes of plutonium per annum.it 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.It has mastered the technology of reprocessing highly irradiated mixed carbide fuel for the first time in the world. 
Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing at IGCAR
Reprocessing Development Laboratory was designed in early seventies and the commissioning of inactive facilities was carried out in 1976. The plutonium handling facilities were cleared for operation in 1980. The reprocessing of irradiated thorium rods which was carried out during the period 1989 to 1992 in the concrete shielded cells, was the first major radioactive operation. The U233 recovered during the operation was used in fabricating the fuel for the KAlpakkam MINI reactor (KAMINI). U233 was also useful for the fuel development programme for carrying out the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor test fuel irradiation experiments in Fast Breeder Test Reactor. Apart from this, the operation aided in validating the equipment and design of system as well as the manpower training. Later a hot cell facility for reprocessing of Fast Breeder Test Reactor fuel was conceived which had the necessary features for delivering the product with all the uncertainties in the dissolution of irradiated fuel and process flowsheet. Added to this was the need for the deployment of the yet to be proven designs of centrifuge and centrifugal extractors without which the success of the PUREX process for fast reactor fuel reprocessing would be doubtful. With these minimal inputs, the hot cell facility, Lead Mini Cell (LMC)was created, which was later rechristened as CORAL (COmpact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells). Based on the dissolution experiments carried out on unirradiated single pellets and systematic studies related to the third phase formation, the flow sheet, prepared earlier for the oxide fuel was modified.
Instrumentation and Control activities at IGCAR
The PFBR is equipped with two independent, hardwired, diverse, fast acting shutdown systems to protect the reactor against neutronic and thermal incidents. The first drive mechanism, called control and safety rod drive mechanism (CSRDM), is connected to safety logic with fine impulse test (SLFIT) system. The second drive mechanism, called diverse safety rod drive mechanisms (DSRDM) is connected to pulse coded safety logic system . Both the safety logics perform two out of three majority voting logic. Since solid-state logic circuits are employed, extensive selfchecking is employed to ensure the healthiness of these circuits. The pulse coded safety logic system is a unique and diverse safety logic system, which is inherently fail-safe with built-in self-checking feature.
As part of safety related systems for PFBR, systems like Instrumentation and Control for primary sodium and special supervision systems like reactor & fuel handling startup and discordance supervision for control rods & SCRAM signals were developed. These systems are configured using dual redundant real time computer (RTC) system with switch over logic system. The control systems of control and safety rod drive mechanism, diverse safety rod drive mechanisms, transfer arm, inclined fuel transfer machine form the component handling systems.
Instrumentation and Control systems for secondary sodium, argon & nitrogen circuits, event sequence recorder, process disturbance analyser are some of the non-nuclear safety systems developed using single Versa Module Europa (VME) system or micro-controller based remote terminal units (RTU).
A state of the art distributed digital control system has been developed for PFBR to interconnect safety critical, safety related and non-safety Instrumentation and Control systems to the plant computers and in turn to operator display stations mounted on control room panels and console, through fibre optic LANs. The distributed digital control system software, for displaying plant information for monitoring and control, running on plant computers & GUI operator stations has been developed to run on Linux platform using open source tools, ensuring complete verification & validation.
Various development activities are being pursued towards upgradation of Instrumentation and Control systems for future FBRs. These include, development of core thermocouple probe with three thermocouples to simplify the core temperature monitoring system and m ake it in line with the safety criteria (independent and triplicate instrumentation for safety class-1), development of signal processing electronics suitable for placing in the roof slab top to reduce the requirement of large volume of signal routing from roof slab to the periphery. Development has been initiated to qualify thermocouples made by Indian industries as per the requirements of fast breeder reactors. Indigenous development activities are also initiated to manufacture leak tight penetration assemblies for electrical and Instrumentation and Control cables. Level measurement based on RADAR principle to simplify the level measurement in certain cases by mutual inductance technique, which is available for other fluids are tested for sodium application and found promising. High temperature fission chambers with a sensitivity of 1 cps/nv will be developed in association with BARC for deployment in future reactors in place of the present 0.2 cps/nv detectors being provided in control plug of PFBR. This will eliminate the under vessel fission chambers being provided in PFBR. 
Chemistry Group: Presently there are 4 subdivisions: Fuel Chemistry Division (FChD), Materials Chemistry Division (MCD), and Chemical Facilities Division (CFD). Facilities include Far-IR Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer, Fluorimeter RF-5000, Impedance Spectrometer and Inductively Coupled Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS), Alpha Spectrometer, Liquid Scintillation Counter, High Purity Germanium Detector, Neutron Counter ED-XRF, HPLC, SFC, Ion Chromatography, Gas Chromatography etc.Among various achievements of the Group, Radioisotope production for medicinal importance is the ongoing important projects and has societal impact.
Electronics & Instrumentation Group: Activities include
- Development of Solid State Safety Logic with FIT for PFBR
- Development of Core Temperature Monitoring System for PFBR
- Development of reliable Real Time Information System for Boron Enrichment Plant
- Design and development of state-of-the-art Data Acquisition and Information System for Structural Mechanics Experiments
- Development of Control Logic for CSRDM & DSRDM of PFBR
- Development of Control Logic for Transfer Arm of PFBR
It also includes the Real-Time Division and Innovative Instrumentation Section.
Engineering Services Group: Includes Central Workshop, Electrical Services and Civil Engineering Section.
Fast Reactor Technology Group: Some activities include
- Operation of Large Component Test Rig for sodium testing of critical PFBR components such as Transfer Arm, Inclined Fuel Transfer Machine, Failed Fuel Location Modules and Absorber Rod Drive Mechanisms (ARDMs).
- Testing of 5.5MWt 19 tube model PFBR Steam Generator (SG) in Steam generator test Facility to optimize the design of Steam Generator for FBRs
- Sodium water reaction studies in SOWART rig to assess the damage on SG materials on sodium water reaction, performance evaluation PFBR of sodium leak detectors in LEENA facility, Simulation of thermal transients and evaluation of its effects on critical reactor components in Thermal Shock Test Facility
- Experiments in SADHANA facility simulating passive decay heat removal of PFBR SGDHR system.
- Development and testing of fast reactor components in air, water and sodium
- Carrying out experiments in water for design qualification and validation of thermal hydraulics codes
- Hydraulic testing of Subassembly and Core components for FBR.
- Vibration and noise analysis of fast reactor components
- Design, development and Analysis of various types of Electromagnetic devices used in FBR’s
- Development of High Flux Rod heaters and high watt density immersion heaters for liquid sodium heating
- Testing of FFLM and core flow monitoring mechanisms
- Design and development of Integrated Cold Trap and Integrated Plugging Indicator for future FBR’s
- Development and fabrication of sodium sensors for level, flow and leak detection
- Development of Under Sodium Ultra Sonic scanner for under sodium viewing in FBR’s
- Process development of boron and separation technologies
- Setting up of Ambient Temperature Electro Refiner (ATER) facility
Metallurgy and Materials Group: This group works consists of the
Materials Science Group: This group consists of
- Material Physics Division
- Surface and Nano-Science Division
- Condensed Matter Physics Division
- SQUID MEG Project
Nuclear & Safety Engineering Group: The objectives of the N&SEG are
- To study the Radiological and Engineering Safety in Fast Breeder Reactor Systems and related Fuel Cycle Facilities
- Radiological Monitoring and Health Physics Programme in different Radioactive Facilities at IGCAR
- To carry out Industrial Safety Surveillance in all the facilities of the Centre
- To study the Environmental Aspects
Reactor Engineering Group
Reactor Operation & Maintenance Group: The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR), the flagship of this centre and Kalpakkam Mini Reactor (KAMINI) come under this group. Reactor Operation and Maintenance Group consists of Reactor Operation Division (ROD), Reactor Maintenance Division (RMD), Technical Services Division (TSD) and Training & Human Resources Development Division (THRDD). Quality Assurance and Industrial Safety Section (QA&IS) and Liaison Cell are also coming under this group. Operation and maintenance of both FBTR & KAMINI reactors, planning and conducting irradiation programs, reactor physics tests and engineering tests, manpower planning & training for FBTR and PFBR (BHAVINI), maintenance of chemical parameters of the coolants, periodic safety revaluation are carried out by ROMG.
Reprocessing Group: It is pursuing research and development of equipment and processes. It is also running a pilot plant for FBTR Fuel processing, constructing demo plant for FBTR and PFBR fuel reprocessing and designing the PFBR reprocessing plant.
Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility
Strategic & Human Resources Planning Section
The Centre has a staff strength of 2816 including 1274 Engineers and Scientists.
An annual outlay of the Centre is around 670 Million Rupees for the Research & Development activities and plan schemes of IGCAR.
The interaction with IIT-M started in 1995 through two collaborative projects, which were initiated with late Dr. R.S. Alwar, eminent professor in Applied Mechanics. The first project was on simulation of thermal shock on the control plug mockup and the second was on simulation of thermal striping in the core structure. An MoU was established on 19 July 1997 for the formation of ‘IGCAR- IITM Cell’ with Prof. R. Natarajan (then Director, IIT-M) as chairman and late Dr. Placid Rodriguez as Co-Chairman. Prof. K.V.S. Rama Rao was Dean, ICSR during that period. In the first cell meeting held on 26 February 1997, seven projects were identified. Based on the decisions taken in the meeting, four projects with a funding to the tune of eighty eight lakhs were sanctioned. In the past thirteen years, twenty five meetings of the IGCAR-IITM cell have been conducted. Already twenty nine projects have been completed with the funds to the tune of 40.5 million and fifteen projects are in progress with a funding of 34 million. 
IGCAR has a BARC Training School where young scientists and engineers are trained.
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