Nuclear Fuel Complex sets new world record
The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) in Hyderabad has set a new world record by producing 1,503 metric tonnes (MT) of nuclear fuel in 2015-16. This is almost double the rated capacity of the NFC which stands at 850 MT. NFC had become the largest producer of nuclear fuel in the world in 2014-15 by producing 1,252 MT of pressurised heavy water reactor nuclear fuel.
NFC: A profile
The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) was established in 1971 as a major industrial unit under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Headquartered in Hyderabad, the complex supplies nuclear fuel bundles and reactor core components to all the nuclear plants in the country. NFC is setting up another plant at a cost of Rs.2,400 crores in Kota to increase the nuclear fuel production.
The process of energy production
A nuclear reactor uses uranium to generate electricity through nuclear fission (a process by which uranium splits into smaller atoms releasing energy). The total energy produced from 1 tonne of uranium is equivalent to burning 2.5 million tonnes of coal.
Nuclear fuel production process
Natural uranium, after mining, cannot be directly used in nuclear reactors. It is first refined and converted at high temperature and pressure into cylindrical pellets. The cylindrical uranium oxide pellets are encapsulated in thin walled zirconium alloy tubes to form fuel pins. These pins are then assembled to form a fuel bundle. The fuel bundle can be loaded into the reactors to generate power.
Nuclear fuel bundles
A 220 Megawatt electrical (MWe) power Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) contains 19 fuel pins in a fuel bundle assembly which, contains 15.2 kg of uranium oxide to produce energy through nuclear fission.
Growing share of nuclear energy
Enhanced production of nuclear fuel has increased India's nuclear fuel inventory to 2,000 tonnes. According to N. Saibaba, Chairman and CEO of NFC, the share of nuclear energy in India's energy basket will increase from 3% (6,000 MW) to 6-7% (14,000-15,000 MW) by 2022-23. The NFC plants at Hyderabad (2,000MT per annum) and Kota (800-1,000 MTPA) will cater to all nuclear fuel requirements.
Target for next year
The Hyderabad plant of NFC is now aiming for a production of 2,000 MT of nuclear fuel bundles in the current fiscal 2016-17. Production in NFC's Kota plant will commence only in 2019.