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Current Affairs

Kakrapar-3 Nuclear reactor

Date: 24 July 2020 Tags: Energy

Issue

The third unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) in Gujarat achieved its ‘first criticality’, a term that signifies the initiation of a controlled but sustained nuclear fission reaction.

 

Details

  • This is a landmark event in India’s domestic civilian nuclear programme given that KAPP-3 is the country’s first 700 MWe (megawatt electric) unit, and the biggest indigenously developed variant of the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).

  • The PHWRs, which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator, are the mainstay of India’s nuclear reactor fleet. Until now, the biggest reactor size of the indigenous design was the 540 MWe PHWR, two of which have been deployed in Tarapur, Maharashtra.

  • The operationalisation of India’s first 700MWe reactor marks a significant scale-up in technology, both in terms of optimisation of its PHWR design and an improvement in the economies of scale, without significant changes to the design of the 540 MWe reactor.

  • As India works to ramp up its existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MWe to 22,480 MWe by 2031, the 700MWe capacity would constitute the biggest component of the expansion plan.

  • Currently, nuclear power capacity constitutes less than 2% of the total installed capacity of 3, 68,690 MW (end-January 2020).

 

Nuclear Fission reaction

  • Fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei, and usually some by-product particles.

  • When the nucleus splits, the kinetic energy of the fission fragments is transferred to other atoms in the fuel as heat energy, which is eventually used to produce steam to drive the turbines.

  • For every fission event, if at least one of the emitted neutrons on average causes nuclear fission, a self-sustaining chain reaction will take place.

  • A nuclear reactor achieves criticality when each fission event releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions.