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For nuclear power generation, India has taken to closed fuel cycle. But what is it?

The closed fuel cycle aims at reprocessing spent fuel for recovery of Uranium and Plutonium and recycling them back to the reactor as fuel
New Delhi: As India looks to generate electricity from nuclear fuel, it has adopted “closed fuel cycle” in order to minimise residual material present in spent nuclear fuel, Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy Dr Jitendra Singh said on Thursday. A closed fuel cycle regards spent nuclear fuel as a material of resource.

Recovery and recycling

The closed fuel cycle aims at reprocessing spent fuel for recovery of Uranium and Plutonium and recycling them back to the reactor as fuel. This finally leads to a very small percentage of residual material present in spent nuclear fuel requiring their management as radioactive waste, Singh said in a written response to a question raised in the Rajya Sabha. “Safe management of radioactive waste has been accorded high priority right from the inception of our nuclear energy programme. High-level radioactive waste also contains many useful isotopes like Caesium-137, Strontium-90, Ruthenium-106 etc. With the advent of new technologies based on the partitioning of waste, emphasis is accorded to separation and recovery of these useful radio-isotopes so as to make use of the waste for various societal applications,” Singh told the Upper House of the Parliament.

‘Emphasis on waste volume minimisation’

The minister said that utmost emphasis is given to waste volume minimisation, effective containment and isolation of radio-activity followed by near zero discharge of radioactivity to the environment. “As a waste management philosophy, no waste in any physical form is released/disposed to the environment unless the same is cleared, exempted or excluded from regulations. Comprehensive radioactive waste management is established taking into account the operational capability for the management of radioactive waste and an independent regulatory capability for its overview. The nuclear waste management practices are at par with international practices following the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency,” Singh said.