India - Plutonium Investigation n°10

The Industry

While India has become technically independent, it has "limited uranium resources" and still has had to import enriched uranium. However, importing uranium is only possible when political agreements concerning nuclear proliferation can be reached with the exporting country, and sometimes with other countries. India has developed almost all of the facilities required for the production and management of nuclear fuel. There is a small-scale experimental uranium conversion plant which has been operating since the mid-1980s. India has also built eight heavy water production plants which are required for the eight operating pressurised heavy water reactors. These reactors do not require enriched uranium but only natural uranium fuel. This would make India less reliant upon foreign enrichment services.

There are three fuel fabrication plants. The Hyderabad plant was designed to produce 80 tonnes of fuel per year and is supposed to be enlarged to produce 225 tonnes per year. It has been operated since 1971. The Trombay plant, which has been operated since the late 1960s is designed to produce 135 tonnes of fuel per year. The Tarapur plant is a smaller plant, designed for a 20 tonnes per year production, but which is able to produce mixed oxides (MOX) fuel containing plutonium. MOX fuel has been used on an experimental basis in both Tarapur BWRs.

India also operates two commercial-sized reprocessing plants. The Kalpakkam reprocessing plant, which is designed for 125 tonnes annual throughput, has been operated since 1991. The Tarapur reprocessing plant is designed for a 100-150 tonnes annual throughtput but has not been operated since 1988.

The Trombay reprocessing plant is smaller and is designed for a 30 tonnes annual throughput. The Kalpakkam site also houses an experimental sized reprocessing plant.

The Tarapur plant has reportedly reprocessed research reactor fuel (easily usable for the military programme) as well as fuel discharged by the Madras, the Rajasthan and the Tarapur nuclear power plants. The Tarapur reprocessing plant separated the plutonium required for the first breeder reactor core.

As of 1994, a leaked US industry study gave the following figures for reprocessing at the Tarapur plant: 4 tonnes LWR spent fuel and 96 tonnes PHWR spent fuel, totalling 100 tonnes. This corresponds to about 230 kg separated plutonium.

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