Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Energy and Nuclear Technology

Energy and Nuclear Technology

India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)

After denying permission to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to locate the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Singara in Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) accorded both environmental and forest clearance for locating the project in the Bodi West Hills (BWH) in Theni district, also in Tamil Nadu.

  • The INO will be a major underground experimental facility to study the elusive and nearly mass-less fundamental particles of nature called neutrinos.

  • The proposed massive neutrino detector will be built in a cavern set in massive charnockite rock (group of igneous rocks found in South India with those in Tamil Nadu known to be the hardest). The cavern will be excavated by drilling a tunnel of 1.9 − 2 km in length under the peak designated as 1589 so that there is vertical overburden of about 1, 300 m. For a good neutrino detection facility, a vertical cover of at least 1, 000 m is required so that the observed neutrino events are not contaminated by unwanted particles that will be absorbed by the overburden.

  • The INO includes nearly 90 scientists from 25 institutions, with the TIFR as the nodal institution. A neutrino is an elementary particle, that usually travels close to the speed of light, is electrically neutral, and is able to pass through ordinary matter almost undisturbed. This makes neutrinos extremely difficult to detect. Neutrinos have a very small, but nonzero rest mass. Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: Neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons. Neutrinos are affected only by a weak sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it.

  • As neutrinos have mass, they also interact gravitationally with other massive particles. Gravity, however, is by far the weakest of the four known forces.

Fast Reactor Program

The second stage of nuclear power generation envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. These fast breeder systems produce more fuel than what they consume. FBRs can increase fuel utilisation by about sixty times of what is possible with PHWRs.

IGCAR started the breeder programme with the setting up of a Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam.

Tamil Nadu in October 1985. This reactor, operating with indigenously developed mixed uranium-plutonium carbide fuel has achieved its technology objectives.

CIRUS/DHRUVA

On December 18, the scientists and engineers in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) celebrated the Golden

Jubilee of research reactor CIRUS and the Silver jubilee of DHRUVA.

Research Reactors

  • The research reactor programme of DAE provided research and development support to the nuclear power programme, produces radioisotopes for use in health care, agriculture, industry and research, and provides manpower training.

  • The research reactors set up by DAE so far, have been Apsara (1mW, Fuel: Enriched Uranium-Aluminium alloy), CIRUS (40MW, Fuel: Natural uranium), Zerlina (zero energy, Natural Uranium), Purnima I-III (Fuel: Plutonium/Uranium-233), Dhruva (100 MW, Fuel: Natural Uranium) at Trombay (Maharashtra), and Kamini (30kW, Fuel: Uranium-233 − A1 alloy) and Fast Breeder Test Reactor (40MW, Fuel: Uranium-Plutonium carbide) at Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu). Of the research reactors, Zerlina was decommissioned in 1984, and Purnima series made way for Kamini. LWR The light water reactor or LWR is a type of thermal reactor that uses normal water as its coolant and neutron moderator Shale Gas Fuel cell A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts a source fuel into an electric current. It generates electricity inside a cell through reactions between a fuel and an oxidant, triggered in the presence of an electrolyte. The reactants flow into the cell, and the reaction products flow out of it, while the electrolyte remains within it. Fuel cells can operate continuously as long as the necessary reactant and oxidant flows are maintained.

  • Fuel cells are different from conventional electrochemical cell batteries in that they consume reactant from an external source, which must be replenished a thermodynamically open system.

  • BHEL developed a 3 kW (3 × 1 kW) automated Proton Exchange Membrane fuel Cell Power Pack and demonstrated the same for the Stationary Applications.

  • The Bloom Energy Server (commonly referred to as the Bloom Box) is a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) made by Bloom Energy, of Sunnyvale, California

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India