Nine years after Apsara, India’s first and oldest research reactor was shut down, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) on 10 September launched the Apsara-upgraded (U).
Apsara U is a 2MWt swimming pool type research reactor that uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of low enriched uranium. Under the India-USA civil nuclear deal, the imported enriched fuel used in the Apsara reactor will be replaced by indigenous low-enriched uranium fuel in line with current international practices.
“As a result of its high neutron flux, the reactor [Apsara-U] will increase the indigenous production of radioisotopes for medical application by about 50% and will also be extensively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding,” according to a statement from the Department of Atomic Energy.
The French supplied 1MWt Apsara research reactor, which achieved criticality in August 1956, was the first reactor in Asia. It was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was a pool-type reactor which used highly-enriched uranium as fuel. It was permanently shut down in 2009. To date, India has operated eight research reactors only two of which,– Dhruva and Kamini – are still operational. The remaining six research reactors – Apsara, Cirus, Purnima I, Purnima II, Purnima III and Zerlina were decommissioned between 1973 and 2010.