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DAE, nuclear experts downplay nuclear weak leak in the US

India is pursuing underground facility for nuclear waste storage

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

The (DAE) and nuclear experts have downplayed leakage at the six underground storage tanks at a nuclear facility in Washington saying that it cannot be compared with India's disposal and storage.

DAE official told Business Standard it has technology in place to process and store radioactive waste for over 40 years within its premises. The high level waste is vitrified (which means it is converted in to glass) and packed in double walled stainless steel vessels which are then sealed in lead flasks. These are stored in specially engineered underground facility called Solid Storage & Surveillance Facility (SSSF).


"At present, DAE has 3 operating Reprocessing Facilities and one SSSF. Already having developed the technology, it will expand the reprocessing and vitrification capacity as per its expanding nuclear power programme. In case of the reactors to be set up under technical cooperation with other countries, separate reprocessing facilities will be set up for spent fuel generated in such reactors. Besides, the country is also pursuing the development of accelerator driven sub critical system whereby the actinides will be incinerated in to smaller isotopes with much less half-life thus bringing down the storage time to 300 years from the presently envisaged thousands of years," the official said.

However,  A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman, said "The immediate  urgency  is  in  perfecting  and  expanding  the front-end  technologies  for  efficient  spent-fuel  reprocessing , including  those  for  separation  of  actinides  of  very  long  half-life  and  fixing  them  in  non-leachable  glassy  forms . These  steps  alone  will  substantially  reduce  the  volume  of  highly  radio-active  material  we  need  to  store  for  very  long  periods. Unfortunately , while  the  DAE  may assert  they have  mastered  all  these  technologies in  waste management , it  is  a  patently  false  claim. The  Prime  Minister  had  promised  Parliament  that  all  such  technologies  will  get  transferred  from  advanced  countries  under  IAEA  safeguards , as  a  result  of  the  Indo-US  Nuclear  Deal , but  this  did  not  materialize. Filling  this  technology  gap  is  of  foremost  urgency , before  worrying  about  the  ultimate  burial  of  the  high-level  waste. "

On the other hand, R Bhattacharya, secretary, said India's nuclear is committed to follow the closed fuel cycle the final may not have long half-life as is the case of other countries.“There is a periodical monitoring done at the level of   We have got good waste management system. We have yet to reach to the generation of high active waste which is currently quite less,” he noted.

GR Srinivasan, former vice chairman, said India has “tank in tank” concept. “ If there is a leakage of from one tank, it goes into the tank below. All efforts are made to detect and prevent it from going in public domain,” he added.

According to N Nagaich, executive director, Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) , spent fuel for reprocessing and waste storage are being looked after by DAE and Bhabha Atomic research Centre. It is not done by the Nuclear Power Corporation which currently operates nuclear power plants in the country with total generation capacity of 4,780 MW.

First Published: Mon, February 25 2013. 18:13 IST
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