Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), a constituent unit of the department of atomic energy (DAE) in Hyderabad, produces fuel assemblies...
Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), a constituent unit of the department of atomic energy (DAE) in Hyderabad, produces fuel assemblies for the country’s nuclear power reactors. NFC manufactures various zirconium alloy reactor core structurals like pressure tubes, calandria tubes, garter springs, and reactivity mechanism assemblies for pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs). N Saibaba, chairman and chief executive of NFC, in an interview to FE’s BV Mahalakshmi, said NFC has adopted the ‘indigenisation mantra’ and exceeded the production targets in fuel tubes, coolant tubes and melted ingots last year. It also clocked a 20% year-on-year rise in revenues. Excerpts:
How has been the journey for NFC in terms of manufacturing?
NFC was set up with an initial production capacity of 100 mt per year, which has been augmented over a period to 850 tonnes per year (tpy) to cater to the fuel requirement of all the 18 operating PHWRs and two boiling water reactors (BWRs) at Tarapur. During 2014-15, NFC has achieved 1252.3 mt PHWR fuel production, which is 47% higher than the rated capacity. We have been surpassing our records every year from 2008-09, when the PHWR fuel production was 226.8 mt.
What is the way forward for stepping up growth in the national nuclear fuel cycle?
NFC is the most important link in India’s nuclear fuel cycle. It produces fuel for all the nuclear power reactors of the country. It also produces components such as blanket fuel containing thorium pellets, nickel and steel reflector assemblies and others for fast breeder test reactors. We have increased production by about 300 tonnes, which is equivalent to a contribution of Rs 900 crore to the country’s exchequer. While 650 to 700 tonnes of fuel bundles would be required for all the 18 operating nuclear power reactors, barring Kudankulam, the remaining quantity would be stocked to meet the future needs. Currently, 21 reactors are producing 5,780 MWe in the country and 3,800 MWe was expected to be added by 2016. NFC manufactured and supplied different materials for space and defence applications, including seamless tubes for GSLV and nuclear submarines, hydraulic tubes for light combat aircraft, maraging steel for missiles casing, and gun barrels and special grade copper blanks for the Prithvi and Nag missiles.
What are the new products being developed?
NFC has developed several new products, which include developing special alloy steel tubes through hot extrusion for application in Akash missile; cold extrusion of Tantalum alloys for warheads in defence application; steam generator tubing in 690 TT alloy having high resistance to stress corrosion cracking and high temperature creep for use in PWRs; and development of borated zirconium-1% Nb ingots for BARC for crucial applications in nuclear reactors, among others. NFC has also developed the process for optimisation of cold and hot working parameters for production of Al-6% Mg tubes for the BrahMos missile; and supplied all the sub-assemblies and special requirement of the prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) being constructed at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.
What is the status of the KFC-Kota project in Rajasthan?
This is a R2,400-crore greenfield project being established to produce 500 tpy of UO2 fuel and 65 tpy of zircaloy products to meet the fuel requirements of four 700 PHWRs. The project has received environmental clearance from the Expert Appraisal Committee (Nuclear) and is likely to be commissioned by 2019.