Apsara: BARC recommissions upgraded version of India’s oldest research reactor
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay has recommissioned India’s oldest nuclear research reactor named ‘Apsara’, which was shut down permanently in 2009 for repair. The refurbished version of this reactor has been named as ‘Apsara-upgraded’ (Apsara-U) and also has double capacity compared to its earlier version. It is located within India’s nuclear weapons facility at BARC’s Trombay campus (Maharashtra).
Apsara was the first nuclear research reactor in Asia. It had become operational in BARC’s Trombay campus in August 1956. It was first nuclear research reactor indigenously developed in India. The design was conceptualised in 1955 by Dr Homi Bhabha, the father of Indian Nuclear programme. Its name Apsara was coined by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Apsara was a light water moderated (swimming pool-type) reactor with maximum power output of 1 megawatt thermal (MWt). It burned enriched uranium in form of aluminum alloyed curved plates. It was utilised for various experiments including neutron activation analysis, radiation damage studies, forensic research, neutron radiography, and shielding experiments. It was shut down in 2009, after more than five decades of service.
The upgraded version, like its ancestor, is indigenously made. It uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). It will help to increase indigenous production of radio-isotopes for medical application by about 50% mainly due to higher neutron flux. It will also be extensively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding. The radioisotopes produced by it will be also used in the field food preservation, agriculture, and other industries apart from medicine for diagnosis and therapy.
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)
BARC is India’s premier nuclear research facility based in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is multi-disciplinary research center with extensive infrastructure for advanced research and development. Its R&D covers entire spectrum of nuclear science, engineering and related areas. BARC’s core mandate is to sustain peaceful applications of nuclear energy, primarily for power generation.