A Nuclear reactor is a device in which the nuclear fission reaction takes place in a self-sustained and controlled manner to produce electricity. The first nuclear reactor was built in 1942 at Chicago, USA.
Breeder reactor, fast breeder reactor, pressurized water reactor, pressurized heavy water reactor, boiling water reactor, water-cooled reactor, gas-cooled reactor, fusion reactor and thermal reactor are some types of nuclear reactors, which are used in different places world-wide.
The essential components of a nuclear reactor are (i) fuel, (ii) moderator, (iii) control rod, (iv) coolant and (v) protection wall.
i. Fuel: A fissile material is used as the fuel. The commonly used fuel material is uranium.
ii. Moderator: A moderator is used to slow down the high energy neutrons to provide slow neutrons. Graphite and heavy water are the commonly used moderators.
iii. Control rod: Control rods are used to control the number of neutrons in order to have sustained chain reaction. Mostly boron or cadmium rods are used as control rods. They absorb the neutrons.
iv. Coolant: A coolant is used to remove the heat produced in the reactor core, to produce steam. This steam is used to run a turbine in order to produce electricity. Water, air and helium are some of the coolants.
v. Protection wall: A thick concrete lead wall is built around the nuclear reactor in order to prevent the harmful radiations from escaping into the environment.
· Nuclear reactors are widely used in power generation.
· They are also used to produce radio isotopes, which are used in a variety of applications.
· Some reactors help us to do research in the field of nuclear physics.
· Breeder reactors are used to convert non-fissionable materials into fissionable materials.
Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in August 1948 by the
Department of Indian Scientific Research committee at Bombay (now Mumbai) in Maharashtra. It is the nodal agency for all the research done in the field of atomic energy. Dr. Homi Jahangir Bhaba was the first chairman of Indian Atomic Energy Commission. Now, it is known as Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
Nuclear power is the fifth largest source of power in India. Tarapur Atomic Power Station is India’s first nuclear power station. Now, there are a total of seven power stations, one each in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and two in Tamilnadu. In Tamilnadu, we have nuclear power stations in Kalpakkam and Kudankulam. Apsara was the first nuclear reactor built in India and Asia. Now, there are 22 nuclear reactors which are operating in India. Some other operating reactors are