By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Jan 25 (IANS) The Indian government is mulling to locate the country’s first dedicated nuclear research reactor for making medical isotopes or radio pharmaceuticals in Gujarat, said a top official of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May 2020 announced setting up of such a reactor in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode.
“Kakrapar in Gujarat is being evaluated as a potential site for this reactor,” K.N. Vyas, Secretary, DAE and Chairman, AEC, told IANS.
“Around 20 potential investors from India and abroad have shown interest in the PPP reactor for making medical isotopes. A detailed designing is in progress,” he added.
The proposed facility complex will be one of the largest single facilities for production/processing of isotopes in the world in terms of volume. This will be the first of its kind PPP in the world.
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is designing the reactor with a capacity ranging between 40-60MW depending on the demand for medical isotopes.
India has built 40-100 MW research reactors. But the last research reactor was built in 1984. Thus, new costs would have to be worked out, Vyas had told IANS.
At an informal pre-request for proposal (RFP) consultation session held in April 2021, there were participants represented businesses across the nuclear medicine value chain such as nuclear medicine, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, medical devices and nuclear reactor equipment suppliers from the US, Canada, Argentina, Russia, France, the UK and others and couple of Indian suppliers.
According to the government, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will be taking the responsibility of constructing the reactor, including the upfront capital expenditure for construction.
It is expected that the private partner should be able to get high return on the capital invested.
According to Vyas, the proposed reactor is designed to maximise irradiation capacity, and thus a large quantity of a variety of radioisotopes shall be produced in the reactor.
“Majority of the isotopes are for medical use. In addition, some of the isotopes would also have industrial use. As per internal assessment, it is expected that with this research reactor, it will be possible to meet the complete requirement of medical isotopes in the country,” Vyas had told IANS.
“In addition, there will be considerable scope to export radioisotopes. It is planned to have a processing facility complex along with the reactor. It would be the world’s largest (production volume wise) radio-isotopes production and processing facility,” he added.
Currently, NPCIL has two 220 MW and one 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) at Kakrapar.
One more 700 MW reactor (KAPP-4) is under construction.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at email@example.com)