THE BHABHA Atomic Research Centre has recommissioned an upgraded version of ‘Apsara’, the country’s oldest research reactor that was decommissioned almost a decade ago.
Apsara was first made operational on August 4, 1956, becoming Asia’s first research reactor at the time. The design of the pool-type reactor using enriched uranium fuel was conceptualised in 1955 by Dr Homi Bhabha himself.
The name Apsara was coined by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Later, BARC set up two other research reactors Cirus and Dhruva. However, after having been in service for over five decades, the reactor was shut down in 2009 and decommissioned.
On Monday evening, a swimming pool type research reactor ‘Apsara-upgraded’ of a higher capacity came into existence. The upgraded version, like its ancestor, is indigenously made, said a spokesperson from BARC.
The research reactor uses plate-type dispersion fuel elements made of low enriched uranium. “By virtue of higher neutron flux, this reactor will increase indigenous production or radio-isotopes for medical application by about 50 per cent and would also be exclusively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding,” a statement from the Department of Atomic Energy said.
The country began production of radioisotopes with the commissioning of Apsara in 1956. Today, radioisotopes are used in the field of medicine for diagnosis and therapy, food preservation, agriculture, and other industries.