A team of scientists from both countries — drawn from the iconic Fermilab in the US and India’s Bhabha Atomic Research Center — has proposed to build Project-X, which will cost above $1 billion. Its first components will be ready by 2023.
The Fermilab, which belongs to the US government, is best known for the world’s top of the line particle accelerators — machines that send fundamental particles spinning at the speed of light in a controlled fashion.
The hallmark of the reactor, which will use Accelerator Driven Systems, or ADS, will be its safety. It is estimated that it would not suffer a nuclear accident as happened in Japan’s Fukushima or Russia’s Chernobyl.
“They are very safe, since you can turn off the accelerator and everything simply just turns off,” Dr Nigel Lockyer, Director, Fermilab, Chicago, USA toldOn the other hand, the system will be incredibly complex to build, as a whole new generation of material has to be fabricated at giant scales. No country has yet built an Accelerator Driven System for power generation, since getting high intensity beams of neutrons is not easy. It will involve making giant super magnets which will work on temperatures colder than outer space.
Dr Lockyer said the state-of-the-art accelerator will use super conducting technology – which involves eliminating resistance in a material and the expulsion of magnetic fields when it is cooled below a certain temperature.
In the long term, India will house two machines, and along with BARC, institutions in Indore, Kolkata and New Delhi, will help develop them. For now, the first full-fledged ADS reactor could be made in the spanking new campus of BARC that’s coming up at Vishakapatnam.
Another machine will be built in Chicago, which will be used to generate electricity, but study the fundamentals of particle physics.
Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission called this a mega science project a “necessity” for humankind.