BARC sets up virtual nuclear data physics centre

Mumbai: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has set up a ‘virtual’ nuclear data physics centre to enable greater visibility of India’s research in this area at the global platform.

Department of Atomic Energy and Board of Research in Nuclear Science of the government of India have already sanctioned funds for three years (2011-2014) for the NDPCI, S Ganesan, Head of Nuclear Data Section, Reactor Physics Design Division and Project-in-Charge, NDPCI told PTI.

The basic nuclear data physics research is essential in shaping concepts of nuclear power of advanced reactor designs and safety, he said.

With BARC acting as the nodal agency, NDPCI, will serve as the main hub for overall coordination of nuclear data activities in India with members drawn from national laboratories and universities.

“The NDPCI at BARC is promoting the use of accurate nuclear data and its physics usage in all applications including in development of indigenous software for Monte Carlo codes and discrete ordinate codes for advanced reactor applications,” Mr. Ganesan said.

The nuclear scientist said India became the 14th member of the International Network of Nuclear Reaction Data Centres (NRDC) in 2008 after being invited to join the international network.

NRDC constitutes a worldwide cooperation of nuclear data centres under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. The Network was established in the early sixties to coordinate the world-wide collection, compilation and dissemination of nuclear reaction data.

Last month, India participated as a full member of International Network of Nuclear Reaction Data Centres (NRDC) at the IAEA, Ganesan said.

“India has been carrying out a number of original nuclear data physics activities during the last six years. The members of NRDC were all in praise for BARC for these new initiatives in nuclear data physics and especially for contributing more than 200 Indian EXFOR (internationally agreed format for the Raw Experimental Numerical Nuclear Physics Data) entries based upon Indian nuclear physics experiments, since 2006,” he said.

Mr. Ganesan said the roadmap of NDPCI will cover a wide range of power and non-power applications including medical applications in the Indian context with a balance of nuclear data physics activities by a well-defined team of nuclear physicists, engineers, mathematicians, radio-chemists and software information management.

Introduction of EXFOR culture in people including in basic nuclear physics has become relatively an easier task with the new managerial initiatives of NDPCI holding phenomenally successful EXFOR workshops in different parts of India, he said.

NDPCI has been very successful in roping people from various fields (Nuclear Physics, Reactor and Radiochemistry Divisions of DAE’s basic research establishments and others) and students and staff from various universities across India.

“It is a very unique activity where both experimentalists and theoreticians were covered,” Mr. Ganesan said.

NDPCI is evolving a strong community of EXFOR compilers in India. Regular staff to perform EXFOR compilations is being planned, he said.

NDPCI is identifying university staff and awarding contracts on EXFOR compilations. The first such DAE-BRNS contract has already been awarded to Prof. Betylda Jyrwa, North Eastern University, Shillong, Meghalaya in May 2011, Mr. Ganesan said.

Since the discovery of neutron, there are more than 18,932 experimental data including neutron induced reaction, charged particle induced reactions and photon induced reaction. “India’s contribution of 200 entries is considered very significant by the international community,” Mr. Ganesan said.

Stressing on the importance of NDPCI, he said even after more than six decades since the discovery of nuclear fission process, the basic nuclear physics experimental data continues to remain more uncertain than the target accuracies needed by reactor designers who rigorously desire to propagate error in simulations.

Therefore, experimental critical facility programme to enable integral validation studies is also an essential part of any serious nuclear programme to speed up implementation of nuclear energy, he said.

“This programme requires covariance data at differential and integral level,” Mr. Ganesan emphasised.

Basic physics understanding and better data physics of nuclear interactions continue to be rigorously sought by nuclear design communities in order to extrapolate conditions in power plants such as higher burn-up and higher temperatures, which are not covered in the room temperature fresh core one-to-one mock experiments.

“The safety and operational requirements of existing power plants have been engineered with a number of one-to-one mockup experiments providing adequate and conservative safety margins,” he said

Yet another ongoing activity of NDPCI is criticality benchmarking of reactors which helps in integrally validating nuclear data and methods of computer simulations.

In 2005, Indian scientists completed successfully the criticality benchmarking of the 30 kilowatt KAMINI research reactor (the only U-233 fuelled reactor operating in the world) operating at Kalpakkam which was completed, peer reviewed and published in the International Handbook of Evaluated Criticality Safety Benchmark Experiments (ICSBEP).

“Interestingly after India joined the select band of countries and contributed Kamini Benchmark, the Indian scientists are able to access all the benchmark specifications for over 4,400 experimental benchmark documents of other countries,” Mr. Ganesan added.

In 2008, the international benchmarking of PURNIMA-II (Uranium 233-nitrate solution) reactor has been completed and already accepted by the IAEA and US department of Energy.

Presently, India has undertaken the international benchmarking procedures for the experimental reactor PURNIMA-I. The benchmarking of PURNIMA-I, India’s first fast reactor fuelled with plutonium oxide that went critical in 1972 was completed recently and critical international peer review is in progress.

“The benchmark specifications are intended for use by criticality safety engineers to validate calculation techniques safety margins for operations with fissile material,” he added.