Fast breeder reactors (FBRs) are destined to play a crucial role in the Indian nuclear power programme in the foreseeable future. FBR technology involves a multi-disciplinary approach to solve the various challenges in the areas of fuel and materials development. Fuels for FBRs have significantly higher concentration of fissile material than in thermal reactors, with a matching increase in burn-up. The design of the fuel is an important aspect which has to be optimised for efficient, economic and safe production of power. FBR components operate under hostile and demanding environment of high neutron flux, liquid sodium coolant and elevated temperatures. Resistance to void swelling, irradiation creep, and irradiation embrittlement are therefore major considerations in the choice of materials for the core components. Structural and steam generator materials should have good resistance to creep, low cycle fatigue, creep-fatigue interaction and sodium corrosion.
The development of carbide fuel and structural materials for the Fast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam was a great technological challenge. At the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), advanced research facilities have been established, and extensive studies have been carried out in the areas of fuel and materials development. This has laid the foundation for the design and development of a 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor. Highlights of some of these studies are discussed in this paper in the context of our mission to develop and deploy FBR technology for the energy security of India in the 21st century.