Science and Technology Current Affairs – 2018

Latest Science & Technology Current Affairs 2015-2016; current developments in Science and Technology 2015-2016 all important national / international updates in science and tech and events for the year 2015-2016.

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India’s first indigenously developed Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor to achieve criticality in 2019

India’s first indigenously developed 500-megawatt (mw) Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu is expected to achieve criticality in 2019. It was stated by Sekhar Basu, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy at 62th General Conference of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. The indigenously developed PFBR is now undergoing sodium commissioning.

Criticality of Nuclear Reactor

It is event of nuclear reactor reaching self-sustained chain reaction. This means that no external source of neutrons is required to sustain fission in reactor core. It is precondition of producing useful amounts of energy from the reactor.

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

PFBR has been designed indigenously by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). It is pool-type reactor with 1,750 tonnes of sodium as coolant.  It is designed to generate 500 MWe of electrical power, with operational life of 40 years. It generates power by burning mixed uranium-plutonium MOX fuel, a mixture of PuO2 and UO2.

PFBR at Kalpakkam was earlier expected to be commissioned in 2012, but has missed several deadlines. PFBR design is build on decades of experience gained from operating lower power Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR). It comes under second stage of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme. Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (Bhavini), a public sector company under DAE, has been given the responsibility to build these reactors. India is planning to build 21 such reactors by 2030.

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Cyclone-30: India’s biggest cyclotron facility becomes operational

India’s biggest cyclotron facility named Cyclone-30 became operational at Kolkata-based Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), which comes under Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Cyclotron is used to produce radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use for cancer care. Radiations from these isotopes are used to destroy cancer cells.

Cyclone-30

It will produce radioisotopes vital for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.It will be first and only cyclotron facility in country to produce Germanium 68 radioisotopes, which is used in diagnosis of breast cancer. It will also produce Palladium 103 isotopes, which is used for the treatment of prostate cancer. In its future stages, it will also produce Iodine 123 isotopes, which can help detect thyroid cancer.

It started working for first time when 30 MeV beam reached Faraday Cup (a metal cup designed to catch charged particles in vacuum). The beam from this facility was used to produce fluorine-18 isotope for preparation of radio-pharmaceutical fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which is used for diagnose various types of cancer.It will start regular production by mid-2019 after supporting nuclear systems and regulatory clearances are commissioned.

Significance

The high-energy and high-yielding Cyclone-30 machine will provide for affordable radio isotopes and related radiopharmaceuticals for entire country, especially for eastern states like West Bengal. It will also help in bringing down imports, while raising possibility of exporting radioisotopes in the future. It also has export potential for germanium-68 and gallium-68 generator for in-situ production of gallium-68 and palladium-103 isotopes, which are used for breast cancer diagnosis and prostate cancer treatment, respectively. It can also be used for research in the fields of material science and nuclear physics.

Background

According to new study in Lancet Global Health, 8.3% of total number of deaths in India in 2016 was because of cancer and number of new cases has increased from 5.48 lakh in 1990 to 1.1 million in 2016. At present, many radioisotopes for cancer treatment are imported while some are produced in nuclear research reactors such as Apsara at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and remaining in cyclotrons facilities run by large private hospitals, making cancer treatment costly.

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