Photo of Arihant's land based prototype reactor at Kalpakkam which went critical on November 11, 2003, was declared operational on September 22, 2006 and photographed (above) in early August 2009 (Courtesy The Hindu).
The Indian indigenous nuclear submarine program, that produced the Arihant, continues under some secrecy. Secrecy is not total because Kalpakkam and its parent organisation, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), need to demonstrate to politicians and the public that the large amounts of taxpayers money is spent wisely with progress made in the nuclear projects.
• Work on the Indian nuclear sub program dates from the 1970's and was referred to as the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) Project .
• The prototype nuclear propulsion plant at Kalpakkam (see photo and map above) was developed under the program "Plutonium Recycling Project" or "PRP" under direction of BARC or Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). Kalpakkam nuclear enclave is 45 km south of Chennai on the lower east coast of India.
• The Kalpakkam-Arihant prototype plant went critical on November 11, 2003 and after further development was declared operational on September 22, 2006. It was only shown to the press once, in early August 2009, about one week after the July 26, 2009 launch of the Arihant itself. Apparently only one photo (above) was cleared for distribution.
• Most sources list the prototype and the Arihant reactors as being rated at 82.5 MW. There are around 13 fuel assemblies with each assembly having 348 fuel pins.
ARIHANT's REACTOR PERFORMANCE
The Arihant's 83 MW reactor went critical after many sea trials. Extrapolating from known data on Russian submarines and their reactors - the Akula class has a 190 MW reactor but turbines that are rated at just 32MW. Going by the roughly 20 percent power rule here, the turbines on the Arihant are likely to be around 15 MW, or about 20,000 horsepower. Rating them at higher than that doesn't seem to make much sense, and the figures placing them at 47,000 hp (on wiki right sidebar) seems ludicrous - that sort of power would propel the Arihant's estimated 6,000 tons (surfaced) (perhaps 7,000 tons submerged) bulk past 37 knots (like a high speed SSN). A lower power rating and a speed in the SSBN range of 24 knots seems far more likely. A ballistic missile submarine isn't meant to sprint across the oceans - it's meant to be a ghost, running silent and deep, popping up to deliver its apocalyptic cargo when the time calls.
INDIA INTERESTED IN CHAKRA II'S 190 MW REACTOR
INDIA INTERESTED IN FRENCH AND US REACTOR ASSISTANCE
As at September 2015 India appears to be encouraging Russia, France and the US to compete in providing nuclear submarine assistance to India. Russia is an overt provider of assistance while France and US may claim that are not actually assisting in Indian submarine reactor development.
Ultimately India would be very interested in developing a reactor approaching the capabilities of the US Virginia class's ninth generation S9G reactor which uses higher HEU of 90+ % and lasts the lifetime of a submarine (33 years).
Sources used include:
- Atomic Power Review, August 11, 2013:
- On the Wings of a White Swan, also August 11, 2013, and
- "Warhawk, Jun 23, 2014"