The IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research) is one of India's premier nuclear research centres. The centre is engaged in a broad-based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced engineering directed towards the development of Fast Breeder Reactor technology. The Reactor Research Centre set up at Kalpakkam, India, 80 km south of Chennai in 1971 under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was renamed Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in 1985.
The Reactor Research Centre was established in 1971. The Central Workshop, Safety Research Laboratory and Materials Sciences Laboratory were constructed in 1975–1976. Soon, the Radio-Chemistry Lab, and Electronics and Instrumentation Lab were constructed.
The FBTR attained first criticality in October 1985. RRC was renamed as IGCAR the same year.
A few years later, in 1994, SQUID, ASIC and Diamond Anvil Cells were developed. In the same year, High-Power Physics and Engineering Experiments were undertaken in the FBTR.
In 1996, Kamini (reactor) reached criticality. State-of-the-art Neutronic Channels were commissioned for FBTR in 1999. A Boron-Enrichment Plant was commissioned in April 2001.
A BARC Training School was started in 2006. In 2009, FBTR was operated at a maximum power level of 18.6 MWt with 55 sub-assemblies for 1732 hours.
Reprocessing Development Laboratory was designed in early seventies and the commissioning of inactive facilities was carried out in 1976. The plutonium handling facilities were cleared for operation in 1980. The reprocessing of irradiated thorium rods which was carried out during the period 1989 to 1992 in the concrete shielded cells, was the first major radioactive operation. The U233 recovered during the operation was used in fabricating the fuel for the KAlpakkam MINI reactor (KAMINI). U233 was also useful for the fuel development programme for carrying out the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor test fuel irradiation experiments in Fast Breeder Test Reactor. Apart from this, the operation aided in validating the equipment and design of system as well as the manpower training. Later a hot cell facility for reprocessing of Fast Breeder Test Reactor fuel was conceived which had the necessary features for delivering the product with all the uncertainties in the dissolution of irradiated fuel and process flowsheet. Added to this was the need for the deployment of the yet to be proven designs of centrifuge and centrifugal extractors without which the success of the PUREX process for fast reactor fuel reprocessing would be doubtful. With these minimal inputs, the hot cell facility, Lead Mini Cell (LMC)was created, which was later rechristened as CORAL (COmpact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells). Based on the dissolution experiments carried out on unirradiated single pellets and systematic studies related to the third phase formation, the flow sheet, prepared earlier for the oxide fuel was modified.