Russia has offered India a new range of reactor units — the VVER-Toi (typical optimised, enhanced information) design — for the third and fourth units of the Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu. The Russians have also indicated that its state-owned nuclear utility Rosatom is open to shortlisting a handful of Indian equipment vendors in a bid to move towards a serial construction model in India, starting with the localisation of mechanical engineering production to produce components and equipment here to avoid time and cost overruns, as experienced with the first two units of the Kudankulam project.
Negotiations for the design contract for units 3 and 4 are already underway and these new reactors, expected to be supplied with far greater local inputs than was used for the initial set of two VVER-1000 reactor units at Kudankulam, are likely to require just a four-year construction period between first pour of concrete and commissioning.
Russia and India had, on Thursday, agreed to actively work on projects deploying 12 additional nuclear reactors, for which the localisation of manufacturing in India under the NDA government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ initiative and the commencement of serial construction of nuclear power plants was flagged as a joint initiative. In this context, the Programme of Action for localisation between Rosatom and India’s Department of Atomic Energy was finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent Moscow visit.
At the Kudankulam site, where the two Russian-designed VVER-1000 series reactors are being installed, nearly 100 Russian
companies and organisations are involved in documentation, supply of equipment and controlling construction and equipping process. This has been cited as one of the reasons for the delays and localisation is being considered for quicker project execution at cheaper costs
Russia has been working hard on increasing its competitive edge in the nuclear plant construction market through the serial production of new reactors across markets.
An integrated Russian nuclear company formed in 2012 to consolidate Russia’s nuclear power engineering expertise into a single division, something that has enabled Rosatom to move towards a serial production option in the different countries that it is supplying projects to. The umbrella firm — NIAEP-JSC ASE — comprises over 20 entities, with the major players being Atomstroyexport, which specialises in the construction of overseas nuclear power plants; NIAEP, which builds units in Russia; and design company Atomenergoproekt. NIAEP-JSC ASE had a portfolio in 2014 worth about $60 billion.
Russia is also learnt to have reiterated its proposal for potentially involving India in building Russian-designed nuclear power stations in third countries. The cooperation is to be extended to the area of joint extraction of natural uranium and the production of nuclear fuel and atomic waste elimination. The Russian proposal to jointly build nuclear power plants is significant, considering that Rosatom has 29 nuclear reactors in various stages of planning and construction in more than a dozen countries (the largest internationally). These include in Jordan, Hungary, Egypt, Iran, Finland, Turkey and Argentina.
The Russian proposal builds on a package of inter-governmental and inter-departmental documents signed on the sidelines of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India late last year, as part of a ‘strategic vision for strengthening Indian-Russian cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear power’.
Russia, in accordance with an inter-governmental agreement of 1988 and a supplement to it signed in 1998, is building the Kudankulam nuclear power project, the first 1,000 MWe (mega watt electric) unit of which was connected to the national grid in 2013. It is now operating under the one-year warranty maintenance period, which is expected to last till the end of 2015. A second identical reactor is ready for commissioning.
In 2013, the Russian Federation and India had signed a general framework agreement on the construction of the second phase (the third and fourth power units) of the nuclear power plant.