Nuclear power the one bright spot in year of core slowdown

Foreign fuel, improved production help 20 Indian reactors touch 83% capacity

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Published: May 6, 2014 2:38 am
The performance of Indian nuclear power plants, as well as of the several fuel cycle facilities, reached their highest levels last year. The performance of Indian nuclear power plants, as well as of the several fuel cycle facilities, reached their highest levels last year.

2013-14, a dismal year for most of the country’s core sector industries, was interestingly, the best 12-month period for atomic power generation in nearly a decade. The performance of Indian nuclear power plants, as well as of the several fuel cycle facilities, reached their highest levels last year. The capacity factor — or operational efficiency — of the 20 nuclear power reactors currently running in the country rose to a record 83 per cent.

Gross generation was powered by a combination of two factors: international cooperation leading to augmentation of fuel supplies to 10 reactors that qualify for imported fuel, and a sharp improvement in domestic fuel production for the other 10. The total installed capacity of all reactors is 4,780 mega watt electric (MWe).

Under the “separation plan” announced by the government in March 2006, negotiated after the July 2005 nuclear deal with the US, India was required to 14 reactors under IAEA safeguards in a phased manner.

Ten of these reactors — RAPS 2 to 6 at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan, KAPS 1 and 2 at Kakrapar, Gujarat, and TAPS 1 and 2 at Tarapur, Maharashtra — are already under IAEA safeguards, and eligible to run on imported fuel. They are now operating at full capacity, officials of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), which runs the country’s nuclear power plants, said.

The other 10 reactors — KGS 1 to 4 at Kaiga, Karnataka, NAPS 1 and 2 at Narora, Uttar Pradesh, MAPS 1 and 2 at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, and TAPS 3 and 4 at Tarapur, Maharashtra — with a gross installed capacity of 2,840 MWe, continue to use uranium sourced within the country.

Supply from domestic mines was up 8 per cent in 2013-14, touching 812 metric tonnes, and resulting in higher capacity utilisation in these 10 reactors.

Two units at Narora will come under IAEA safeguards this year. One reactor, RAPS 1 at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan (100 MWe), is under extended shutdown for techno-economic assessment.

The Department of Atomic Energy reckons the annual fuel requirement for operating the indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at 85 per cent capacity is about 45 tonnes of uranium dioxide for the older 220 MWe units, 100 tonnes for the 540 MWe units and 125 tonnes for the new 700 MWe units.

By contrast, the requirement of low enriched uranium for operating the imported light water reactors (LWRs) at 85 per cent capacity factor are 6 tonnes for the older 160 MWe Tarapur units and 27 tonnes for 1,000 MWe units such as the Russian-built units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

The total installed capacity is scheduled to reach 9,980 MWe at the end of the current five-year plan period (March 2017), as seven new reactors are commissioned. These include two imported LWRs of Russian design, four indigenous PHWRs, and one indigenous prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR).

NPCIL had planned to start work on 16 new reactors with a total capacity of 16,100 MWe in the course of the 12th plan (2012-17). These included eight indigenous PHWRs of 700 MWe each with a total capacity of 5,600 MWe and eight LWRs based on international cooperation — with Russia, France and the US — totaling to a capacity of 10,500 MWe.

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  1. wijdan amar
    May 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm
    Unfortunately, nuclear lobby in India has installed most of the nuclear power plants in most sensitive areas. For example Kudankulum nuclear power plants as well as Jaitapur nuclear power project are considered to be most sensitive projects. Thousands of lives have been threatened by such projects. There is need of Nuclear policy review in order to remove the fears of mes.
    1. A
      May 6, 2014 at 9:43 am
      Consider how India handled Bhopal tragedy, pan is still struggling to control ushima disaster.
      1. D
        May 6, 2014 at 4:59 am
        There is no national policy in India on nuclear and radiation safety. Despite all this, India has never made an effort to adopt world standards and best practices for nuclear safety. Radioactive waste disposal in Indian rivers is an undoented environmental tragedy in India. So this is the serious issue in India no doubt that nuclear energy is important source of energy but one have to look on saftey record on Indian also
        1. S
          May 6, 2014 at 9:41 am
          India has done a lot for nuclearpower generation but done very little or almost none in the way of securenuclear power plants safety. The building up of nuclear power plants have beenspread all over the country and mainly around rural areas. People got very muchaware of the nuclear atrocities and that is why they are on protests for years.Any little mistake or accident bring catastrophe for the unfortunateinhabitants around the plants.
          1. Z
            May 6, 2014 at 9:19 am
            What about the disrupted socialinfrastructure of the country? where people have no proper food to eat, noaccess to clean drinking water , they are living hand to mouth.. Secondly ifthis is the list of power plants which have been installed at different areasof the country then where lies the safety mechanism of these plants which isnot up-to the international standards. Power plants like kudankulam still haveoperational and maintenance issues..where lies the reliability of these plants?
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