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Imported reactors crawling,push to indigenous n-tech

Plans are on to set up Pressurised Water Reactors of indigenous design by mid-2020s.

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi |
July 22, 2013 1:47:04 am

Tardy progress in nearly all new nuclear projects based on imported Light Water Reactor (LWRs) has forced India to fall back on indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) technology,the mainstay of the country’s atomic power generation sector.

While the construction of four indigenously designed 700 MWe PHWRs — two each at existing sites of Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan — is currently on in full swing,16 more PHWRs of 700 MWe capacity will be progressively taken up for construction at five different inland sites that have already been identified.

The Centre is also planning to set up Pressurised Water Reactors of indigenous design by the mid-2020s,officials involved in the exercise said.

In the wake of the Fukushima incident in Japan in March 2011,several imported LWR-based project sites,including the Kudankulam units in Tamil Nadu and the proposed Jaitapur project in Maharashtra,had seen renewed agitations by locals and activists. Protests at Haripur in West Bengal,which was being offered to the Russians as a second site,had also put the project in a limbo.

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Plus,a beefing up of the domestic nuclear liability regime,effectively granting the operator (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd or NPCIL) the right of recourse against suppliers of equipment,seems to have dampened the earlier enthusiasm among global reactor vendors.

In the wake of the slow progress on the LWR-based projects,the government was forced to sharply prune the ambitious capacity addition targets announced just five years ago. From a nuclear capacity target of 20,000 MWe (mega watt electrical) by 2020 that was enthusiastically firmed up close on the heels of the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008,the targets have been revised by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to just 10,080 MWe by 2017 and 14,580 MWe by 2020-21. Most of this new capacity would be based on the indigenous NPCIL-designed 700 MWe series reactors.

Currently,there are 20 nuclear reactors being operated by state-owned NPCIL,that add up to a capacity of 4,780 MWe.

For the LWR-based projects,the government has short-listed Toshiba-Westinghouse Electric’s AP1000 reactor series,GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR reactors and Areva’s EPRs (formerly called European Pressurised Reactors),along with the Russian VVER reactors,two of which are already being deployed at Kudankulam.

Contrary to the LWR-based projects,significant progress has been achieved in India’s first NPCIL-designed 700 MWe series reactor bring deployed at both Kakrapar (KAPP-3&4) and Rawatbhata (RAPP-7&8).

Among the new LWR projects,the two new units of the Kudankulam nuclear project (3 and 4) have received “administrative approval” and financial sanction. Techno-commercial discussions in respect of the two 1000 MWe VVER reactors to be supplied by Russian state-owned firm Atomstroyexport are in advanced stage of finalisation,officials said.

In case of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project which is proposed to be set up in technical collaboration with France’s Areva,the revised techno-commercial offer is currently under negotiation.

At the Chhaya Mithi Virdi site in Gujarat — assigned for Toshiba-Westinghouse’s ‘AP1000’ units — public hearing has been wrapped up and pre-project activities are expected to commence in the coming months.

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