With another critical component set to join the Rs.5,600-crore ($1.25 billion) fast-breeder reactor at Kalpakkam, some 80 km from Chennai, scientists at the 500 mw nuclear power plant said the project will be up and running, as scheduled, by September next year.
The component that will be installed this week is called a thermal baffle, a cylindrical safety vessel that is part of the crucial equipment, which helps in keeping the sodium used in the plant cool. “The 60-tonne thermal baffle, measuring some 12-metre in diameter and more than six metres in height, is made of stainless steel and is expected to be installed inside the main vessel this week,” Prabhat Kumar, project director of the power plant, told IANS.
The sodium-cooled fast reactor, designed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), has three vessels — a safety vessel, a main vessel and an inner vessel, all of which are critical to keep the fast-breeder reactor cool.
India currently has 17 nuclear power reactors under operation with a capacity of 4,120 MW. This is expected to go up to 7,280 MW after the completion of six projects under implementation, including the 500-MW fast-breeder reactor at Kalpakkam.
The Kalpakkam 500 MW reactor with be fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs). It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. This will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Six more such 500 MWe fast reactors have been announced for construction, four of them by 2020.
India Nuclear Program Past and Future
As recently as February, 2009 The Times of India reported that only three of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors were working at full capacity, due to a shortage of uranium. A total of 11 were working at low capacity factors, while three others had been shut down for long-term maintenance until November 2009. The three that are working to full capacity are doing so thanks to imported uranium, as opposed to local supplies.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India is planning to build ten new 1200-1400MW high capacity light water reactors by 2020, as part of the 12th Five Year Plan. the country’s Science, Technology and Earth Sciences minister, Prithviraj Chavan told lawmakers in the upper house that the country’s nuclear generating capacity is expected to increase by around 68 per cent (up from 60% generating capacity now) to 7.28GW by March 2012 as a result of projects already under construction.
Nuclear power supplied 15.8 billion kWh (2.5%) of India’s electricity in 2007 from 3.7 GWe (of 110 GWe total) capacity and this will increase steadily as imported uranium becomes available and new plants come on line. In the year to March 2010, 22 billion kWh is forecast.
India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
The target since about 2004 has been for nuclear power to provide 20 GWe by 2020, but in 2007 the Prime Minister referred to this as “modest” and capable of being “doubled with the opening up of international cooperation.” However, it is evident that even the 20 GWe target will require substantial uranium imports. Late in 2008 NPCIL projected 22 GWe on line by 2015, and the government was talking about having 50 GWe of nuclear power operating by 2050. Then in June 2009 NPCIL said it aimed for 63 GWe nuclear by 2032, including 40 GWe of PWR capacity and 7 GWe of new PHWR capacity, all fuelled by imported uranium. The Atomic Energy Commission however envisages some 500 GWe nuclear on line by 2060, and has since speculated that the amount might be higher still: 600-700 GWe by 2050, providing half of all electricity.
Future indigenous PHWR reactors will be 700 MWe gross (640 MWe net). The first four will be built at Kakrapar and Rajasthan. According to NPCIL in March 2010, work on all four has started and they are due on line by 2017 after 60 months construction from first concrete to criticality.
Russia is supplying the country’s first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 (V-392) reactors, under a Russian-financed US$ 3 billion contract.
Russia will supply all the enriched fuel, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium. The first unit was due to start supplying power in March 2008 and go into commercial operation late in 2008, but this schedule has slipped by about two years. The second unit is about 6-8 months behind it. While the first core load of fuel was delivered early in 2008 there have been delays in supply of some equipment and documentation. Control system documentation was delivered late, and when reviewed by NPCIL it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking some aspects. Fuel loading of unit 1 will not now take place until early 2010, though in October NPCIL said the unit was 94% complete and that 99% of the equipment was on site.
Indian Nuclear Energy Parks
In line with past practice such as at the eight-unit Rajasthan nuclear plant, NPCIL intends to set up five further “Nuclear Energy Parks”, each with a capacity for up to eight new-generation reactors of 1,000 MWe, six reactors of 1600 MWe or simply 10,000 MWe at a single location. By 2032, 40-45 GWe would be provided from these five. NPCIL says it is confident of being able to start work by 2012 on at least four new reactors at all four sites designated for imported plants.
The new energy parks are to be:
Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu: three more pairs of Russian VVER units, making 9200 MWe. Environmental approval has been given for the first four.
Jaitapur in Maharashtra: Preliminary work at is likely soon with six of Areva’s EPR reactors in view, making 9600 MWe. Environmental approval has been given for these.
Mithi Virdi (or Chayamithi Virdi) in Gujarat: to host US technology (possibly Westinghouse AP1000). NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.
Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh: to host US technology (possibly GE Hitachi ESBWR – or maybe ABWR). NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.
Haripur in West Bengal: to host four further Russian VVER-1200 units, making 4800 MWe. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.
Kumharia in Haryana is earmarked for four indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units and the AEC had approved the state’s proposal for a 2800 MWe nuclear power plant. The northern state of Haryana is one of the country’s most industrialized and has a demand of 8900 MWe, but currently generates less than 2000 MWe and imports 4000 MWe. The village of Kumharia is in Fatehabad district and the plant may be paid for by the state government or the Haryana Power Generation Corp. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.
Bargi in Madhya Pradesh is also designated for two indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.
At Markandi (Pati Sonapur) in Orissa there are plans for up to 6000 MWe of PWR capacity. Major industrial developments are planned in that area and Orissa was the first Indian state to privatise electricity generation and transmission. State demand is expected to reach 20 billion kWh/yr by 2010. The AEC has also mentioned possible new nuclear power plants in Bihar and Jharkhand.
India’s largest power company, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in 2007 proposed building a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2017. It would be the utility’s first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by the government-owned NPCIL. This proposal became a joint venture set up in April 2010 with NPCIL holding 51%, and possibly extending to multiple projects utilising local and imported technology. One of the sites earmarked for a pair of 700 MWe PHWR units may be allocated to the joint venture.
NTPC says it aims by 2014 to have demonstrated progress in “setting up nuclear power generation capacity”, and that the initial “planned nuclear portfolio of 2000 MWe by 2017” may be greater. NTPC, now 89.5% government-owned, is planning to increase its total installed capacity from 30 to 50 GWe by 2012 (72% of it coal) and 75 GWe by 2017. It is also forming joint ventures in heavy engineering.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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