The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nuclear second stage set to take off

Chennai, Aug. 30: The construction of India’s first indigenously-designed 500-MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is expected to begin by either 2002-end or early 2003 at Kalpakkam, director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research S.B. Bhoje said today.

The Rs 2,800-crore project (excluding escalation costs during construction) is being considered by the Union finance ministry, Bhoje revealed while inaugurating a workshop on ‘Understanding Nuclear Power’.

Other statutory clearances, including those from the state government, are also being obtained, he said.

The reactor will ring in the second stage of the country’s nuclear power programme, Bhoje said, adding that the pre-plant infrastructure development work has begun in Kalpakkam.

The expected energy cost from the reactor works out to Rs.3.20 per unit.

The Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors — India’s first-stage nuclear power programme — use natural uranium as fuel. With 50,000 tonnes of presently known indigenous uranium resource, 12,000 MW from the first-stage programme can be sustained for 30 years, Bhoje pointed out.

However, considering India’s large energy requirements, the second-stage reactors with a 40-year plant life, would have to use the plutonium obtained from reactors of the first stage, he added.

The Department of Atomic Energy has planned to install 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020, Bhoje said. This would include 12,000 MW from the heavy water reactors, 2,500 MW from the fast breeder ones and another 6,500 MW from imported light water reactors.

The last category would include “VVER reactors” of 1,000 MW capacity, being set up with Russian collaboration at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district.

Bhoje said that though India has the technology for constructing fast breeder reactors, the memorandum of understanding was signed with Russia for the Koodankulam plant using light water as both moderator and coolant after several considerations.

First, the amount of natural uranium deposits in the country puts a limitation on the programme. Second, Russia will give a long-term credit for the Koodankulam and third, it will also later transfer the technology to India, Bhoje said. The idea is to increase the installed capacity of nuclear power by various means, he added.

Bhoje also made it clear that none of the 14 nuclear power reactors in the country have anything to do with India’s defence programme.

Following the “spillage of heavy water” (used as both moderator and coolant) in the two heavy water reactors at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam some years ago, the design was modified, Bhoje said.

The reactors are now functioning at a lower power factor of 170 MW each instead of the original 220 MW, he added.

The reactors, however, will get back to generating 220 MW from March next year after the exercise to replace all “coolant channels” in the power station’s second unit is over, he said. Similarly, the “coolant channels” in the first unit will also be replaced later, Bhoje added.

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