Govt moves slow on building long-pending nuclear reactors

In 2017, the Centre had approved ten nuclear reactors two each in Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and four in Rajasthan with initial investment of ₹1.05 lakh crore

Nuclear reactors

New Delhi: There is little progress with regard to the proposal to build ten nuclear reactors with total installed capacity of 7000 mega watt (MW), even though the project was sanctioned in 2017.

Union minister of state (Independent charge) atomic energy Jitendra Singh informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the Centre had given bulk approval for the installation of ten nuclear reactors in different states. However, he did not make any reference if the first pour of concrete (FPC) on these projects could be done so far.

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In a statement laid on the floor of the floor the house, Singh today said, the Government has roped in PSUs for the installation of the nuclear reactors or the exercise would be done exclusively by the specialized government agencies. He, however, did not name any agency, which has been allotted the work to build the pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) of 700 MW each in fleet mode.

In 2017, the Centre had approved ten nuclear reactors two each in Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and four in Rajasthan. A sum of ₹1.05 lakh crore has been sanctioned for the purpose.

The minister said that the government had amended the Atomic Energy Act in 2015 to enable the joint ventures of NPCIL with public sector enterprises to set up nuclear power projects. These reactors are to be commissioned in ‘fleet mode’ by 2031.

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The FPC signals the beginning of construction of nuclear power reactors from the pre-project stage which includes excavation activities at the project site. The PHWRs, which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator, have emerged as the mainstay of India’s nuclear power programme.

“The FPC of Kaiga units 5&6 is expected in 2023; FPC of Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Praiyonjan units 3 & 4 and Mahi Banswara Rajasthan Atomic Power Projects units 1 to 4 is expected in 2024; and that of Chutka Madhya Pradesh Atomic Power Project units 1 & 2 in 2025,” officials of the department of atomic energy (DAE) had told the Parliamentary panel on science and ,technology last year.

It was for the first time that the government had approved building 10 nuclear power reactors in one go with an aim to reduce costs and speed up construction time and also to check carbon emission for energy generation.

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Bulk procurement was underway for the fleet mode projects with purchase orders placed for forgings for steam generators, SS 304L lattice tubes and plates for end shields, pressuriser forgings, bleed condensers forgings, incoloy-800 tubes for 40 steam generators, reactor headers, DAE officials said.

Engineering, procurement and construction package for turbine island has been awarded for Gorakhpur units three and four and Kaiga units five and six, they added. Under the fleet mode, a nuclear power plant is expected to be built over a period of five years from the first pour of concrete.

Currently, India operates 22 reactors with a total capacity of 6780 MW in operation. One 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar in Gujarat was connected to the grid on January 10 in 2021, but it is yet to start commercial operations.

India’s first pair of PHWRs of 220 MW each were set up at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan in the 1960s with Canadian support. The second reactor had to be built with significant domestic components as Canada withdrew support following India’s peaceful nuclear tests in 1974.

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