Mumbai, Sep 18: The performance of Indian nuclear power plants as well as several fuel cycle facilities reached their highest levels last year, a top official said Wednesday.
While the nuclear power plants have registered an 80 percent capacity factor, the pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) fuel production registered an increase of eight percent over the previous year to 812 MT, the highest ever production of heavy water with the lowest specific energy consumption.
This was stated by Atomic Energy Commission chairman R.K. Sinha, who is also secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, at the ongoing 57th General Conference of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna Wednesday.
Sinha said the average annual availability of Indian nuclear power plants has remained at 90 percent.
“Six of the 19 reactors, currently under operation in the country, have logged continuous operation of more than 300 days during the year. The Indian nuclear power sector has registered over 379 reactor years of safe operations,” Sinha said.
He reiterated that the Indian PHWRs offered a highly competitive capital cost per MW and a low unit energy cost.
The performance has been the result of India’s adopted policy of a closed nuclear fuel cycle in order to extract the maximum energy from limited uranium resources, to ensure sustainable nuclear waste management and, most importantly, to achieve sustainable long-term energy security through utilisation of Thorium, Sinha explained.
Emphasising India’s commitment to implement the highest standards for the safety of Indian nuclear power plants, and associated fuel cycle facilities, Sinha said this country continues to participate in and assist the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its endeavour to enhance nuclear safety through various measures under the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.
“The first IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission to India for Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) units 3 and 4 took place in end-2012. A follow-up OSART mission is planned next year. Preparation and planning for inviting IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service for peer review of our regulatory system is also in progress, and India will soon request IAEA to undertake this mission,” Sinha said.
Giving an overview of the recent developments in the Indian nuclear sector, Sinha said that the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, built with Russian collaboration, achieved its first criticality July 13 and would begin commercial operations soon. The second unit is at an advanced stage of commissioning.
The construction of four indigenously designed 700 MW PHWRs, two each at the existing sites of Kakrapar, Gujarat and Rawatbhata, Rajasthan, is progressing as per schedule.
India is planning to construct 16 more 700 MWe capacity PHWRs at five different sites around the country, he added.
The construction of the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is nearing completion at Kalpakkam where the critical erection of all permanent in-core components has been completed.
The filling of sodium in the secondary sodium loop is planned shortly and the PFBR is likely to achieve first criticality in another one year, Sinha said.
In addition, a co-located Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility to reprocess and re-fabricate the fuel from PFBR is also being set up at Kalpakkam for which the necessary site infrastructure has already been created prior to launching the project.
The Fast Breeder Test Reaction, fuelled with unique mixed carbide fuel at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, is performing well with high availability factor, providing valuable operating experience and technical inputs to India’s fast reactor programme.
Irradition of indigenously fabricated sodium bonded metallic fuel pins has also been initiated in that reactor, Sinha said.