India, Russia to discuss Kudankulam nuclear project Tuesday

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS,

Chennai : The loading of fuel for the first unit of the 2,000-MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu will be the main agenda at the joint coordination committee meeting of the Nuclear Power Corp of India (NPCIL) and Russian agency AtomStroyExport, beginning Tuesday.

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“The committee will review the project’s progress. The first unit is expected to generate power early next year and the second is expected to go critical after that,” NPCIL’s chairman and managing director S.K.Jain told IANS.

Fuel for the first unit came from Russia early 2008 and that for the second is expected soon.

NPCIL is building the mega project at Kudankulam, also India’s first 1,000 MW reactor, by importing light water reactors from Russia.

Russia will supply four more such reactors, with two being located in Kudankulam. Jain said the negotiations for the purchase were on.

“Our basis of negotiations is that when the project is commissioned, the power cost will be equivalent to that supplied by coal fired power plants,” he added.

NPCIL brought down the project cost by undertaking construction work itself, and will now focus on increased localisation of components for the proposed four reactors.

He said the spent fuel will be reprocessed in India as per the deal with the Russians.

About NPCIL’s projects, he said five – two each in Kudankulam and Rajasthan and one in Kaiga, Karnataka – were under construction and would be ready next year.

“Fuel for some of the units is dependent on India’s talks with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) on the separation of nuclear power plants (civil and strategic).”

The fifth and sixth units in Rajasthan, which are under safeguards, will be ready this October and fuel fabrication for them has started.

The fourth unit at Kaiga, which is outside the safeguards, will be powered with local fuel.

Apart from Russia, NPCIL will also import reactors from France (Areva) and the US (General Electric and Westinghouse).

“Two French reactors will be housed in Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and we are looking at more locations,” Jain said while ruling out new sites in Tamil Nadu.

Also known as the atomic power state, Tamil Nadu will be housing nuclear power generation capacity of around 6,000 MW — existing and proposed.

The state’s two existing nuclear islands — Kalpakkam, around 80 km from here, and Kudankulam — have attained their saturation levels.

“There will be no more new locations to house nuclear power reactor projects in Tamil Nadu other than the existing Kalpakkam and Kudankulam,” said Jain.

“These locations have attained their saturation levels. The fourth and fifth fast breeder reactor projects that are being planned will be housed outside the state.”

Besides the 2×220 MW pressurised heavy water reactors operated by the Madras Atomic Power Station since the 1980s and a clutch of test reactors, Kalpakkam will house three units of 500 MW fast breeder reactors.

Designed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, the country’s first fast reactor is under construction and the government has sanctioned two more such reactors to be located there.

More than two units at a single location will make it economical for NPCIL to locate other facilities like fuel reprocessing centres.

According to Jain, the plant load factor at NPCIL’s power stations are going up with the easing of fuel availability.

“Last year was difficult as the load factor was around 45 percent, but this year it will be around 75 percent.”