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Scientists design India's largest nuclear reactor

Kalyan Ray , New Delhi, Oct 30, 2013 DHNS: 0:59 IST
DH Illustration
Scientists have designed India's first 900-MW light-water nuclear reactor to catapult the country into the big league of nuclear energy.

The pressurised water reactor, whose conceptual design has already been prepared, would be a joint effort between the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), said BARC director Sekhar Basu on Wednesday.

“We hope to start the construction work in another five years, after obtaining the requisite permissions. For the first time will such a big reactor vessel be forged in India,” Basu told Deccan Herald over the phone from Mumbai.

A new enriched uranium plant to feed the reactor has been proposed at Chitradurga. The forging will be carried out at L&T and NPCIL's new joint venture at Hazira, and the turbine will come from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited.

India's indigenous nuclear programme began in the 1960s with small reactors. The first two units at Tarapur, which became operational in 1969, were of 160-MW capacity each, whereas the first unit at Rawatbhata, which came four years later, was of 100-MW capacity.

Later, the NPCIL perfected the design of 220-MW nuclear reactors, which were replicated all over the country for two decades. The two biggest indigenous reactors are of 540-MW capacity. The NPCIL is now constructing four 700-MW reactors for Kakrapar and Rawatbhata.

“The 900-MW reactor is similar to the one at Kudankulam. Unlike the previous reactors, which used heavy water both as coolant and moderator, the new one will use light water. Its site is about to be selected,” said Basu. A detailed project report will be submitted soon to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board for approval.

Over the next 10 years, the NPCIL intends to set up 16 more 700-MW indigenous reactors, of which civil work would begin in eight by 2017, said Department of Atomic Energy chairman Ratan Kumar Sinha. These include the fifth and sixth units at Kaiga.
Another six reactors will be installed at Gorakhpur in Haryana, Chutka in Madhya Pradesh and Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan. Each site will have two reactors of 700 MW each.

The first 500-MW prototype fast-breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam will be operational by September 2014, and construction work for two more fast-breeder reactors will start within the 12th-Plan period.

The PFBR has been delayed by several years due to delay in construction and technical complications arising out of the plant's necessity to handle hazardous liquid sodium at 400-550 degrees Celsius.

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