Kaiga's 700 MWe units to be delayed; first one may become critical in 2024

The first 700 MWe nuclear power reactor at Kaiga is likely to produce commercial electricity only by the middle of the next decade, a top official has confirmed.

“Pre-project activities have begun for Kaiga units 5 and 6 (two reactors of 700 MWe each). But even if everything goes according to plan, the first unit at Kaiga can become critical only around 2024-25,” Sekhar Basu, chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, told DH here.

While Karnataka gets 27% of electricity from Kaiga 1&2 and 30% from Kaiga 3&4, the state would get almost 50% of electricity when the fifth and sixth units start generating power.

India's all ongoing and planned nuclear projects are way behind schedule because of uncertainties associated with the new risk liability regime till last year as well as several manufacturing and manpower issues faced by major suppliers.

To overcome the delays, the Department of Atomic Energy is set to approach the government seeking approval for 10 700 MWe reactors, which would be constructed in a “fleet mode”. This is expected to cut down on the time taken for approval and bring flexibility in fund allocation. The fifth and sixth nuclear power units at Kaiga are among these 10 reactors for which financial clearances would be sought. The others are two reactors in Haryana, two in Madhya Pradesh and four in Rajasthan, for which the land acquisition process has begun. The four 700 MWe under-construction reactors – two each in Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhatta in Rajasthan – are delayed by two years.

The construction of the third unit at Kakrapar Atomic Power Plant began in November 2010 while KAPP-4 started in March 2011. Construction of Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant-7 & 8 began in 2011. Three of the four units are to be ready by June 2016, leaving only the RAPP-8 that was to be finished by December 2016. Basu now said KAPP-3 is likely to become operational only in 2018. Subsequently, there may be at least one functional new 700 MWe reactor every year. However, after several delays in finalising the schedule, the 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam might finally be commissioned later this year, he said.

Operationalisation of the fast breeder reactor would mark India's entry into the second phase of its three-phase nuclear programme as envisaged by Homi Bhabha.

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