The Indian nuclear power sector has registered over 379 reactor years of safe operation as on date. The average annual availability of the Indian nuclear power plants (NPPs) has remained at 90%. Six of the 19 reactors, currently under operation, have logged continuous operation of more than 300 days during the year, informed Dr RK Sinha, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
One reactor year means one reactor in operation for one year. 379 reactor years means the accumulated experience achieved by 19 reactors in operation over a period of 44 calendar years since inception of commercial nuclear technology in India.
In his address at the 57th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday at Vienna, Sinha said the performance of the NPPs and of several fuel cycle facilities, reached their highest levels last year. This includes NPPs registering 80% capacity factor, pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) fuel production of 812 million ton (an increase of 8% over the previous year) and the highest ever production of heavy water with the lowest specific energy consumption.
According to Sinha, the Indian PHWRs offer a highly competitive capital cost per megawatt and a low unit energy cost. He told the gathering that the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear plant, which achieved its first criticality on July 13, is expected to begin commercial operational shortly. The second unit is also in an advanced stage of commissioning.
Further, the construction of four indigenously designed 700 MW PHWRs, two each at existing sites of Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, is progressing on schedule and India is planning to construct 16 more PHWRs of 700 MW at five different inland sites.
Sinha said the construction of 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) is nearing completion at Kalpakam. "India has adopted the policy of a closed nuclear fuel cycle in order to exaract the maximum energy from the limited uranium resources, to ensure sustainable nuclear waste management and to achieve sustainable, long term energy security through utilisation of thorium," AEC chief noted.
India is developing technologies for high temperature reactors and hydrogen production processes. Furthermore, Sinha said India is engaged in the development of high technologies in several other areas including nuclear fusion and particle accelerators.
Sinha made a strong argument in favour of nuclear energy and said that it can ensure clean and sustainable energy supply for different sectors especially when the accessibility, affordability and the global availability of the fossil fuels will decline. ''Apart from electricity, nuclear will need to address the large scale energy needs for industrial use and transport as well. Considering the long gestation period for deployment of new technologies in the nuclear field, it is essential to further strengthen the role of IAEA for facilitating pooling of international knowledge resources, to achieve sustainable energy security at the global level, looking at the challenges of the future,'' Sinha concluded.
Source - Business standard