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Process on to get environmental clearance for spent fuel storage at India’s Kudankulam NPP

The process to obtain environmental clearance for setting up a storage facility for the Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) at India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) units 1 and 2 is currently in progress, the nation’s Parliament was informed last week.   

The first two 1,000 MW units at the KNPP, being built by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, have been connected to the grid in 2013 and 2016, respectively, while work is in progress to construct four more 1,000 MW reactors – units 3, 4, 5 and 6.    

Replying to a member’s query in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh said the spent nuclear fuel storage, also known as the Away from Reactor (AFR) facility, anywhere in the country are set up only after obtaining all statutory approvals, including environmental clearance from the Environment Ministry. 

Moreover, safety clearances are obtained from the regulator and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to ensure that the spent fuel does not pose any radiological hazard to people and the environment nearby.  

According to the Minister, the AERB is currently carrying out the design safety review of the proposed AFR facility.  

He said environment clearance for the KNPP units 3-6, including storage facilities for the SNF, was granted by the Environment Ministry after careful consideration, following the due process.  

Singh also informed Parliament that the AERB has given its consent to establish the spent fuel facility for KNPP units 3 and 4.  

The facilities for the storage of SNF in the premises of a nuclear power plant, until it is sent for reprocessing, are designed with a comprehensive approach to safety to withstand extreme natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis with provisions of large operational safety margins for safe, sound and reliable performance. 

“These are designed, constructed and operated as per regulatory requirements and subjected to regulatory reviews and audits, which ensure robustness in safety at all stages of the facility, ensuring that there is no adverse impact on plant personnel, general public or the environment”, the Minister said. 

Such facilities are already functioning at the Tarapur NPP in Maharashtra state and at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, which are operating safely without any impact on personnel, the public and the environment, he added.

Construction starts of unit 8 at China’s Tianwan nuclear power plant

The construction of unit 8 of the Tianwan nuclear power plant (NPP) in China officially got underway recently with the pouring of first concrete for the reactor’s nuclear island, according to the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

The Tianwan unit 8 is one of four state-of-the-art VVER-1200 reactors to be supplied by Russia to China under a 2018 intergovernmental agreement, making this the largest China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation project to date. Rosatom said that “three out of four reactors are already under construction while preparations are ongoing to build the fourth reactor, Xudabao Unit 4.”  

A statement by Rosatom subsidiary AtomStroyExport (ASE) said: “The documentation prepared by the engineers of the St Petersburg Design Institute of Atomenergoproekt JSC and handed over to the Chinese customer made it possible to start the concrete pouring procedure according to the schedule.”  

A ground-breaking ceremony in May 2021 marked the start of construction for power units 7 and 8 of the Tianwan NPP located in the city of Lianyungang in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, and units 3 and 4 of the Xudapu NPP located in Xingcheng in the Liaoning province.  

According to Xinhua news agency, when completed and put in operation, the annual power generation by these four units, of 1,200 MW capacity each, will reach 37.6 billion kilowatt-hours, which is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30.68 million tonnes per year.  

The proposed units 7 and 8 at Tianwan are more advanced as compared to the four commercially operating VVER-1000 reactors previously supplied by Rosatom for units 1 to 4 at the Tianwan site.  

A general contract for Tianwan Phase IV – units 7 and 8 – was signed between AtomStroyExport and the China National Nuclear Corporation in March 2019. 

Rosatom said that while the Tianwan unit 7 is expected to be put in operation in 2026, and Tianwan 8, as well as the Xudabao unit 3, in 2027, the Xudabao unit 4 is projected to come on stream in 2028. 

IAEA assured full cooperation by Rosatom to ensure safe working of Ukraine’s nuclear plants 

The Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has assured the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its complete cooperation in the task of ensuring the safe operation of Ukrainian nuclear facilities in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. 

This assurance on ensuring nuclear and physical security at the Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) was conveyed by the Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev to the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at their meeting held in Kaliningrad, Russia, on April 1, 2022, according to a Rosatom statement.  

“The main task of Rosatom is to do everything necessary and assist the IAEA in the safe operation of Ukrainian nuclear facilities. It is important to do everything to ensure that the IAEA has full information about the ongoing events and, of course, to enable specialists and maintenance personnel of the stations to perform their duties in the most difficult conditions. We exchanged views and outlined further ways of cooperation and operational interactions”, Likhachev said following his meeting with the IAEA Director General.  

“As a result of these talks, I want to emphasize the highest professionalism of the agency, its head and the entire delegation involved in this work, as well as a balanced and, most importantly, depoliticized approach to the events, and an exceptional concentration of attention and efforts on nuclear safety issues. Security, security and security – these were the three topics we focused on in our negotiations in recent hours”, the Rosatom head added. 

The statement said that the IAEA Director General thanked Likhachev for the prompt cooperation and partnership in facing the challenges posed by the difficult circumstances, as well as for engaging in continuous consultation and exchange to ensure nuclear safety.  

“There is one concept, which is very important, that, apart from our responsibilities, the Russian Federation on one hand, Ukraine on the other , and IAEA as the international global nuclear institution, we all have a common interest, a common responsibility in ensuring that the present difficult circumstance we are going through are in no way aggravated by the eventuality of a nuclear accident. This requires enormous zeal, professionalism and a clear professional focus at what is at stake. I can say that I have had a very understanding ear on Mr Likhachev’s presence here”, Grossi said. 

“There are important missions that IAEA is going to be conducting in the next few days. Our intention is to continue to strengthen this cooperation, this joint work (with Russia) in order to ensure that we do not have any regrettable events related to the facilities in Ukraine, which are many and diverse in their configuration, in their importance, and in the amount of nuclear materials that we have there. So this requires a lot of work. I leave Kaliningrad with a sense of renewed commitment and dedication to continue working and I am sure we will continue to be in touch working together in the next few days”, Grossi added. 

According to the statement, the IAEA head said that, by and large, the situation at the Ukrainian nuclear facilities was under control but there were things that needed to be improved and the work should continue. 

In turn, the Rosatom chief reaffirmed the Russian commitment to key security principles and its readiness to provide comprehensive support to the IAEA. The parties also agreed to stay in constant contact, the statement added.  

Grossi’s visit to Russia closely followed his trip to Ukraine where he met with Ukrainian nuclear industry officials and the regulator. On his return to the IAEA headquarters at Vienna from Kaliningrad, he said at a press conference that the IAEA had succeeded in reaching an agreement with the parties concerned to work on the safety and security of the Ukrainian NPPs. 

“I do have an agreed framework. We have agreed separately with Russia and with Ukraine on what we are going to do. And this does not require us to agree on the wording of a separate document”, Grossi said. 

The IAEA Director General also said that he has a detailed list of activities agreed upon to ensure the safety and security of the Ukrainian NPPs in the current situation.

India to start building nuclear power plants in “fleet mode” from 2023 

The first pour of concrete for a 700 MW nuclear power plant (NPP) to be built at Kaiga in the southern Indian state of Karnataka is scheduled for 2023, which will signal the launch of India’s project to construct 10 atomic reactors in the “fleet mode” over the next three years. 

The Indian government has approved the fleet mode construction of ten pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) of 700 MW capacity each at a total estimated cost of $16.3 billion. The fleet mode of construction of multiple units ensures standardisation, lower costs and speeding up the construction of nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the country. 

The 10 planned reactors are units 5 and 6 at Kaiga in Karnataka state, units 1 and 2 at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, 4 units at Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan, and units 1 and 2 at Gorakhpur in Haryana. 

“The FPC (first pour of concrete) of Kaiga units 5 and 6 is expected in 2023; FPC of Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Praiyonjan units 3 and 4 and Mahi Banswara Rajasthan Atomic Power Projects units 1 to 4 is expected in 2024; and that of Chutka Madhya Pradesh Atomic Power Project units 1 and 2 in 2025,” officials of India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) recently told a panel on science and technology of the nation’s Parliament. 

The officials said that bulk procurement had begun for the fleet mode projects with purchase orders placed for steam generator forgings, lattice tubes and plates for end shields, pressuriser forgings, bleed condenser forgings, incoloy-800 tubes for 40 steam generators, and reactor headers.   

They also informed the Parliamentary panel that engineering, procurement and construction contracts for turbine islands had been awarded for Gorakhpur units 3 and 4, as well as for Kaiga units 5 and 6. 

In July 2020, India achieved criticality with its first indigenously built 700 MW PHWR for the Kakrapar NPP unit 3 in Gujarat state. The unit was connected to the grid last year, although it is yet to begin commercial operations. Three other PHWRs are already under construction – Kakrapar unit 4, and Rajasthan NPP units 7 and 8. 

The mainstay of India’s nuclear programme, which is now more than half-a-century old, started with reactors with a capacity of 220 MW, which was subsequently increased to 540 MW, and the country has now manufactured the 700 MW optimal capacity reactor at Kakrapar. 

India currently has 22 reactors in operation with a total capacity of 6,780 MW. Eight reactors are under construction with a combined capacity of 6,200 MW. On completion of these being constructed, NPCIL’s capacity will reach 12,980 MW by 2025. 

In addition, the government has given administrative approval and financial sanction for 12 new reactors with a total capacity of 9,000 MW. India’s current nuclear power capacity is expected to increase to 22,480 MW by 2031 on the completion of these proposed projects. 

Unit 2 of Arab world’s first nuclear plant located in UAE starts commercial operations 

The second unit of the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Barakah has started commercial operations, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) announced last week.  

The second unit of the Barakah NPP was earlier successfully connected to the national power grid in September 2021, two weeks after the start-up of the reactor was completed. 

The first unit of the Barakah NPP, situated in the Al Dhafra region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, entered commercial service in April 2021, while its start-up was accomplished in August 2020.   

According to the ENEC, the cumulative knowledge and expertise developed by the operations teams on unit 1 had been used to connect unit 2 to the grid more efficiently, with a 10 percent reduction in the time between start-up and connection. 

The two units are now supplying a combined power of 2,800 MW to the UAE grid. The NPP is powered by 1,400 MW pressurised water reactors (PWRs) called APR-1400 designed in South Korea. Four reactors are planned to be installed at the Barakah plant.  

The ENEC is building and operating the plant, situated on the Persian Gulf coast, jointly the with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). Units 3 and 4 are at the final stages of commissioning. The development of the plant as a whole is now more than 96 percent complete. When fully operational, the plant will produce 5,600 MW of electricity for more than 60 years to come. 

“The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is a sustainable powerhouse for the UAE. The start of commercial operations at Unit 2 doubles the Barakah plant’s generation of emissions-free electricity, enabling rapid decarbonisation of the UAE’s power sector in pursuit of Net Zero 2050”, ENEC Managing Director and CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi said in a statement. 

“With Unit 2 reaching commercial operations less than 12 months after Unit 1, we have demonstrated the UAE’s megaproject capabilities, building institutional knowledge to enhance delivery to the highest standards, and offer a successful case study for other nations looking to diversify their energy portfolio using a proven and sustainable technology”, he added.  

The UAE, which has among the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, while also being richly endowed with renewable energy sources – sunlight and wind – has launched a major programme of developing alternative energy sources, including nuclear and solar. 

According to the ENEC, the Barakah plant will supply clean baseload electricity to the grid, complementing intermittent renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind, which are not able to generate electricity on a continuous basis. 

“When its four units are commercially operating, the Barakah Plant will produce up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs and will prevent about 22.4 million tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the emissions of 4.8 million cars”, the ENEC said. 

The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) issued an operating license for the Barakah unit 2 to the ENEC’s operations and maintenance subsidiary Nawah Energy Company in March 2021, with fuel loading beginning soon after. 

FANR has conducted over 335 independent inspections since the start of the NPP’s development. These reviews have been conducted alongside more than 42 assessments and reviews conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). 

The plant is now the largest single generator of electricity in the Arab world. It is also the largest contributor to reducing carbon emissions in the region, positioning the UAE as the first Arab country to have a multi-unit nuclear energy plant in operation, the ENEC said. 

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Work started on guide vanes of coolant pumps for unit 5 of India’s Kudankulam nuclear plant 

The fabrication of guide vanes, to be mounted in the housings of the reactor coolant pump sets designed for installation in the fifth unit of India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), has started in Russia, according to a statement. 

The KNPP, located in India’s Tamil Nadu state, is being built by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with the assistance of Rosatom, who are the equipment suppliers and technical consultants for the project consisting of six reactor units. 

A Rosatom statement earlier this week said that its machine building division Atomenergomash’s subsidiary, AEM Technologies. has begun manufacturing the reactor coolant pump sets, which are a safety feature of the first class in the NPP. The reactor plant equipment of one power unit includes four reactor coolant pump sets. 

“The guide vane refers to the reactor coolant pump set internals and consists of upper and lower disks, between which 13 guide blades are to be welded. The guide vane is to be mounted in the pump housing and is intended for setting the centrifugal direction of coolant flow inside the pump”, the statement said.  

The KNPP units 1 and 2, equipped with VVER-1000 type reactors of 1,000 MW capacity each, have been connected to the grid in 2013 and 2016, respectively.    

The first concrete was poured into the foundation plate of the reactor building for the fifth unit of the KNPP on June 29, 2021, which marked the official commencement of the third phase of construction consisting of units 5 and 6. The construction of unit 6 was officially launched on December 20, 2021, with the first concreting in the foundation slab of the reactor building. 

Phase 2 of the KNPP construction involving units 3 and 4, to be equipped similarly with the Russian-made VVER-1000 reactors of 1,000 MW capacity each, are currently at an advanced stage.

Welding starts of main circulation pipeline in unit 1 of Turkey’s first nuclear plant 

Welding of the main circulation pipeline has started in unit 1 of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Akkuyu being constructed with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. 

The main circulation pipeline connects the major equipment of a nuclear power plant (NPP) – reactor, steam generators, reactor coolant pumps – and is a part of the primary circuit of a nuclear power plant (NPP).  

A Rosatom statement earlier this week described the welding of the main circulation pipeline as one of the key stages in the construction of the reactor unit. 

“During the NPP operation, water at a temperature up to 330 degrees Centigrade continuously circulates through it. Only special pipes with 70 mm wall thickness can withstand such loads, therefore, pipeline welding is a complex and high-tech operation, which is subject to the most stringent requirements. The completion of the welding operation will be the starting point for open reactor circulation tests”, Rosatom subsidiary Akkuyu Nuclear’s CEO Anastasia Zoteeva said in a statement. 

The statement said the installation of the main circulation pipeline includes not only assembly and welding of pipes, “but also high-temperature treatment of joints followed by a special build-up welding on the inside of the pipeline”. This provides corrosion resistance to the pipeline, increases durability of welded joints and ensures the pipeline’s operating lifetime of at least sixty years, as stipulated by the project design.  

During the installation, specialists will have to weld 28 pipeline joints, assemble about 260 tons of pipes and steel structures, as well as to perform quality control of the welded joints , the statement added.  

Last year, the reactor pressure vessel was installed at unit 1 of the Akkuyu NPP, while four steam generators for the second unit were also shipped from Russia following the completion of their manufacture. 

During 2021, Rosatom had also announced that construction work had started on the units 3 and 4 of the Akkuyu NPP. A Rosatom statement had said that building and installation works were being carried out simultaneously at the construction sites of all four Akkuyu NPP power units, making it the world’s largest nuclear construction site with four power units being built simultaneously. 

The statement had said that the Akkuyu NPP is the first project in the global nuclear industry that is being implemented according to the Build-Own-Operate model. 

According to Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez, “construction and commissioning of the plant will provide 10 percent of Turkey’s electricity needs. It is also an important contribution to the preservation of our ecology: nuclear power plants are a source of environmentally friendly and uninterrupted electricity. The project is a driver for the development of industry, economy, employment, and also contributes to the development of many related industries.”      

Turkey plans to bring the 1,200 MW unit 1 online in 2023. With three more similar units, the Akkuyu NPP will have a total capacity of 4,800 MW. All the units are to be equipped with the state-of-the-art Generation III+ VVER-1200 reactors.

India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor attains design power level of 40 MW

India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu state attained its design power level of 40 megawatts thermal (MWt) earlier this month, according to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). 

This sodium cooled FBTR, based on the French reactor Rapsodie, attained its first criticality in October 1985 and, thus, achieved its full design power level for the first time in over 36 years since it started operating.  

A reactor with a small core, it is the first of its kind in the world to use plutonium-uranium mixed carbide as a driver fuel. The FBTR, which has a key role in India’s three-stage nuclear power programme aimed at a thorium-based closed fuel cycle, had earlier attained the maximum power level of 32 MWt that was accomplished in 2018. 

According to the IGCAR Director B. Venkatraman, the power of the reactor was gradually raised by adding fresh fuel sub-assemblies based on the performance of the mixed carbide fuel in terms of fuel liner heat rating and burn-up. 

He said that for raising the FBTR power, the core of the reactor was converted to a new 40 MWt core.  

“After getting AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) clearance, the FBTR was converted to a new 40 MWt core and all the reactor physics parameters were measured to ensure safety. Reactor was re-started with a new core and power was raised to 40 MWt”, he said.  

The main aim of the FBTR is to provide experience in fast reactor operation, large scale sodium handling and to serve as a test bed for irradiation of fast reactor fuels and materials. 

India’s nuclear power programme was conceived in the late 1960s as a closed fuel cycle to be achieved in three stages. The spent fuel generated from one stage would be reprocessed and used in the next stage of the cycle to produce power. Thus, the closed fuel cycle was designed to “breed” fuel and to minimise generation of nuclear waste. This three-stage nuclear power program in India had been conceived with the ultimate objective of utilising the country’s vast reserves of thorium-232. India has the world’s third largest reserves of thorium. 

The first stage envisages the use of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) to produce energy from natural uranium. Besides energy, PHWRs also produce fissile plutonium (Pu)-239. The second stage involves using the indigenous fast breeder reactor technology fuelled by Pu-239 to produce energy, as well as more Pu-239. By the end of the second stage of the cycle, the reactor would have produced, or “bred” more fissile material than it would have consumed. 

The final stage of the cycle would involve the use of Pu-239 recovered from the second stage, in combination with thorium-232, to produce energy and uranium (U)-233 using “thermal breeders”. This production of U-233 from thorium-232 would complete the cycle, while the U-233 would then be used as fuel for the remaining part of the fuel cycle.

Nuclear icebreaker Arktika completes historic escort of small ice-class vessels in the Arctic

In a first such operation through the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic Ocean, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika has completed escorting ships of the low ice class from east to west at this time of year. 

Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom announced earlier this week that the Arktika, owned by its subsidiary Atomflot, has escorted two ships of the Arc5 class — M/V Engineer Trubin and M/V Polar King — as well as the nuclear-powered container ship Sevmorput, through the entire waterway of the Northern Sea Route during last month.  

Rosatom’s Project 22220 to construct nuclear-powered icebreakers is designed to help keep the Northern Sea Route open for year-round shipping through the Arctic. The project’s flagship icebreaker, Arktika, is currently operating in the Northern Sea Route. 

“Today we can safely say that Arc5 ships escorted by a nuclear-powered icebreaker can pass the entire water area of the Northern Sea Route in this season”, Atomflot’s First Deputy Director General, Leonid Irlitsa, said in a statement.  

“On February 9, 2022, nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika started escorting M/V Engineer Trubin and M/V Polar King from the port of Pevek with the assistance of diesel-electric icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn. Two days later, nuclear-powered container ship Sevmorput joined the convoy in the East Siberian Sea. The world’s only nuclear-powered cargo ship was sailing from Vladivostok to Murmansk, its port of registration”, Rosatom said.  

“Due to shallow depth and specific hydrometeorological conditions, the ice situation in the East Siberian Sea is especially challenging. The operation on escorting a convoy of ships provided our crew with a unique experience and confirmed the unique capabilities of the nuclear-powered icebreaker of 22220 design”, said Arktika’s captain Vasily Gubkin. 

According to the statement, it took the convoy two days from the port of Pevek to pass the Northern Sea Route up to the western edge of the Kara Sea. Arktika, equipped with an RITM 200 reactor and integrated steam generator, continues its operations in the Ob-Yenisei region of the Northern Sea Route, the statement added. 

In December 2021, Rosatom commissioned a new nuclear-powered icebreaker named Sibir, while the nuclear icebreakers Ural, Yakutia, and Chukotka are currently under construction in St. Petersburg.   

India’s state-run nuclear operator has a new Chairman; 9 new reactors to be built by 2024 

India’s state-run operator, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), has a new Chairman-cum-Managing Director in Bhuwan Chandra Pathak, who has succeeded the previous incumbent S.K. Sharma on the latter’s retirement from service. Before taking over as the NPCIL Chairman, Pathak, who is a scientist by profession, was Director of Projects in the organisation.  

Meanwhile, the Indian government has recently announced that the country will have nine new nuclear reactors by 2024, while the first reactor in northern India will come up at Gorakhpur in Haryana state, which is 150 km away from the national capital New Delhi.  

Replying to a question in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament during its latest winter session, the Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh said that there are nine nuclear power reactors at various stages of construction which are targeted for completion by 2024. In addition, 12 more nuclear reactors have been accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the government. 
 

“By 2024 you will have nine nuclear reactors. We are going to have a nuclear project, the first of its kind, in north India just about 150 km from Delhi in a small township called Gorakhpur in Haryana”, Singh said.  

The nuclear reactors under construction include units 3 and 4 of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP), of 700 MW capacity each, located in Gujarat state. The KAPP unit 3, which became the country’s first indigenously built 700 MW reactor, was synchronised with the grid in January 2021. 

The other units under construction are units 7 and 8 with 700 MW capacity each of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan state, two units of 700 MW each at Gorakhpur in Haryana, and units 3 and 4 of 1,000 MW capacity each of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in the southern state of Tamil Nadu being built by NPCIL with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

The KNPP units 1 and 2, of 1,000 MW capacity each, are already commercially connected to the grid, while work has also started on construction of units 5 and 6 at Kudankulam.   

The reactors currently under construction in the country will yield a combined capacity of 6,200 MW. On completion of these under construction, NPCIL’s capacity will reach 12,980 MW by 2025. India’s existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW from 22 operating reactors is expected to increase to 22,480 MW by 2031. 

The Minister also informed the Parliament that nuclear energy will soon emerge as one of the most important sources of alternative or clean energy to meet the increasing power demand in the country.