Fuel loading starts at India’s second indigenously built 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar

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Initial fuel loading began last month at India’s second fully indigenously built 700 MW pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) – unit 4 at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP) in Gujarat state –  the operator state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has said.

The country’s only other indigenously built 700 MW reactor, the KAPP unit 3, began commercial operations in September 2023, following its connection to the grid in January 2021. 

“Loading of nuclear fuel for the first time, termed as Initial Fuel Loading (IFL). commenced today in NPCIL’s Kakrapar Atomic Power Project Unit-4 (KAPP 4-700 MWe), after receipt of permission from the regulatory authority, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB),” NPCIL said in a statement. 

“Initial fuel loading is an important milestone in the setting up of a nuclear power plant, as it is the prelude to the approach to criticality (start of fission chain reaction) and subsequent start of power generation,” it added.  

The AERB said it had issued permission for fuel loading to begin “based on satisfactory outcome of the requisite safety review”. 

The NPCIL has three operational nuclear power plants at KAPP – two 220 MW units and one 700 MW unit. 

The former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman, Anil Kakodkar, had earlier told Nuclear Asia that “Kakrapar 3 is a true example of indigenous technology developed and built in India with fifteen more such units to follow in fleet mode.”  

“The success of this 700 MW unit comes on the back of India’s nuclear programme that has earlier put on stream indigenously designed reactors with capacities of up to 540 MW”, he added.  

Kakrapar 1 and 2 – both Indian-designed PHWRs of 220 MW each – entered commercial operation in 1993 and 1995, respectively.   

Two more 700 MW PHWRs are currently under construction at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant.   

“With the successful and stable operation of KAPP-3, the capability of NPCIL in setting up of indigenous reactors of PHWR technology of this size is validated and paves the path for early completion of the remaining 14 reactors, beginning with Units 7 and 8 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan,” the statement said. 

“The indigenous 700 MWe PHWRs are designed, constructed, commissioned and operated by NPCIL, with the supply of equipment and execution of contracts by Indian industry,” it added. 

The Indian government has earlier approved the fleet mode construction of ten PHWRs, each of 700 MW capacity, at a total estimated cost of $16.3 billion. The fleet mode of construction of multiple units ensures standardisation, lower costs and speeds up the setting up of nuclear power plants in the country.  

Besides, construction is underway of four more Russian supplied units of 1,000 MW capacity each at India’s largest nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu state. The units 1 and 2 at Kudankulam, also of 1,000 MW each, started commercial operations in 2014 and 2016, respectively  

India currently has 23 reactors in operation with a total capacity of around 7,500 MW.