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

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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.