In a year-end assessment of the current nuclear power capacity in the country, the Indian Atomic Energy Minister, Jitendra Singh, has said that India’s installed nuclear power capacity has increased by over 40 percent in the last seven years, growing from 4,780 MW to 6,780 MW.
Responding to another question earlier this week in the Lower House of Parliament, the Minister also said that, as on November 2021, close to 55 percent progress had been made in the second phase of construction involving units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in the southern state of Tamil Nadu being built 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 KNPP units 5 and 6.
“India is pursuing an indigenous three-stage nuclear power programme to provide the country with long term energy security in a sustainable manner. In addition, Light Water Reactors based on foreign cooperation are also being set up as additional facilities to provide the country clean electricity”, Singh said in a written reply.
Earlier this month, the Minister had informed Parliament that the government plans to increase the Kudankulam facility’s current capacity of 2,000 MW to 6,000 MW in the near future. “It will increase progressively to 6,000 MW on completion of KNPP-3 and 4 (2 X 1,000 MW) and KNPP-5 and 6 (2 X 1,000 MW) which are presently under different stages of construction,” he said in a written response. He also said the KNPP units 3 and 4 are expected to be completed by March 2023 and November 2023, respectively.
In response to a separate question in the Upper House of Parliament, Singh said the government has given administrative and financial sanction for new nuclear power projects totaling 9,000 MW.
“On progressive completion of the projects under construction and those accorded sanction, the present nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW will increase to 22,480 MW by 2031”, he said.
“By 2024 you will have nine nuclear reactors plus 12 new additional ones which were approved during the Covid-19 times with a capacity of 9,000 MW. Five new sites are also being identified”, the Minister added.
As per an intergovernmental agreement, Rosatom will similarly collaborate with the state-run operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to construct 6 more reactor units at another location.
The Minister also informed Parliament that with the existing capacity of 6,780 MW, the share of nuclear power in the total electricity generation in the country in 2020-21 was about 3.1 percent.
“Nuclear power is clean and environment friendly, apart from having a huge potential to ensure the country’s long-term energy security on a sustainable basis. The nuclear power plants have so far generated about 755 billion units of electricity saving about 650 million tonnes of CO2 emission”, Singh said.
In response to a member’s query on the Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility (FRCF) at Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu), which is key to India’s three-stage nuclear power programme, the Minister said that it is expected to be completed by December 2027.
The commissioning of the FRCF, which includes India’s first pressurised fast breeder reactor (PFBR) that will add 500 MW of electrical power to the national grid, has been considerably delayed owing to technical issues.
The PFBR is a key element of India’s nuclear power programme that 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. The closed fuel cycle is designed to “breed” fuel and to minimise generation of nuclear waste.
This three-stage nuclear power production program in India had been conceived with the ultimate objective of utilising the country’s vast reserves of thorium-232 as fuel. India has the world’s third largest reserves of thorium.