Kudankulam nuclear plant in India opts for more advanced fuel for its reactors 

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India has been offered a more advanced fuel option for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) by the Russian state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom, according to India’s Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh.  

In a written reply to a question in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament earlier this week, Singh said that Russia has offered the more advanced TVS-2M type fuel for use in the KNPP operating reactor units 1 and 2, in place of the currently used UTVS fuel.  

“The first lot of TVS-2M fuel assemblies has been received in May-June 2022 from Russian Federation and loaded in Unit 1 and they are performing satisfactorily”, the Minister said.  

“Use of TVS-2M fuel assemblies in KNPP reactors will allow 18-month operating cycles, as against 12-month operating cycles with UTVS fuel assemblies presently in use in Unit 2”, he added.  

Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the KNPP, India’s largest nuclear plant operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Rosatom is similarly collaborating in the construction of four more VVER-1000 type units at Kudankulam – 3, 4, 5 and 6 – of 1,000 MW capacity each. Units 1 and 2 started commercial operations in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Kudankulam is located in Tamil Nadu state.  

Singh also informed Parliament that “after detailed deliberations by experts, considering the better operational performance with TVS-2M type fuel assemblies, it was decided to use TVS-2M fuel in place of UTVS fuel assemblies in Kudankulam Units 1 and 2.” 

At a conference on nuclear fuels held last month in Hyderabad, India, Rosatom fuel arm TVEL’s Senior Vice-President (R&D), Alexander Ugryumov, made a presentation on new Russian technologies, including new materials and models of nuclear fuel and solutions for higher uranium enrichment. 

Ugryumov said that the introduction of nuclear fuel with enrichment over the 5 percent level will enable operations of VVER-1000 reactors in longer 24-month fuel cycles. Extending the fuel cycle means that a power plant may stop reactors for refueling less frequently, thereby generating more electricity per year.    

Besides, longer fuel cycles imply fewer purchases of fresh fuel assemblies, as well as less offloading of irradiated fuel bundles and, therefore, less expenditure on handling of spent fuel.    

Ugryumov also said that using fuel with uranium enrichment over 5 percent may decrease the amount of annually replaced fuel bundles which would lead to significant economic benefits over the course of the power unit’s lifecycle.   

Ugryumov had earlier told Nuclear Asia that the TVS-2M fuel assembly offers increased uranium capacity, improved heat reliability and enhanced operational safety. While UTVS are packed with 490 kg of enriched uranium pellets, the TVS-2M bundles weigh 527 kg, allowing a nuclear plant operator a lot of options in terms of an extension of a fuel cycle length from 250 up to 510 effective full-power days, he said.   

Regarding the KNPP units under construction, the Atomic Energy Minister told the Upper House of Parliament last week that while units 3 and 4 are expected to be completed by 2025, units 5 and 6 are likely to be ready for operations in 2027.