Equipment orders to kick off 700 MWe nuke projects in ‘fleet mode’ from 2023

In kicking-off the biggest expansion of the country’s nuclear power capacity, the purchase orders for bulk procurement of critical equipment such as steam generators, lattice tubes, pressuriser forgings and reactor headers have been placed for the construction of the 10 proposed units of the new indigenous 700 MWe (mega watt electric) pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs).

The engineering, procurement and construction packages for the turbine island (conventional part of the atomic power stations) have been awarded for four units of two of these projects being developed by state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL).

The moving of the reactor construction from the “pre-project stage” to the “under construction stage” will be marked by the First Pour of Concrete (FPC) of the 700 MWe atomic power plant in Karnataka’s Kaiga in 2023, which will be first of the blocks and will set into motion the construction of the 10 nuclear reactors in a ‘fleet mode’ over the next three years, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officials told the Parliamentary panel on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The Centre had approved the construction of these 10 PHWR in June 2017 — the first time that it had cleared the building of 10 nuclear power reactors in one shot in a ‘fleet mode’ with an aim to reduce costs and speed up construction time. The projects entail an estimated cost of Rs 1.05 lakh crore.

The PHWRs use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as the moderator, and are the mainstay of the country’s nuclear power programme.

The addition of 7,000 MWe is more than the combined present installed capacity of 6,780 MWe. There are 22 reactors under operation as of today.

After the FPC of Kaiga units 5 & 6 in 2023, the Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Praiyonjan units 3 & 4 and Mahi Banswara Rajasthan Power Projects units 1 to 4 are slated for 2024; and that of Chutka Madhya Pradesh Atomic Power Project units 1 & 2 in 2025, officials of the DAE told the House panel.

Bulk procurement is underway for the fleet mode projects, with purchase orders placed for forgings for steam generators, SS 304L lattice tubes and plates for end shields, pressuriser forgings, bleed condensers forgings, incoloy-800 tubes for steam generators, reactor headers, the DAE officials said, adding that the EPC package for turbine island has been awarded for the Gorakhpur units 3 & 4 and the Kaiga units 5 & 6.

The new reactors are of significantly higher capacities compared to the PHWRs currently under operation — the standard PHWR being used in India is of 220 MWe, though two 540 MWe reactors were installed in Tarapur in 2005 and 2006. The 10 new reactors will be installed in Kaiga in Karnataka (Unit 5 & 6), Chutka in Madhya Pradesh (Unit 1 & 2), Gorakhpur in Haryana (Unit 3 & 4) and Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan (Unit 1, 2, 3 & 4).

The decision to step up the indigenous civil nuclear reactor programme comes amid delays in the deployment of imported light water reactor-based projects in collaboration with global vendors.

The NPCIL will set up the projects deploying the proposed 700 MWe reactor units, which marks a big leap for the state-owned nuclear operator that has so far been building smaller-sized 220 MWe and 540 MWe reactor units as part of the country’s indigenous nuclear power programme.

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