India Approves 10 New Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor Nuclear Units

India’s government has given the state-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL) the green light to develop 10 new domestically designed pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs).

The approval means that NPCIL, the entity that owns and operates India’s 22 nuclear reactors—a total of 6.2 GW—can begin to site and build 10 more 700-MW PHWR units.

In a statement on May 18, NPCIL called the government’s approval a “mega impetus for nuclear power,” noting that the domestic nuclear industry has “developed capabilities to manufacture and supply equipment and components to exacting standards.” Equipment and services for the new fleet will be domestically sourced, it said.

India wants to ramp up production of power from low-carbon sources and has outlined plans to install a total of 175 GW of renewables by 2022. As of March 2016, about 61% of the country’s installed capacity was coal-fired, 14% came from hydropower, 14% came from other renewables (mostly wind, followed by small hydro and biomass), 8% from natural gas, 2% from nuclear, and 1% from diesel.

India’s PHWR technology is derived from a CANDU design using uranium as fuel. India already operates 18 PHWRs, each rated at either 220 MW or 540 MW, for a total installed PHWR capacity of 4.5 GW. NPCIL, meanwhile, is building four 700-MW PHWRs, two at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in Gujarat and two at Rajasthan Atomic Power Station. Commissioning activities at the first Kakrapar unit are reportedly underway.

The government’s measure seeks to fast track its three-pronged program—developed largely during the country’s almost 30-year-long isolation from international nuclear trade—and also factors in India’s abundant thorium resources, which constitute 25% of the world’s total reserves.

The first step of the three-stage program involves building indigenously engineered PHWRs and light-water reactors to produce plutonium. The second stage uses fast-neutron reactors fueled by plutonium to breed U-233 from thorium. In the third stage, using wholly indigenous technology, the country will use advanced heavy-water reactors fueled with U-233 obtained from the irradiation of thorium in PHWRs and fast reactors.

For more see “India Gears Up to Expand Fast Breeder Reactor Fleet” in POWER’s April 2017 issue.


—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)


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