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Monday, 02 Dec 2013
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Powering India with Nuclear Power Plants


Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources of electricity. Even then, as per the data released by Central Electrical Authority (CEA), out of the total 229.252 GW installed capacity of India, Nuclear Power accounts for a meager 4.78 GW. Mass protests against setting up nuclear power plants (NPP) have not only delayed the on-going projects, but have also put a big question mark on the proposed nuclear power projects.


Nuclear Power Plant India_ProjectsToday


In October 2010, India drew up an ambitious plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63,000 MW in 2032. However, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, people around the proposed Indian NPP sites have intensified their protests and environmentalists have raised questions about atomic energy as a clean and safe alternative to fossil fuels.


There have been mass protests against the French-backed 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Maharashtra and the Russian-backed 2,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. The state government of West Bengal has also refused permission to a proposed 6,000 MW facility near the town of Haripur that intended to host six Russian reactors.


Having been delayed for years, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project finally achieved a major milestone in July 2013 when the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), gave its nod for the “first approach to criticality” for Unit-I of the plant. Soon after receiving the penultimate clearance, the process of criticality was started. Unit-I of the nuclear plant soon attained criticality and began the nuclear fission process.


The 1,000 MW Unit-I of the Indo-Russian joint venture began power generation in October, producing 160 MW, which subsequently rose to 280 MW and touched 400 MW in November 2013. Since the plant was put into operation, it has generated 175 million units of power and the same has been evacuated to the Central Grid. When fully commissioned, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project's Unit-I will take India’s nuclear installed capacity upto 5.78 GW. The 1,000 MW Unit-II of the nuclear power project is expected to be fully operational by September 2014. Talks are going on between India and Russia for the III and IV units.


Even with the success of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, elsewhere the protests continue. India's plans for setting up one of the country's biggest nuclear power projects in its western region have been hampered due to inordinate delays. In 2010, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) signed an initial pact with French supplier, Areva, for the supply and installation of equipment needed for building two nuclear power reactors of 1,650 MW each at Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra. The plan was to eventually build a total of six European Pressurized Reactors with a combined capacity of 9.9 GW which would be the biggest nuclear power complex in India at a single location.


Ever since it was announced, the project has been facing stiff opposition from locals. Even on technical terms, the Jaitapur project has failed to make any progress with negotiations between Areva and NPCIL remaining inconclusive, which has delayed the signing of an agreement for the supply of equipment for the first two reactors. Now, even if the work on Unit-I begins this year, which is highly unlikely, the unit will be commissioned only in 2021. This is likely to inflate the cost per unit, which has already become a bone of contention between the concerned companies.


Other nuclear power projects have met with a similar fate, with government facing stiff protests for proposed nuclear power plants at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat, Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh, Gorakhpur in Haryana, and Chutka in Madhya Pradesh.


Ever since the Mithi Virdi site was selected for the proposed 6,600 MW nuclear power plant in 2007, residents of five villages - Mithi Virdi, Jaspara, Mandva, Khadarpur and Sosiya have been protesting against the move to acquire 777 ha of their land for the proposed nuclear power plant. The project has made little progress so far.


For the 9,564 MW Kovvada nuclear power project, with six units of 1,594 MW each, the Andhra Pradesh state government has called for a public hearing for land acquisition. Officials will receive objections from the affected land owners of Ramachandrapuram and Kotapalem and will forward the same to the state government through the district collector. NPCIL requires a total of 2,075 acre for the project. While the state government owns nearly 1,475 acre, the rest of the land (599.34 acre) will have to be acquired from locals, including farmers.


NPCIL had acquired 1,503 acre in Fatehabad in 2012 for the 2 x 700 MW Gorakhpur nuclear power plant coming up in Haryana. And, overlooking opposition from locals, NPCIL started fencing the acquired land in February 2013.


NPCIL has also declared the 2 x 700 MW Chutka Madhya Pradesh Atomic Power Project (CMPAPP) safe. An environmental impact assessment report filed by the corporation in August 2013, declared the project to be environmentally benign, techno-economically viable and sustainable. Construction of Unit-I has been planned to begin in June 2015 and that of Unit-II in December 2015. The units will possibly be ready by December 2020 and June 2021.


Nuclear power has gained importance the world over as a clean source of energy as compared to fossil fuels. In the case of India, nuclear power can help in curbing dependence on coal, which first of all, is limited in supply and insufficient for reaching India's target to nearly double the overall electricity generation by 2022. However, unless a common ground is reached between the concerned locals, companies and government bodies, the dream of emerging as a nuclear energy-rich nation may well remain a dream.


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Infrastructure Sector Developments


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  • Foundation stone laid for Unchahar-Salon-Amethi railway lined
  • Belgium sovereign wealth fund Federal Holding Company has inked a pact with IL&FS to create a fund for infra projects
  • Tamil Nadu Water Supply & Drainage Board has invited bids for a combined water supply scheme for 1,003 rural habitations
  • DMRC has invited bids for work related to the monorail project in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram


Power Sector Developments


  • GIPCL has invited bids for setting up 300 MW wind power project in Gujarat
  • Nine companies have evinced interest to develop Odisha UMPP
  • Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency has commissioned a 9.9 MW biomass project
  • Talwandi Sabo Unit-I dedicated to nation
  • Eight companies have submitted technical bids for the 4,000 MW Tamil Nadu UMPP


Quote of the week:

G R Srinivasan_Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India_ProjectsToday  

"In India, we have been using nuclear energy for the last 50 years. There are people who are living around our nuclear power plants for many decades. For example, we started the plant in Rajasthan in 1970. Forty-two years have passed and not a single person has moved away. In fact, the population has continuously increased and they are very happy there. India is among the top 10 nuclear power producers in the world; we have 20 nuclear power plants. This would not have been possible without public support.If people have doubts, they have to be cleared."

Dr. G R Srinivasan, former vice-chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India

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