Reactors for Koodankulam

Published : Apr 11, 2003 00:00 IST

Work in progress at the Koodankulam Atomic Power Project. -

Work in progress at the Koodankulam Atomic Power Project. -

RUSSIA is to supply two more 1,000 MWe VVER-1000 nuclear power reactors for the Koodankulam Atomic Power Project (KAPP) in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. Construction of two reactors of the same specification purchased earlier from Russia is already on. Koodankulam will thus have four Russian reactors. The plant has the capacity to accommodate a total of eight units. The Russian reactors will use enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as coolant and moderator.

Russia lobbied hard for the supply of these additional reactors. At the first pour of concrete for the first two units that took place on March 31, 2002, (Frontline, April 26, 2002) E.A. Reshetnikov, the Russian Deputy Minister for Atomic Energy, presented Russia's case for building more reactors. But the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) did not respond to the overtures immediately. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPC) was prepared to construct reactors of 700 MWe or 1,000 MWe capacity if the Russian offer was not commercially viable. Finally, an agreement was reached by late 2002 on the supply of two additional reactors.

An announcement on the deal was to be made when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi in the first week of December 2002, informed sources said. It was , however, not made considering the "international sensitivities" on nuclear-related sales. The United States has consistently opposed Russia supplying nuclear reactors to India on the grounds that the latter is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), of which Russia is a member, also asked the latter not to supply reactors to India. What stood in India's favour is that it is not considered a nuclear proliferator, sources pointed out. The safety record of India's reactors is considered good. India has also respected the voluntary moratorium after the five nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 at Pokhran, Rajasthan.

While Russia will provide the reactor design and supply equipment such as reactor vessels, turbines, steam generators and so forth, NPC will build the two units. A contract was signed between NPC and the Russian company Atomstroyexport in Moscow in February 2002 for the supply of equipment.

At a press conference in Chennai on March 20, S.K. Jain, executive director (Light Water Reactors), NPC, said that there was speedy progress in the construction of the first two units. "We have signed contracts with the Russians for Rs.8,000 crores" for the supply of equipment, Jain said. Most of the equipment was in advanced stages of fabrication . "The main core of the reactor, which was to arrive in 2005, will arrive in 2004 itself," Jain said. According to him, the first unit will start generating electricity four and half years from now. The second unit will go critical six months later.

S.K. Agrawal, project director of the KAPP, said that 98 per cent of those recruited so far at the project were from Tamil Nadu. "Quite a good number of them belong to local areas. This for both technical and non-technical jobs," he said. Those who gave land for the project have been provided with jobs. Thousands of saplings have also been planted on the 420-hectare site.

S.A. Bohra, senior executive director (technical), NPC, said that the Centre had given financial approval for the construction of two reactors of 1,000 MWe each and two reactors of 700 MWe each in the Tenth Plan. He added that the Centre may approve construction of two more 1,000 MWe and another two 700 MWe reactors. According to Bohra, no more 220 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) will be built. All future indigenous PHWRs will be of 700 MWe or 1,000 Mwe. Nine reactors are under construction. They include four PHWRs of 220 MWe (two each at Rawatbhatta in Rajasthan and Kaiga in Karnataka), two indigenous PHWRs of 540 MWe each at Tarapur in Maharashtra, two Russian units at Koodankulam, and the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu. Pre-project activities of the PFBR were in full swing, he added. Fourteen reactors are generating 2,720 MWe in the country now.

T.S. Subramanian
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