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NPCIL takes up challenge to double n-power contribution

By T.S. Subramaniam

KALPAKKAM, JAN. 31. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has ``accepted the challenge'' of doubling its fresh contribution of nuclear electricity during the Tenth Plan (2002- 2007) from 1,300 MWe to 2,600 MWe.

The NPCIL chairman and managing director, S.K. Jain, said the NPCIL was to originally add 1,300 MWe to the grid during the Tenth Plan, with two units (540 MWe each) of the Tarapur Atomic Power Project and a third unit (220 MWe) at Kaiga, Karnataka, reaching criticality. But the Union Power Ministry asked the corporation if it could step up its target.

``We accepted this challenge and we agreed that we could add one Koodankulam unit (1,000 MWe) to the grid,'' he said.

Mr. Jain was presiding over the golden jubilee celebrations of the Department of the Atomic Energy (DAE) organised at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS), Kalpakkam.

The NPCIL was building the first Russian VVER-1000 unit at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu and it would reach criticality before March 2007. [Another unit of 220 MWe too is set to reach criticality.] ``So we will go up from 1,300 MWe to 2,300 MWe/2,600 MWe during the Tenth Plan,'' he said.

The NPCIL was now building nine reactors. ``Nowhere in the world are so many reactors simultaneously under construction,'' Mr. Jain said.

Fourteen reactors are now operating in the country, generating a total of 2,820 MWe.

The nuclear power sector in India had become ``a mature industry'' with R and D support from the DAE organisation and the industry. The sharp reduction in the gestation period of the nuclear power projects to less than five years and the 90 per cent average capacity factor of the power stations had made nuclear power cheaper by 10 to 15 per cent or by 50 paise a unit.

Satyabrata Mookherjee, Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space, said there was a compelling need to use thorium as fuel in future reactors, because the country had limited resources of uranium and vast amounts of thorium.

The Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) with 300 MWe capacity, which will be powered by thorium, was under development. This would signal the start of the third phase of India's nuclear electricity programme.

The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (500 MWe), which was under construction at Kalpakkam, spelt the start of the second phase.

The first phase saw the operation of natural uranium-fuelled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRS).

M.S. Swaminathan, agriculture scientist, who spoke on `Atomic Energy for Sustainable Development,' said the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, the premier R and D organisation of the DAE, had made great contributions to agriculture by developing mutants called the Trombay variety (in groundnuts, pulses and rice), irradiation of vegetables and spices, sterilisation and pasteurisation among others.

``The gap between the know-how available in BARC and the do-how in the field is very high,'' he said. The radiation vaccine developed in the country had eradicated the lung-worm infection among sheep and made the Gujjars in Kashmir smile, he said.

Dr. Swaminathan paid tributes to Homi J. Bhabha, founder of India's atomic energy programme, who had visualised that nuclear electricity generation would be one of the most important applications of atomic energy.

The director, BARC, B. Bhattacharjee, said the BARC, the NPCIL and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Energy at Kalpakkam, which developed breeder reactors, had provided energy security.

V. Rangarajan, former director (operations), NPCIL, said MAPS stood as a monument of the nation's indigenisation of its nuclear electricity programme.

T.S. Rajendran, station director, MAPS, who welcomed the gathering, said the DAE was formed on August 3, 1953. The en masse coolant channel replacement in the second unit of MAPS in 18 months, against the target of 24 months, had extended the reactor's life by 30 years.

S. Krishnamurthy, chief superintendent, MAPS, proposed a vote of thanks.

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