A massive increase in indigenous fuel production is on the cards to meet the country’s ambitious nuclear energy programme, with the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) firming up plans to establish a Rs.1,000 crore plant in Rajasthan and proposing to set up joint ventures for fuel fabrication with American, Russian and French companies.

Though the Department of Atomic Energy initially chalked out plans to increase nuclear energy output to around 20,000 Megawatt electric (MWe) by 2020, it was expected to go up substantially by the energy generated by indigenous and imported reactors. The NFC is expanding facilities to meet the fuel requirement for these reactors, as around 35,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes are required every year for each plant.

While 15 nuclear reactors are currently generating 4, 120 MWe, three more will be commissioned shortly. Of them, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS-1) and RAPS-2 are already under international safeguards and another eight (each of 220 MWe) will be opened in a phased manner for safeguards to facilitate use of imported uranium.

Besides, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is proposing to set up eight more PHWRs (pressurised heavy water reactors) of 700 MWe each, with a plan to commission them by 2014-2015. Of them, four will be in the first phase — two each in Rajasthan (RAPS-7 and RAPS-8) and Kakrapar (Gujarat).

Talking to The Hindu, NFC chief executive R.N. Jayaraj said the NFC proposed to enhance fuel production facilities in two streams for the indigenous, as well as the imported reactors. He said the pre-project activities were in full swing for establishing a 500-tonne NFC plant at Rawatbhata, near Kota.

This plant will initially meet the requirement of the four reactors, with each of them needing 125 tonnes. For the other four reactors, the NFC will establish facilities to manufacture 500 tonnes of fuel per annum, either in Rajasthan or another other suitable location.

With VVER-type Light Water Reactors (ranging from 1000 MWe to 1600 MWe ) planned to be imported from different countries, the NFC will start fuel fabrication facilities on a massive scale.

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