It will still not be sufficient to meet India's needs: Banerjee

Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh could have one of the largest uranium reserves in the world. Recent studies have indicated that it could have a reserve of 1.5 lakh tonnes of the scarce material.

Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Srikumar Banerjee said: “Studies have already shown that the area had a confirmed reserve of 49,000 tonnes and recent surveys indicated that this figure could go up even three folds.”

He was here to inaugurate the construction work on two more units of 700 MW each at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS), by making “the first pour of concrete.”

Exploration under way

He said uranium deposits in Tummalapalle appeared to be spread over 35 km. Exploratory works are under way. At present, the country is estimated to have a total reserve of about 1,75,000 tonnes of uranium, apart from this.

Terming the new findings a major development, Dr. Banerjee, however, pointed out that the indigenous reserves would still not be sufficient to meet the entire demand of the country's nuclear programme. “The new findings would only augment the indigenous supply of uranium. There would still be a significant gap. We would still have to import.”

Dr. Banerjee sought to allay any misapprehension that the government was keener on importing nuclear technology than promoting indigenously developed technology and said the Centre was seeking to import nuclear technology only to ensure faster development of nuclear power. He asserted that setting up of plants based on indigenous and imported technologies would proceed alongside.

“Nuclear power is absolutely essential to meet the growing energy needs of the country. If the economy has to grow by 9 per cent per annum, we need a 10 per cent growth in electricity production. We cannot do without nuclear power.”

To be ready in five years

The two new units at Rawatbhata are being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 12,000 crore and are scheduled to be ready in five years from “the first pour of concrete.”

The reactors are on the lines of the two 700 MW reactors under construction at Kakrapar in Gujarat. They have been designed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited by scaling up the 540 MW reactors operating at Tarapur in Maharashtra since 2005.

The reactors have advanced safety features, including passive safety systems that work on natural principles such as gravity, and natural convection and do not need operator intervention or motive power to ensure reactor safety under any state of operations.

According to a NPCIL note, there would be two independent and diverse systems to shut down the reactor, a passive decay heat removal system to ensure cooling of the reactor core even in case of total loss of power and steel-lined containment to contain the entire radioactivity within the reactor building even in a severe accident scenario.

Noting that the country already had 20 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 4,780 MW in operation and seven more with a capacity of 5,300 MW were under construction, NPCIL Chairman and Managing Director S.K. Jain said more reactors were being planned to take the total installed capacity to at least 20,000 MW by 2020.

Among other things, NPCIL is working towards setting up two more reactors of 1,000 MW each at Kudankulam, and two each in Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh of 700 MW each, apart from two units of 1,650 MW each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.