The fifth nuclear power reactor of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS-5) at Rawatbhatta, with a capacity of 220 MWe, reached criticality at 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday. This is the 18th nuclear power reactor in India to be commissioned in India. With this, the total nuclear power-generation capacity in India stands now at 4,340 MWe.

“The operation was very smooth. Everything went off perfectly,” S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) told The Hindu from the Control Room of the RAPS-5 reactor.

Although RAPS-5 is an indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) built by the NPCIL, it uses natural uranium fuel imported from Russia. Hence it will come under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards as per the Separation Plan under which India has agreed to put a total of 14 reactors under the safeguards. A few months earlier, the RAPS-2 reactor also started using natural fuel from Russia. The PHWRS use natural uranium as fuel, and heavy water as both coolant and moderator.

With RAPS-5 reaching criticality on Tuesday, Mr. Jain said, scientists and engineers of the station would conduct reactor physics experiments for a couple of weeks. The reactor would start generating its full power of 220 MWe by the end of December 2009 or the first week of January 2010.

Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said nuclear power capacity addition with RAPS-5 going critical was “a good thing.” The reactor was ready for some time and waiting for fuel. “This reactor forms part of the Separation Plan and accordingly, we have fuelled the reactor with imported fuel from Russia,” said Dr. Kakodkar, who is retiring on November 30 as Chairman, AEC and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy.

Mr. Jain said, “Commissioning of the sixth reactor at RAPS is in the final stage. We will be ready for loading the fuel into the reactor in the first week of December. In ten days after the fuel is loaded, RAPS-6 will go critical.” It would also use fuel from Russia as part of the Separation Plan and hence come under the IAEA safeguards. RAPS-6 would start generating its full power of 220 MWe in February 2010.

The fourth reactor at Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka would be commissioned before the end of this financial year, that is, before March 31, 2010, Mr. Jain added. However, Kaiga-4, with a capacity of 220 MWe, will use indigenous natural uranium fuel from Jaduguda in Jharkhand.

More In: National | News