The ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of India’s two biggest indigenous nuclear power reactors of 700 MWe capacity each at Kakrapara in Gujarat will take place by the end of next month (December), according to S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). They are called Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and this is the first time that the NPCIL will be building indigenous PHWRs with a capacity of 700 MWe. So far it has built PHWRs of only 220 MWe or 540 MWe.

“The excavation of foundation for both the 700 MWe units at Kakrapara will take place simultaneously by December-end. They will be completed in six years,” Mr. Jain said. Kakrapara is about 80 km from Surat. The indigenous PHWRs use natural uranium as fuel, and heavy water as both coolant and moderator.

The Union government has given financial sanction for the construction of two more 700 MWe PHWRs at Rawatbhatta in Rajasthan. The laying of foundation for them will take place by the middle of 2010. These 700 MWe reactors will form the seventh and eighth units of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS).

The fifth PHWR at Rawatbhatta (called RAPS-5), with a capacity of 220 MWe, will be commissioned by November 20. “The fuel-loading in the reactor has been completed. It is imported natural uranium fuel and it has been fabricated at the Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad,” the NPCIL Chairman said.

Heavy water will be loaded into the reactor soon. After the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which monitors safety in nuclear installations in India, gives the clearance, the reactor will be started up by November 20.

RAPS-6, which will also generate 220 MWe, will be commissioned by February, 2010.

On reports that residents of the Niweli village in Jaitapur taluq, Maharashtra, were refusing to accept compensation cheques during land acquisition for the French reactors to be built at Jaitapur, Mr. Jain said: “One thing is clear. We want to take all the local people into confidence and land acquisition will be done with their cooperation. We want to do it in a democratic manner, clear the local people’s apprehensions and convince them that it is their project which we are going to build.”

Mr. Jain denied that any “Singur-type of situation” was developing at Jaitapur and called it “a wrong comparison.” He said the NPCIL officials “will talk to the people at Jaitapur, make them part of the project and feel proud of it.” A section of the people had become emotional when physical possession of land had to be done. “If they feel that the project is going to hurt them, we will sit with them and convince them that the project is in their favour,” Mr. Jain said. The NPCIL had deposited the compensation amount with the State government and its officials should acquire the land, he said.

The NPCIL and Areva, a French nuclear company, signed a memorandum of understanding on February 4, 2009 for setting up two to six French reactors called European Pressurised Reactors with a capacity of 1,650 MWe each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district.