It uses Russian fuel and will come under the IAEA safeguards. Reactor will work at full capacity by end December or early January

The fifth nuclear 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 to be commissioned in the country. With its commissioning, the total nuclear power-generation capacity now stands at 4,340 MWe.

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

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, RAPS-2 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, Mr. Jain said, scientists and engineers would conduct reactor physics experiments for a couple of weeks. The reactor would start working at full capacity by the end of December 2009 or the first week of January 2010.

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Anil Kakodkar said RAPS-5 going critical was “a good thing.” The reactor, ready for some time, was 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 AEC Chairman and Secretary of the 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. 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 entire 220 MWe in February 2010.

The fourth reactor at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka would be commissioned before the end of this financial year, that is, before March 31, 2010, Mr. Jain said.

However, Kaiga-4, with a capacity of 220 MWe, will use indigenous natural uranium fuel from Jaduguda in Jharkhand.

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