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Tarapur now has fuel for many years

T.S. Subramanian

Russia delivers low enriched uranium fuel for units I & II

CHENNAI: Low enriched uranium (LEU) from Russia to fuel the first two reactors at the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) in Maharashtra has reached the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) at Hyderabad.

According to highly placed sources in the atomic energy establishment, the nuclear fuel from Russia reached Hyderabad last week. The LEU, which was flown into the Andhra Pradesh capital in the form of pellets, was taken in trucks to the NFC. At the NFC, these pellets will be clad in zircaloy tubes and sent to TAPS 1 and 2, where they will be fed into the reactors.

The precise amount of fuel that has arrived by chartered flights could not be ascertained immediately. However, informed sources say Russia has agreed to give a total of about 50 tonnes LEU to fuel TAPS 1 and 2.

Since these two Tarapur reactors are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, the particular NFC facility where the imported fuel is converted into fuel bundles is also under safeguards.

Cheap power

TAPS- 1 and 2, built by General Electric, began generating electricity in 1969. They are light water reactors (LWRS), which use enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both coolant and moderator. The two reactors now generate 160 MWe each and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. sells the electricity generated by TAPS 1 and 2 at Rs. 1.03 a unit to State Electricity Boards. Each reactor core houses 284 fuel bundles made of LEU. The bundles comprise the pellets. Each bundle is 12-foot long and weighs 182 kg.

Uranium is enriched to 2.5 per cent to generate electricity. But for nuclear weapons, it undergoes 95 per cent enrichment.

Under an inter-governmental agreement concluded between India and Russia in October 2000, Russia sent (in 2001) about 51 tonnes of LEU for TAPS-1 and 2. This fuel was adequate to run two Tarapur reactors until the end of 2007, highly placed sources in the atomic energy establishment confirmed. On March 14, 2006, Russia announced it would resume the supply of LEU to the first two units at Tarapur. It promised to send 50 tonnes of LEU and, with the consignment in hand, the two reactors can breathe easy till 2012.

France and China pitch in

Post-Pokharan I, the United States went back on its 1963 commitment to supply fuel to the two Tarapur reactors for 30 years. It cited domestic legislation, in particular the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, in justification. In 1982-83, France came in as a substitute supplier to meet the fuel needs of TAPS 1 and 2 for ten years, the balance period of the original agreement between India and U.S., which ended in 1993. Subsequently, China supplied 30 tonnes of LEU to the two safeguarded Tarapur reactors.

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