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No great future for nuclear power in India

Nuclear: Playing a marginal role 1 Sept 13,  M. RAMESH Limping all the way, the first unit of the 2,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu achieved criticality on July 13, two decades after it was conceived.

With it, the country’s total nuclear power capacity has risen to 5,780 MW. Assuming that Kudankulam’s second unit will start producing electricity eventually, the number will increase by 1,000 MW.

Currently, there are five nuclear power plants coming up: Rawatbatta in Rajasthan (two units of 700 MW each), Kakrapar in Gujarat (2×700 MW), and Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu (one prototype fast breeder reactor of 500 MW). Together, these add up to 4,300 MW. When they are all on stream — scheduled to happen by 2016 — India’s nuclear power capacity will be a little over 10,000 MW.

The nuclear establishment, though, has been speaking of 20,000 MW by 2020 and 60,000 MW by 2032. However, the road beyond the first 10,000 MW is rough, for reasons, economic and human.

On paper, the plans involve the Russians, the French and the Americans. Kudankulam 3 & 4, and perhaps 5 & 6, have been offered to the Russians (Rosatom); Chhayamithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh to the Americans (Westinghouse and GE, respectively); and Jaitapur, Maharashtra, to the French (Areva), for six units of 1,650 MW each.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India will build these plants, with reactors supplied by the companies. NPCIL also plans a bunch of 700 MW projects in several places.

But the future looks bleak. Kudankulam 3 & 4 are estimated to cost Rs 40,000 crore. Negotiations will take years and the exchange rate of the US dollar, in which prices are denominated, is certain to be higher. The very economic viability of these projects is thus under question.

There will also be protests and litigation. India has a track record of 325 reactor years of safe operation. However, that is not going to stop protestors.


September 2, 2013 - Posted by | business and costs, India

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