The new sixth nuclear reactor at India's Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) has achieved first criticality, just two months after the fifth unit at the site reached the same milestone.
The self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction in the core of the 220 MWe (gross), indigenously designed, pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) was reached at 9.53 pm on 23 January, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) reported.
The next step for the new unit will be grid connection, at which stage the unit will be regarded as fully operational. The start-up of Rajasthan unit 6 will bring the number of nuclear power reactors in operation in India to 19, with a combined generating capacity of 4560 MWe. Total capacity will increase to 7280 MWe when new reactors are completed in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Rajasthan unit 5 - also a 220 MWe PHWR - achieved criticality on 24 November 2009 and was synchronised to the grid on 22 December. NPCIL chairman and managing director S K Jain told The Hindu newspaper that unit 5 is now generating at 50% of its capacity and would reach full power in some weeks.
The four other reactors at the site, sometimes referred to as RAPS or Rawatbhata, are also PHWRs of varying sizes which began operating between 1973 and 2001. Two further indigenously designed PHWR units of 700 MWe capacity are also planned for the site.
The progress of India's ambitious plans for nuclear energy were for many years hampered by a lack of domestic uranium and the country's long term isolation from international nuclear trade because of its status outside the full-scope safeguards under the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) implementation of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. However, Rajasthan units 5 and 6 were allowed to develop using imported fuel as they were placed under appropriate safeguards in October 2009 through a new agreement between India and the IAEA.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News