India has reaffirmed its commitment to thorium fuel cycle, proposing to construct a dozen indigenously-developed nuclear power reactors. These units will be supplemented by imported conventional reactors.
As part of the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will start site work next year for 12 indigenously-developed reactors, including eight pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) of 700 MWe each, three 500 MWe fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and one 300 MWe advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR). This will take forward India's long-standing commitment to the thorium fuel cycle, notwithstanding the opening up of trade in uranium and conventional nuclear technology.
The eight PHWRs were supposed to have been in the last five year plan, but constraints on uranium mining in India delayed them and set back the overall schedule, according to NPCIL Chairman, S K Jain.
This week he said that "India is now focusing on capacity addition through indigenisation" with progressively higher local content for imported designs, up to 80%.
Looking ahead, NPCIL's augmentation plan includes construction of 25-30 light water reactors of at least 1000 MWe by 2030, and NPCIL is currently identifying coastal sites for the first of these, both 1000 and 1650 MWe types.
Speaking to an industry forum in August, but in anticipation of the easing of trade restrictions, Dr Anil Kakodakar, Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) outlined his vision for India becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.
Long term, the AEC envisages its fast reactor program being 30 to 40 times bigger than the present PHWR program, which has some 4.4 GWe operating or under construction and 5.6 GWe planned. This will be linked with up to 40 GWe of light water reactor capacity, the used fuel feeding ten times that fast breeder capacity, thus "deriving much larger benefit out of the external acquisition in terms of light water reactors and their associated fuel." This 40 GWe of imported LWR multiplied to 400 GWe via FBR synergy would complement 200-250 GWe based on the indigenous programme of PHWR-FBR-AHWR. Thus, AEC is "talking about 500 to 600 GWe over the next 50 years or so" of nuclear capacity in India, plus export opportunities.
The AEC also said that India now has "a significant technological capability in PWRs, and NPCIL has worked out an Indian PWR design" which will be unveiled soon. The main commercial experience has been building the two Kudankulam VVER reactors under Russian supervision.