Uranium imports boost Indian reactor output

12 October 2010

Electricity generation from India's nuclear power plants has exceeded targets, partly through imports making uranium more readily available, according to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). 


NPCIL executive director Sudhinder Thakur said in a statement that electricity output from the country's nuclear power plants between April and September 2010 was 10.853 terawatt-hours (TWh), about 5% above the target output set by the Central Electricity Authority.


"Significantly, the nuclear power generation in the period April to September 2010 is 23% higher than the generation during the corresponding period last year," Thakur noted.


He added, "This increase in generation has been possible through augmentation of fuel supplies resulting from the international cooperation in nuclear business and import of uranium for some of the pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and also increased supply of uranium from domestic sources."


Expansion plans 


India plans to have nuclear generating capacity totalling 63,000 MWe in place by 2032, NPCIL chairman and managing director S K Jain has said.


Speaking to the International Conference on Asian Nuclear Prospects (ANUP-2010), Jain said that country plans to construct 16 indigenous PHWRs of 700 MWe each, including ten that will be fuelled with reprocessed uranium.


In addition, light water reactors (LWRs) with a combined capacity of some 40,000 MWe would be constructed with international cooperation, he added. India, he said, would also develop indigenous LWRs.


Jain said that, by 2032, India would be exporting PHWRs of 220 MWe, 540 MWe and 700 MWe.


Beyond 2030, he said, large-capacity fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and reactors based on the thorium-232 and uranium-233 fuel cycle were planned.


Thakur noted that the use of imported fuel enabled the restart in September 2009 of unit 2 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (RAPP) following en-mass feeder replacement, the start of commercial operation of RAPP units 5 and 6 in February and March 2010, respectively, and for RAPP units 3 and 4 to operate at full power from May 2010.


Increased supply of domestically mined uranium has also enabled PHWRs fuelled by domestic uranium to operate at a higher power level of about 70%, Thakur said. Increased domestic uranium supplies have also enabled the restart of unit 2 of the Narora plant following the mass replacement of coolant channels. He noted that provisions have been made for the commencement of commercial operation of unit 4 of the Kaiga plant later this year.


"With this trend, the total generation in the year 2010-11 is expected to be about 10% higher than the target fixed for the corresponding period," Thakur said. "Significantly, a target of about 32 TWh - 45% higher than the target for 2010-11 – is being proposed in respect of the year 2011-12."


India currently has 19 nuclear power reactors in operation with a combined capacity of 4183 MWe (net). According to estimates from the World Nuclear Association, some 908 tonnes of uranium will be required during 2010 to fuel these units. A further four reactors are also under construction in India.


India's uranium resources are modest, with 54,000 tonnes of uranium as reasonably assured resources and 23,500 tonnes as estimated additional resources in situ.  Accordingly, India is expecting to import an increasing proportion of its uranium fuel needs.


In July, India's science and technology minister reported that the country had received 868 tonnes of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan in the year to date. This comprised: 300 tonnes of natural uranium concentrate from Areva, 58 tonnes as enriched uranium dioxide pellets from Areva, 210 tonnes as natural uranium oxide pellets from TVEL and 300 tonnes as natural uranium from KazAtomProm.


As of August, the Department of Atomic Energy said that seven reactors (totalling 1400 MWe) were using imported fuel and working at full power, while nine reactors (2630 MWe) were using domestic uranium.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News