Indian Tarapur reactor goes critical

9 March 2005

The 540MWe Tarapur Atomic Power Project (TAPP)-4, India’s largest totally indigenously built nuclear reactor, reached criticality on 6 March. The reactor, on the Arabian sea coast at Tarapur in Thane district of Maharashtra is expected to be joined by TAPP-3, a twin unit of TAPP-4, which is due reach criticality in March 2006. Both reactors are adjacent to the first two reactors built at Tarapur in the late 1960s by GE.

The reactors have reportedly been developed ahead of schedule, taking less than five years, and below costs. The original costs of construction of both TAPP-3 and 4 was expected to be Rs 80 billion ($1.86 billion) but apparently came in at Rs 60 billion ($1.39 million). Consequently, power from the plant will be sold for Rs 2.65 (¢6.1/kWh) as opposed to the initial estimate of Rs 3.5/kWh (¢8.1/kWh). Maharashtra would receive 39% of the output from the two new reactors, Madhya Pradesh 19% and Gujarat 17%, while some would be allotted to Goa, Daman and Diu. The Centre would also retain a share for allotment to power deficient states. TAPP-4 is expected to begin commercial operations in August.

Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said that the development signified an important turning point in building larger units. The focus would now be on building nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 700MWe because building larger power reactors will result in a 20% reduction in capital cost. This echoed SK Jain, chairman and managing director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), who unveiled ambitious plans to build two 700MWe reactors, another two reactors of 1000MWe each and the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) of 300MWe capacity before March 2007. The NPCIL has already built 12 smaller Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) of 220 MW or less which use uranium fuel and heavy water as both moderator and coolant. India has an ambitious atomic energy programme which aims to generate 20,000MWe by 2020 from a current capacity of about 3310MWe. The NPCIL now has eight units under construction and plans to add another 4000MWe by 2007 and to 10,700MWe by 2011.

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