Indian reactors set operating records

12 October 2018

Indian design nuclear plants with 220MWe pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) continue to set national and station records for the duration of continuous power operation the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) reported. As of 3 October, the duration of uninterrupted operation of Kaiga 1 reached 873 days, a new national record. The same day,  Rajasthan 3 achieved 766 days, a new station record.

Meanwhile, commercial contracts for the construction of stations with EPR and AP1000 reactors will not be signed before 2021, according to Sehar Basu, head of the Department of Atomic Energy. He was referring to the  Jaitapur site in Maharashtra, where six Framatome ( formerly Areva) designed EPR units are planned, and the Kovvada site in Andhra Pradesh, which is to host six Westinghouse AP1000 units. Discussions on these proposals have been ongoing since 2009, following the US-India nuclear deal in 2008, which removed Nuclear Supplier Group restrictions on Western nuclear plant construction in India. Initially, US companies were offered two sites, but General Electric declined the offer.

Delays to these projects resulted partly from concerns about India’s law on liability for nuclear damage, which, in contrast to international practice, stipulates the possibility of shifting compensation payments from an operating organisation to suppliers. Other uncertainties resulted from the delays suffered by EPR projects in Finland and France and delays and cancellations of AP1000 projects in the USA.  

Work at Jaitapur and Kovvada had been expected to start after the first units with EPR reactors were launched at China’s Taishan NPP in Guangdong province and the first units with AP1000 reactors at the Sanmen NPP in Zhejiang province. However, Basu indicated further delays.  He described the launches of Taishan 1 and the AP1000 units as "good news", but noted that Indian scientists had not received sufficiently "detailed information" about the Chinese experience to satisfy the Indian regulators. India will, therefore, have to wait until the start-up of EPR and AP1000 units in France and the USA.

Basu said NPCIL will have to assume the responsibilities of a general contractor at Jaitapur and Kovvada and will need to prepare for this through training and attracting experts. He indicated that this would take two or three years. This is in contrast to Russian projects in India which are proceeding - six units at Kudankulam NPP in Tamil Nadu I two operating, two under construction and two planned) and six more units planned at another as yet unspecified site.

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