India’s nuclear power generation declined 2.66% in FY23. It’s the only major energy source registering a decline in the fiscal. In comparison, power generation by thermal units increased 8.20%, wind and solar by 19.09% and hydro by 6.87%.

As per data released by Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), in FY23, the total gross generation from a total capacity of 6,780 MW was 45,855 million units against 47,112 million units generated in FY22.

Though on paper there are 22 reactors with a total capacity of 6,780 MW, 640 MW is out of generation. Units 1 and 2 of 160 MW each at Tarapur (Maharashtra) is out of generation and is mostly on the way out. Similarly, the first unit at Rajasthan with a capacity of 100 MW is out of generation since 2004 and is likely to be shutdown.

The first unit with a capacity of 220 MW at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) is out of generation since 2018-19. Thus, in effect the total generation of 45,855 million units is from a capacity of 6,140 MW.

Though FY23 was the first fiscal since Covid to not experience lockdowns, the power demand was high. “As per the international nuclear agreement, 14 nuclear reactors are under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and each year, an IAEA team will inspect the safety aspects of the reactors and only these reactors can use imported fuel. The reactors which are not under IAEA safeguards have to depend on fuel mined within the country,” said a senior NPCIL official.

Units 1 and 2 of Tarapur started power generation in 1969 but have been out of generation since 2021-22 after nearly 52 years. They are likely to be shut down permanently.

“TAPS used to feed Maharashtra and Gujarat every day - nearly 20 per cent of the total electricity supplied to the region. Its closure would therefore cripple power production in these highly industrialised states,” said the official.

Similarly, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) Unit 1 is out of generation since 2004 and not likely to generate in the present year also.

Tamil Nadu power utilities have voiced concern over the shutdown of Unit-1 of Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam since 2018 due to issues in the reactor. Tamil Nadu gets 75% of the power generated from the two units of 220 MW each in MAPS. “NPCIL has pointed out that Unit-1 was suffering technical issues and unlikely to come online in the near future,” said a senior Tangedco official.

In Tarapur, the unit 3 with a capacity of 540 MW has generated 4,636 million units in 2022-23 compared to the previous year when the generation was 3,829 MU. But Unit 4 with a capacity of 540 MW has generated 4,349 MU in 2022-23 compared to 4,774 MU in 2021-22.

In Kaiga (Karnataka), out of the 4 units, Units 2 and 4 have generated less power in 2022-23. In Narora, both the two units have generated less power in the last financial year. The two units at Kakrapar have generated more power in the last financial year compared to the previous year.

Kudankulam, which has the maximum nuclear power capacity of 2,000 MW in two units, has generated a total of 14,226 million units which is 31% of the total nuclear power generation in the country. “The two units which faced several hiccups at the beginning has been working continuously in the last few years and has generated above 14,000 million units in the last financial year. In the present year also, we will generate more power than the last financial year,” said the NPCIL official.

The two units at Kudankulam has also received a new fuel cycle. Russia-based TVEL Fuel Company of ROSATOM has supplied first batches of TVS-2M nuclear fuel to two functioning units-1&2 of Kudankulam NPP powered by VVER-1000 reactors.

After refuelling in July 2022, the Unit 1 will start its operation in an 18-months fuel cycle. With this TVEL will be fulfilling the agreement with Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)/Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) on implementation of TVS-2M nuclear fuel with 18-month operating cycles for KKNPP. The TVS-2M nuclear fuel has several advantages over the old type of fuel.

“Compared to the UTVS fuel model, which was supplied to Kudankulam NPP previously, TVS-2M fuel assemblies have a number of advantages making them more reliable and cost-efficient. First, it is the rigidity of a bundle: because of the welded frame, the fuel assemblies in the reactor core retain their geometry, the spacer grids protect fuel rod cladding from fretting wear (preventing from depressurisation), and the additional spacer grid makes fuel assemblies more vibration-resistant,” said Rosatom, a Russia-based company.

The new fuel has increased uranium capacity-one TVS-2M assembly contains 7.6% more fuel material as compared to UTVS. Besides, the special feature of the Kudankulam fuel in particular is the new generation anti-debris filter ADF-2, efficiently protecting fuel assemblies,” said Rosatom.

“Work in the Units 3 and 4 also with a capacity of 1,000 MW each is going on fast. In Unit-3, civil construction work of main buildings like Reactor Building, Reactor Auxiliary Building, Turbine Building, etc. is in progress. Erection of core catcher has been completed. Construction of Inner Containment (IC) up to Elevation (El) +44 Metre (M) completed.

In Unit-4, civil construction work of main buildings like Reactor Building, Reactor Auxiliary Building, Turbine Building etc. are in progress. Also, construction of Hydro Technical structures is in progress for Units-3 to 6. Work is also on in Units 5 and 6 at Kudankulam, said the official.

Meanwhile, apart from the 4 units coming up Kudankulam, Centre has also approved installation of 10 nuclear reactors in five states across India. The Government has roped in public sector undertakings (PSUs) for the installation of the nuclear reactors or the exercise would be done exclusively by the specialized government agencies.

Administrative approval and financial sanction have been accorded for 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors of 700 MW each in fleet mode. The 10 reactors are to come up in Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. 

“Unless we get more nuclear fuel it is not possible to increase the nuclear power generation in the country,” said the official.

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