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India’s Nuclear Power Corporation to commission new reactor every year

India’s Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is on a mission to commission a nuclear power reactor every year, Chairman and Managing Director BC Pathak said. In an interview with The Hindu, he also outlined the progress and future plans of the country’s nuclear power sector.
On December 17, 2023, the fourth unit of India’s largest indigenous 700-MWe pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) in Kakrapar, Gujarat, achieved criticality, marking a significant milestone. Pathak highlighted that NPCIL aims to continue this momentum, with another 700-MWe unit set to be commissioned in Rawatbhata, Rajasthan, in 2024
During the interview, Pathak also highlighted the distinction between electricity generation and energy, underlining the need to decarbonise the broader energy sector. He also stressed that nuclear power might play an essential role in producing green hydrogen, contributing to global efforts to achieve a cleaner energy transition.
Addressing concerns about delays in commissioning the Kakrapar-3 unit, Pathak clarified that the reactor was connected to the grid six months after achieving criticality, citing commissioning experiments and challenges that were successfully addressed.
He also highlighted the advanced safety features of the 700-MWe PHWRs, positioning them among the safest reactors globally.
Pathak also debunked claims that NPCIL would exclusively build 700-MWe PHWRs, stating a readiness to consider 220-MWe PHWRs if needed. He emphasised the importance of achieving economies of scale in meeting India’s substantial electricity requirements.
Pathak further mentioned India’s commitment to increasing its nuclear power capacity and addressed the progress of various nuclear projects across the country, including upcoming reactors [Rajasthan Atomic Power Station-7 (RAPS-7), Madras Atomic Power Station-1 (MAPS-1), Tarapur Atomic Power Station-1 (TAPS-1), Kudankulam-3,4, 5 and 6] and initiatives such as green hydrogen production.
Regarding delays in projects at Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh involving French and American collaborations, Pathak mentioned ongoing discussions on technical issues with EDF and Westinghouse.
Looking ahead, Pathak outlined NPCIL’s adherence to a three-stage nuclear power program, emphasising the gradual and sequential nature of nuclear technology evolution. He expressed confidence in India’s self-sufficiency in energy security as the country progresses through the stages of its nuclear power program.
“I don’t think there is any delay. We are on the right track. Our three-stage programme is the best in the world. It is self-sustaining,” said Pathak.

Nuclear Power in India

Earlier, in December 2023, the Centre announced plans to quadruple its nuclear power capacity from 7,480 megawatts (MW) to 22,480 MW by 2031-32.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh outlined the significant progress made in India’s nuclear power sector in a written response during a Lok Sabha parliamentary session. He stated that annual electricity generation from nuclear power plants has increased from 35,334 million units in 2013-14 to 46,982 million units in 2022-23.
Singh also reported that installed nuclear capacity has increased from 4,780 MW in 2013-14 to 7,480 MW.
According to the minister, nuclear power generation in India in fiscal year 2023-24 was around 32,017 million units, compared to an aspirational target of 52,340 million units.
India currently operates 23 nuclear power reactors, which have generated approximately 411 billion units of electricity over the past ten years, preventing the release of about 353 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.