Nuclear Focus: Government seeks to boost segment growth

Government seeks to boost segment growth

The quest for curtailing carbon emissions coupled with electricity demand push factors has once again brought nuclear power development to centre stage. The recent budget has proposed an allocation of Rs 30 billion per annum towards the development of nuclear-based power capacity.

Despite an early start (in 1969), nuclear power development failed to take off significantly in India. At present, it has a share of only about 2 per cent in the total installed capacity. This was primarily due to the 1974 Pokhran nuclear test, which prevented India from undertaking any nuclear material trade. The 2008 ratification of the Indo-US nuclear deal ushered in a new era for the segment, enabling India to import uranium as well as advanced nuclear technology.

During the past year, many international agreements have been concluded for either fuel or technology procurement. Steps have also been taken to resolve liability issues through the formation of an insurance pool. Meanwhile, to augment capacity and boost investment in the segment, the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was passed in December 2015, which allows Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to enter into joint ventures (JVs) with other PSUs and government sector companies. Post the amendment, National Aluminium Company Limited’s (NALCO) board approved an investment of Rs 9 billion through the JV of NPCIL-NALCO Power Company in the Kakrapar project.

Power Line provides an overview of the nuclear power segment in the country…

Capacity and generation trends

At present, the country has seven nuclear power plants (comprising 21 nuclear reactors) with a total installed capacity of 5,780 MW. These include the 1,400 MW Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), the 1,180 MW Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS), the 1,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), the 880 MW Kaiga Generating Station, the 440 MW each Madras Atomic Power Station, the Narora Atomic Power Station and the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS). Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the total installed nuclear power capacity increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.86 per cent.

With regard to generation, the units generated increased to 37,835 MUs in 2014-15 as compared to 26,472 MUs in 2010-11, registering a CAGR of about 9.34 per cent. On a year-on-year basis, generation registered a growth of 7.08 per cent during 2014-15, a marginal decline as compared to the 7.52 per cent recorded during 2013-14.

Operational performance

Over the years, the operational performance of nuclear power plants has improved significantly. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the average plant load factor (PLF) of nuclear plants increased by about 15.34 percentage points to 80.74 per cent in 2014-15 from 65.4 per cent in 2010-11. During 2014-15, KKNPP recorded the highest PLF of 95.52 per cent followed by KAPS at 91.57 per cent.

Project pipeline

The nuclear segment has a significant number of projects in the pipeline. Projects aggregating 4,300 MW of capacity are under construction. These include Unit 2 of KKNPP (1,000 MW), Units 7 and 8 of RAPS (700 MW each), Units 3 and 4 of KAPS (700 MW each) and a 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalapakkam, Tamil Nadu. While the expected date of commissioning of Units 3 and 4 of KAPS is under review, the remaining projects totalling 2,900 MW of capacity are slated to be commissioned during 2016-17.

Among the projects under construction, Units 7 and 8 of RAPS and Units 3 and 4 of KAPS are being set up indigenously and the prototype fast breeder reactor is being developed by Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited. However, Unit 2 of KKNPP is being developed in collaboration with Russia.

The government has given administrative and financial sanction for the construction of Units 1 and 2 of the Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna (GHAVP) and Units 3 and 4 of KKNPP, with a total capacity of 3,400 MW. The GHAVP will be developed indigenously, while  the units of KKNPP will be set up in collaboration with Russia. Construction is expected to begin in 2016-17. Besides, in-principle approval has been accorded to additional sites for developing nuclear projects. These include Jaitapur (2×1,650 MW), Chutka (2×700 MW), Mithi Virdi (2×1,100 MW), Kovvada (2×1,500 MW), Mahi Banswara (2×700 MW), Kaiga (2×700 MW), Haripur (6×1,000 MW) and Bhimpur (4×700 MW). The projects are expected to be completed in six to seven years from the start of construction.

Summing up

With the government’s focus on clean energy, nuclear power appears to be an attractive option. However, it poses several challenges. Besides issues pertaining to civil liability, public opposition and time and cost overruns, there are serious safety concerns. The recent leak in Unit 1 of KAPS has revived the debate over safety.

Going forward, it is imperative to take stringent measures to prevent nuclear accidents and clear the ambiguity around civil liability to fix responsibility in the wake of a disaster. Post Fukushima, clearly, the costs of a nuclear catastrophe could be extremely high.