India enters the nuclear power club with new 7.7 GW program

Koodankulam Plant built with Russian help

India today announced among the biggest civil nuclear programs anywhere in the world, saying it will set up 7,700 MW of indigenously developed nuclear power plans.

It is the first time that the country is creating so much capacity using local technology. Nearly all Indian nuclear plants are based on imported technology.

Typically, India relies on technology supplied by countries like Japan, USA, Germany, France and Russia for creating nuclear power plants in the country.

India today has a total of 6,700 MW of nuclear power in the country, and this expansion will double the capacity. Nearly all other planned plants are also based on foreign technology.

The total demand for power in India is around 350 MW, out of which nearly half is being met by coal.

“This will raise the profile of India’s scientists and technology in the world,” power minister Piyush Goyal said.

“It will also show the world that we are taking steps to address global warming,” he said.

Nuclear power does not add to global warming, though it does create nuclear waste that needs to be disposed off safely under ground in isolated areas.

Goyal said the addition of 7,700 MW will create 33,400 jobs in the construction sector.

The capacity will be added in the form of 10 new plants of 770 MW each.

A pressurized heavy-water reactor or PHWR usually uses “unenriched” or natural uranium as fuel and heavy water or deuterium oxide as its coolant and neutron moderator.

The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a pressurized water reactor.

While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it creates greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel-enrichment facilities offsetting the additional expense of the heavy water, and enhancing the ability of the reactor to make use of alternate fuel cycles.