India’s Kaiga nuclear plant sets world record in operation

The Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, developed using Indian technology, has set the world record for the longest uninterrupted operation.

The 220 megawatt unit, operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, has produced power continuously for 941 days, breaking the world record of 940 days held by Heysham-Unit 2 of the United Kingdom. The record is valid across all types of nuclear power plants across the world.

The Kaiga unit is part of the first phase of India’s indigenous nuclear power program. India has been forced to come up with its own nuclear power technology due to sanctions imposed by foreign powers after its nuclear bomb tests in the 70s.

Under the country’s indigenous program, the first phase comprises Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors or PHWR using uranium, most of which has to be imported due to a lack of uranium resources in the country.

India will then use plutonium obtained from these PHWRs to operate Fast Breeder Reactors or FBRs. These Fast Breeder Reactors will in turn create a ‘waste’ product called Uranium-233.

In the third and final stage, Uranium-233 will be combined with Thorium in advanced reactors. India has enough Thorium to run these reactors for 10,000 years.

As of now, India is still in stage 1. It’s first full-scale reactor of the second stage — the prototype fast-breeder reactor (PFBR) — has faced repeated delays in achieving criticality, and is now expected to do so next year.

The first stage of the indigenous nuclear power program of the country can be considered mature, with 18 operating PHWRs. 

Last year, the government also announced an ambitious plan to scale up the PHWR program by adding 10 new plants of 770 MW each.

One of the significant players in India’s indigenous nuclear program is BHEL Ltd, which is the supplier of the main plant equipment for Kaiga Atomic Power Station, including the 220 MW Steam Turbine Generator set.

BHEL is currently installing two units of its highest rating 700 MW nuclear sets at Kakrapara, Gujrat and Rawatbhata, Rajasthan as part of the 10-plant plan announced last year.