NPCIL orders BHEL equipment for local-tech nuclear plants

As part of a plan to double India’s nuclear power capacity by setting up 10 nuclear plants using indigenous technology, a government agency has put in purchase orders for more ‘reactor header assemblies’.

The order for the ten reactor header assemblies has been won by public sector unit Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd.

Reactor header assembly is a crucial part of any nuclear power reactor, along with other components such as the reactor vessel assembly.

BHEL is said the order is for 32 reactor header assemblies. It is not clear how many reactors this will be used for. However, BHEL added that reactor header assemblies for all the plants so far built under the 10-plant program have been supplied by BHEL.

It was in May 2017 that the government announced a plan to double India’s then nuclear power generation capacity by adding more than 7 GW of capacity in the form of ten new nuclear plants.

It is believed that at least one of the 10 reactors has already been completed.

These conventional plants are part of the ‘stage 1’ of India’s much-delayed nuclear development program.

The first stage uses uranium as the fuel, and are called Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors or PHWR.

The second stage depends on the successful completion of the first stage, as it requires plutonium from first-stage reactors as one of its inputs/fuels. This stage was supposed to have been started several years ago, but has been repeatedly delayed.

The second-stage reactors will produce uranium-233, setting the stage for the third and final stage of India’s nuclear power program envisioned nearly half a century ago.

In the this final stage, uranium-233 will be combined with thorium to produce electricity. India is one of the world’s largest repositories of thorium, and has enough of the mineral to run third-stage reactors for hundreds of years.

With the addition of all ten pressurized heavy water reactors, India will have over two dozen such reactors. These also have the distinction of being built using indigenous technology, unlike nearly all the existing nuclear power plants in India.

India is aiming for self-sufficiency in the nuclear power field, as it has negligible levels of uranium deposits, and has to depend on other countries to feed its existing reactors.

Earlier this year, the government informed that India’s prototype fast breeder (second stage) reactor is likely to be operational only by December 2021, nearly 30 years after it was designed/drawn up.