The first project to benefit from the government’s resolve to boost nuclear power is the Kudankulam nuclear power station, which is being built in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is planned that at initial stage the new plant will have the capacity of 1,000 MW.
The date of its commissioning is unclear, as the government ha had to resolve some issues with the local population, concerned by the project. Initially, the project was to be commissioned fully by the end of 2012. The government has delayed this as it deals with some social issues, but it has assured all parties concerned that the nuclear facility would be built as planned. Indeed, the State plans to start building nuclear power plants in all the major states of the country, including Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Western Bengal. Some of these projects will be implemented with the participation of major international nuclear corporations and in particular Rosatom and Areva.
Despite the protests of local population, Indian government has no plans to suspend its earlier announced plans, regarding with building a number of new nuclear power plants. Currently the total number of nuclear reactors in India is estimated at 20 with total capacity of 5,000 MW power.
According to state plans, by 2050, 30 new nuclear power plants will be built, which allow to produce up to 25% of the country’s total eletricity with the use of nuclear power.
It is planned that most of new reactors will account for light water reactors, however, India plans to continue further construction of pressurized heavy-water reactors.
There are also plans to begin construction of the world’s first thorium reactor in the next few years, which will be characterized by increased security features. The new reactor is expected to be built within the boundaries of one of the country’s major cities and in particular Delhi or Mumbai, and in the case of a successful implementation of the pilot project, similar reactors can be built in other major cities of the country.
As part of the development of the domestic nuclear power, the Indian government is planning to strengthen cooperation with the world’s largest suppliers of uranium, with the aim to set its regular supplies for the domestic nuclear plants.
Due to the lack of uranium, the majority of existing operating reactors in India generate electricity in the much less volumes than their nominal capacity. Currently total requirement of uranium in India is estimated at 961 tons.
The development of nuclear power is an objective necessity for India, given that, according to the World Bank, about 40% of local citizens do not have regular access to electricity, with rolling blackouts, being a common practice in the majority cities of the country. Moreover, according to the Indian Department of Energy, up to 16% of the country’s towns and settlements are not electrified.
In the meantime, local analysts believe that India has good changes to successfully implement its plans in the field of nuclear energy, as, in addition to foreign investors, there is a huge number of local companies, which have big experience of implementation of nuclear projects, among which are Midhani, NFC, Bharat Forge, which specialize on the supply of raw materials for nuclear plants, as well as such companies as L&T, HCC and Gammon India, which have experience in the construction works in the field of nuclear power.
According to Indian government, nuclear power plants, which will be built in the country during the next several years, are expected to be among the safest in the world.
For example, the new Kudankulam plant will be equipped with four independent safety systems (including famous “corium trap»), fully complying with the current regulatory and technical documents of the IAEA and is certified for compliance with European Utility Club (EUR ) applicable to the plants, built after 2000.
However, there is a possibility that, in addition to public protests, rapid development of the Indian industry of nuclear power plants may be prevented by the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which was recently adopted by the Indian government.
The Act provided the right to operators to file regressive actions against suppliers of reactors. This has already criticized from France, the US and Russia, the world’s leading producers of nuclear reactors.