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India’s uranium shortage woes to end: Kakodkar
Published on 2 Aug. 2009 11:35 PM IST
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Uranium shortage faced by Indian atomic power plants is expected to end by 2012-13 with the expansion of existing uranium mines and mills and development of new ones, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman Anil Kakodkar said here Sunday. “The availability of uranium is improving as we have expanded the capacity of a mill at Jaduguda (in Jharkhand). The PLF of NPCIL’s power plants is going up and it will be around 55 percent by FY2010 and 65 percent the next year as uranium availability continues to improve,” Kakodkar told reporters at Kalpakkam, about 45 km from Chennai. The plant load factor (PLF) of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) power plants had gone below 50 percent in recent times owing to shortage of uranium. The company has a capacity to generate 4,120MW of atomic power. The government-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) is operating five underground mines in Jharkhand at Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Bagjata; an opencast mine at Bandhurang and two processing plants at Jaduguda and Turamdih. Construction activities are on for setting up a mine at Mohuldih in Jharkhand and a mine and mill at Tummalapalli in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. UCIL proposes to set up a mine and mill at Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah in the West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya. In addition, it also proposes to set up mines and mills at Lambapur-Peddagattu in the Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh, and a mine at Gogi in Karnataka. Kakodkar said the Thumalapalli project will be ready by 2013 and exploratory work is on in Meghalaya and Karnataka. The new mill at Turamdih in Jharkhand will be completed soon. He said two more units of nuclear power plants of 220 MW each in Rajasthan and one unit in Kaiga, Karnataka, are expected to go onstream soon. He agreed that small light water reactor (LWR) with a capacity of up to 100 MW -- similar to the one designed and developed to power India’s first nuclear submarine INS Arihant that was launched last Sunday -- to generate electricity for rural areas was an interesting possibility. But, he added, the nuclear establishment has no such plans. “Generation of power from such small plants will be costly. Our immediate focus is to import LWRs so as to build the nuclear power capacity at a quick pace.” He said for LWRs for power generation would require a large-scale enrichment facility and “we didn’t take that decision as uranium availability is low and insufficient and hence decided on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) in the first stage”. He said the imported LWRs will get lifetime fuel supplies from the country of import. “If needed, we will put up a uranium enrichment facility,” Kakodkar said. He further said the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, is focussed on developing high-temperature reactors for power generation, propulsion and even development of alternative fuel like hydrogen. Srikumar Banerjee, BARC director and AEC member, added: “High-temperature reactors can split water and produce hydrogen that is expected to become the fuel of the future.” He said the current PHWRs operate at 300 degree centigrade while in the case of fast reactors it is 500 degrees. “When the reactor temperature goes up to 900 degree the operating efficiency will go up further,” Banerjee added. India’s nuclear establishment is looking at building 700 MW PHWRs. The government has sanctioned construction of four units and four more units are being planned.

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