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Banerjee says nuclear energy will help inclusive growth

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 22, 2010
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 22, 2010

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee today said nuclear power was important for a country like India where availability of electricity would act as an instrument of inclusive economic growth.

Speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna today, Dr Banerjee said a recent study had estimated that nuclear power must contribute about half of the Indian electricity generation capacity so as to nearly eliminate the dependence of the country on import of energy resources while achieving a developed status.

"We remain committed to the 3-stage nuclear programme formulated under the visionary leadership of Dr. Homi Bhabha, founder of India’s nuclear programme. India attaches a high priority for adopting a closed fuel cycle and thorium utilization on account of relatively limited domestic uranium reserves while having large thorium deposits. Water cooled reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium based power generation remain the key elements of our sustainable nuclear programme," he said.

Dr Banerjee said the total installed nuclear power capacity in the country was now 4560 MWe, with 19 operating reactors.

He en masse replacement of coolant channels and feeders were completed in pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Kakrapar and Narora. Construction of the Kaiga-4 PHWR has been completed and the unit is ready for fuel loading. Three of the reactors have registered uninterrupted runs of more than 400 days, he said.

Dr Banerjee said construction of two 1,000 MWe light water reactors at Kudankulam in cooperation with Russia was nearing completion. Work on two indigenous 700 MWe units each at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan and Kakrapar, Gujarat has started and the first pour of concrete is planned later this year, he said.

He said the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is at an advanced stage of construction. The spent mixed carbide fuel from the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) with a burn-up of 155 GWd/t was reprocessed in the Compact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells (CORAL). Thereafter, the fissile material was re-fabricated as fuel and loaded back into the reactor, thus "closing" the fast reactor fuel cycle.

The AEC chief said that, based on the already established indigenous technology, India was expanding its uranium enrichment capacity which would meet a part of the requirements of light water reactors.

"Setting up adequate reprocessing capability has been an important element of our closed fuel cycle based programme. Recently, India has commenced engineering activities for setting up of an Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant with facilities for both reprocessing of spent fuel and waste management," he said.

He said in-principle approval had been accorded for energy parks at five coastal sites. Each park will be populated with a number of water-cooled reactors to be constructed through international cooperation. Thus India is poised to expand its installed nuclear power capacity to about 60 GWe by 2032.

"International cooperation will not only provide an additionality to our own programme in meeting immediate requirements but also fill up the energy deficit in the coming decades through the operation of the closed fuel cycle," he said.

Dr Banerjee said India was self-sufficient with regard to heavy water, zirconium alloy components and other related materials and supplies for PHWRs. A new zirconium complex has been commissioned for production of reactor grade zirconium sponge.

He said the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad manufactures fuel assemblies of different types of reactors, such as PHWRs, boiling water reactors and fast breeder reactor. India has wide-ranging capabilities in uranium mining and mineral processing facilities.

He said the Uranium deposit at Tumallapalle, where a new mine was recently opened, had a promise to yield about three times of what was originally estimated.

He told the conference that India was pursuing aggressively uranium prospecting using modern geo-physical techniques, some of which have been indigenously developed. India is also interested in joining with international partners in developing uranium mining opportunities abroad, he said.

According to him, Indian PHWRs offer a basket of options for countries that are looking for cost competitive and proven technologies in the small and medium size reactors.

"Therefore today Nuclear Power Corporation of India is ready to offer Indian PHWRs of 220 MWe or 540 MWe capacity for export. Indian industry is not only poised to play a bigger contribution to India’s own nuclear programme but also is on the way to becoming a competitive supplier in the global market with regard to special steels, large size forgings, control instruments, software, other nuclear components and services," he said.

He mentioned that India was in the process of setting up the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership which would provide a forum for joint work with its international partners in areas of topical interest.

Noting that the theme of the Scientific Forum of the conference was related to cancer and its mitigation, Dr Banerjee said the Tata Memorial Centre at Mumbai conducts several training programmes in collaboration with the IAEA - RCA for various countries in the Asia Pacific region. A national cancer grid is being set up by connecting several hospitals with the Tata Memorial Centre. In addition, about 30 webcasts on continuing medical education are relayed every year, he said.

He said the IAEA’s Programme on Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) enables the channeling of resources and expertise to the needy and developing countries. An indigenously developed BHABHATRON Teletherapy unit donated by India to Vietnam under PACT was inaugurated in April this year, he said, adding that India would donate two of these machines, including one to Sri Lanka, soon.

Dr Banerjee said India's hybrid Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Plant (NDDP) at Kalpakkam, based on multistage flash evaporation and reverse osmosis processes, producing 6.3 million litres per day and?is one of the largest such units in the world.

He said India continues to use nuclear science to achieve higher agricultural productivity. This year two new mutant lentil varieties ("Pairy mung" and "Trombay Jawahar Tur") were notified for commercial cultivation, taking the total number of mutant crop varieties developed by Bhabha Atomic Research (BARC), using nuclear techniques to 39.

He mentioned other achievements in research and development in this area, including:

· Installation of Indian Real Time Online Decision Support (IRODOS) system at Narora Atomic Power Station for providing guidance to the emergency managers for making quick decisions based on projected impact of accidental releases from the plant.

· The synchrotron radiation source at Indore is now fully functional and several beam-lines have been set up for experiments.

· India’s first industrial scale production facility for enriched boron based on exchange distillation has been commissioned at Talcher and a similar facility based on ion exchange chromatography is commissioned at Manuguru.

Dr Banerjee said there was an urgent need to give a renewed thrust to take nuclear technology to greater heights for spreading its benefits to all of humanity.

"In order to satisfy the growing energy needs of the world while caring for the environment, the Agency will need to further enhance its efforts towards new innovations and appropriate technology solutions," he said.

He said global nuclear power generation was expected to reach about 500 GWe by 2030. For large scale deployment of nuclear power generation, it is essential to develop technological solutions as well as institutional approaches to address issues of economics, safety, environment, waste management, infrastructure, proliferation resistance and sustainability, he said.

He mentioned that Parliament had recently passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill,?2010 after extensive debate. "This legislation will go a long way in increasing public confidence and in creating a predictable environment in which leading vendors can participate in India’s nuclear programme," he added.

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