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Nuclear Power Generation

In India, out of total installed capacity of 126993.97 MW (as on 31 August 2006), the share of nuclear power is 3% at 3 900 MW. From the electricity generation point of view, nuclear power plants contributed 17 238.89 GWh out of total electricity generation of 6 17 510.44 GWh during April 2005 ? March 2006, amounting to 2.79% of total generation. However, with exponential growth in energy demand coupled with a finite availability of coal, oil, and gas; there is a renewed emphasis on nuclear energy. Moreover, nuclear energy is considered to be an environmentally benign source of energy.

Department of Atomic Energy is carrying out nuclear energy programme in India. The Indian Nuclear Power Programme has the following three stages.

1.       The first stage, already commercial now, comprised setting up of PHWRs (pressurised heavy water reactors) and associated fuel cycle facilities. PHWRs use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator and coolant. The design, construction, and operation of these reactors is undertaken by public sector undertaking the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd). The company operates 16 reactors (2 Boiling Water Reactors and 14 PHWRs) with a total capacity of 3900 MWe.

2.       In the second stage, it was envisaged to set up FBRs (fast breeder reactors) along with reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. Plutonium is produced by irradiation of Uranium-238. The Fast Breeder Programme is in the technology demonstration stage. Under this stage, the IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research) has completed design of a 500 MWe PFBR (prototype fast breeder reactor) being implemented by BHAVINI (Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam).

3.       The third stage of the Indian Nuclear Power Programme is based on the thorium-uranium-233 cycle. Uranium-233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium. Presently this stage is in technology development phase. The ongoing development of 300 MWe AHWR (advanced heavy water reactor) at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) concerns thorium utilization and its demonstration.

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