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India Doubles Down on Domestic 700 MW PHWR Design

India Doubles Down on 700 MW PHWR Design

  • India’s installed nuclear power capacity is expected to rise with the addition of 12 new nuclear reactors.
  • Nine of the new reactors to be built and completed by 2032 will be the 700 MW PHWR design

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told Parliament on August 14th that it will complete nine 700 MW PHWR commercial nuclear reactors which are under construction by 2025 for a cumulative total of 6700 MW. The PHWR is a domestic design based on the CANDU type reactor which uses heavy water and U238 to provide a critical reaction.

The design does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) like a PWR or BWR.  This is important because India does not have the manufacturing capability to produce the large forgings needs to make RPVs.

Additionally, the agency reported that a 500MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor — a next-generation reactor — being built in Kalpakkam near Chennai. Finally, the agency noted that two 1000 MW VVER reactors being built by Rosatom at Kudankulam are also expected to be completed in this timeframe.

The 12 additional nuclear reactors, in addition to the 9 under construction, were "accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the government in June 2017", the DAE said in its statement. They are all likely to be PHWRs unless NPCIL comes to terms with EDF/Areva and Westinghouse.  Separately, Rosatom has agreements in principle with India for six more nuclear reactors.  Units 3 & 4 at Kudankulam are under construction with plans for units 5 & 6 at that site.

Where things become interesting is that the government has no plans to also complete any reactors provided by western vendors during this time frame. A DAE official told Parliament, “This planned expansion till 2031 will involve only home-grown reactors and not imported ones.”

The policy decision could be a major blow to plans by France’s state-owned EDF/Areva to build six 1650 MW European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) at Jaitapur on India’s west coast. It culd also put on ice, perhaps indefinitely, plans by Westinghouse to restart a project to build six 1150 MW AP1000s in Andhra Pradesh on India’s east coast.

India has kept western vendors at arms length for over a decade due in part to a strict supplier liability law and also strong political pressure to use the domestic 700 MW PHWR design which can be built entirely by Indian companies. A second political influence comes from India’s coal interests who have no desire to see fossil fuel electric power plants shut down and replaced by nuclear reactors.

In a parallel statement the Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) said that despite the country’s climate action pledges to the United Nations in 2015, the country has reduced its target of achieving 63,000 MW of nuclear power by the mid-2030s.

[Seemy report in April 2018:  India plans to slash its targets for new nuclear reactor construction by two-thirds.]

NPCIL now says there is no firm target had been fixed for the period beyond 2024 and that the pace of expansion would depend on both domestic reactors, and at some point in the future also on imported reactors.

In June EDF/Areva announced the latest “strategic cooperation agreement” for the planned construction of six 1,650MW reactors at Jaitapur, Maharashtra. However, DAE later said the plan, under discussion for over a decade, has been held up by unspecified technical and commercial issues.

Both the EPR and the AP1000 will need reactor pressure vessels. In the case of the EPRs, France has the manufacturing capability to make them.  However, the AP1000s will need to place their orders for RPVs with South Korea or Japan and get in line for delivery.

Nuclear Talks with Western Vendors “Ongoing”

According to a July 23rd report by World Nuclear News, India is in active talks with French and US companies on projects to build new nuclear power plants at Jaitapur and Kovvada, the country’s minister of state, Jitendra Singh, confirmed in a statement to Parliament.

The minister was responding to questions in both houses of India’s parliament. Singh told the Rajya Sabha – India’s upper house – that discussions between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and EDF on a project to build six 1650 MWe EPRs at Jaitapur in Maharashtra were “advancing” towards a project proposal. In point of fact there has been no substantive change in the status of either project.

Singh told the Lok Sabha – the lower house – that final discussions of project proposals for a six-unit plant at Kovvada were under way. Kovvada, in Andhra Pradesh, has been earmarked for the construction of six 1250 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Cost Factors Continue to Drive the Discussions

The cost of reactors for these sites will continue to be a key factor in the technical and commercial discussions and formulation of the project proposals. India has objected to the high costs of the western reactors and also demanded more “localization” of the supply chain.

With global “overnight costs” averaging at $5,000/Kw, each EPR will cost $8.3 billion and each AP1000 will cost $5.8 billion. By comparison, India’s PHWR is reported to cost about $2,000/Kw, more or less, which makes the cost of a 700 MW PHWR come in at $1.4 billion/unit.

It follows that for the cost of six EPRs, or $49.8 billion, India could build 35 PHWRs. Similarly, for the cost of six AP1000s, or $34.8 billion, India could build 24 PHWRs.

The comparisons change if  EDF/Areva and Westinghouse can find ways to reduce their costs. Also, these comparisons don’t take into account financing from either France or the US for a portion of these projects.  Even so, the PHWR still comes out ahead and for these differences, it has a significant cost advantage especially in a developing nation.

UK And India Announce £4.8M For Nuclear R&D Projects

(NucNet) The UK and India have jointly announced four awards worth £4.8m for nuclear research, the national funding agency UK Research and Innovation announced.

The awards are for projects that will look into the next generation of more efficient and safer reactors, better predictive tools and the effects that cyberattacks can have on a nuclear plant.

Organizations that will work on the research programmes include the UK’s Sheffield University, the University of Manchester and Imperial College London and India’s Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

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