The 700 MW indigenous nuclear reactor at the Kakrapar atomic power project in Gujarat achieved criticality on Wednesday in a record three years and five months, making history.
Achieving criticality means attaining the normal operating condition of a reactor and it indicates that the plant is now set to generate power. This is important, as the 700MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) has been indigenously designed by Indian scientists and engineers.
The components and equipment have been manufactured by Indian industries and the construction and erection was undertaken by Indian contractors.Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Indian scientists for achieving an important milestone.
He tweeted: "Congratulations to our nuclear scientists for achieving criticality of Kakrapar Atomic Power Plant-3! This indigenously designed 700 MWe KAPP-3 reactor is a shining example of Make in India. And a trailblazer for many such future achievements!"
Currently, India's nuclear capacity is 6,780MW.Kakrapar Project Director Ranjay Sharan told The Free Press Journal on Wednesday, ‘‘Today, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has achieved the capacity to generate thermal power through nuclear energy. This will be used for the generation of steam but before that, the NPCIL and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) will do low-power physics experiments which will take about 45 days. After that the NPCIL will approach the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to seek regulatory clearance, after which electricity production will commence.’’
He informed the project construction had started in 2010 but after the Fukushima accident in 2011 the NPCIL had to incorporate additional safety measures. The original contracts became unworkable. ‘‘After all these issues were resolved, the construction re-commenced in February 2017 and in record time, criticality was achieved on July 22, 2020,’’ he noted.
The former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, said the Kakrapar reactor is a forerunner to 15 more such units already approved by the Government of India. “PHWR is the mainstay of our nuclear programme. The total operating capacity of the approved plants together would be 15.5 GW and will provide all-important non-fossil base load electricity. Time to start leveraging the potential of thorium for carbon pathways in India and the world.’’