On 17 May, the cabinet - chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - approved the construction of ten 700 MWe units in a "significant decision to fast-track India's domestic nuclear power program". The cabinet's announcement did not give any timeline or locations for the new reactors, but said the project would result in a "significant augmentation" of the country's nuclear generation capacity.
In response to a question in India's lower house, the Lok Sabha, Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh confirmed that the government had "accorded administrative approval and financial sanction" for the construction of the ten PHWRs.
He said that two of the reactors would be constructed as units 5 and 6 of the Kaiga nuclear power plant in Karnataka state; two as units 3 and 4 of the Gorakhpur plant in Haryana state; two as units 1 and 2 of the new Chutka plant in Madhya Pradesh; and four units at the new Mahi Banswara plant in Rajasthan. They are scheduled to be progressively completed by 2031.
Site for new Russian units
India is expected to inform Russia soon of its choice of site for a second nuclear power plant, Sergey Orlov, ASE Group's representative in India, has told reporters in Chennai, according to NDTV. ASE Group, the engineering subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, built the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.
The site for a new plant would be in a low seismic zone that is not heavily populated and "preferably" on the coast since the VVER 1200 reactor is a water-cooled one, Orlov said.
India's most recent nuclear power plan, issued in 2012, included 700 MWe PHWRs with two units each to be built at Gorakhpur, Chutka, Bhimpur (Madhya Pradesh), Mahi Banswara and Kaiga, with potential construction starts this year. Under the plans announced by Singh, the two units planned for Bhimpur now appear to have been transferred to Mahi Banswara. In addition to the PHWRs, further Russian-designed VVER reactors are to be built in the second phase of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant at Tamil Nadu.
"As nuclear power projects are in the central sector, power generated by them would allocated to the beneficiary States/UTs [union territories] in the electricity region by the Ministry of Power as per the extant guidelines," Singh said.
He said the estimated total cost of constructing the ten units is INR 1050 billion ($16.3 billion) "at constant price level (excluding escalation and interest during construction)".
Singh added that the materials, components and equipment needed to build the ten units will be sourced indigenously. When announcing plans for the new units, the cabinet said they would be a "fully homegrown initiative", with likely manufacturing orders to Indian industry of about INR 700 billion.
The cabinet said the project will adopt a "fleet mode", bringing "substantial economies of scale" and maximising efficiency. It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs and strengthen the country's credentials as a "major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse".
"In respect of fuel, a decision on using indigenous or imported fuel in respect of each project would be taken by the government at an appropriate time," he said.
India has 6780 MWe of installed nuclear capacity from 22 operational reactors with another 6700 MWe expected to come on stream over the next five years. The first four indigenously designed 700 MWe PHWRs are being built at Kakrapar (units 3 and 4) and Rajasthan (units 7 and 8).
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