Power minister Piyush Goyal.image courtesy:IBTimes India

In a major decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power programme, the union cabinet on Wednesday approved construction of 10 units of indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR), with which, a fresh nuclear capacity of 7,000 Megawatt (MW) will be added.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to build ten indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, the largest ever approval granted for such facilities in one go.

“The cabinet has approved installation of 10 indigenously built PWHRs of 700 MW each,” Union Minister Piyush Goyal said at a media briefing after meeting of the Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Goyal, who is union Minister for Power and Coal, said the decision will result in significant augmentation of the country’s nuclear power generation capacity.

India has current installed nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW from 22 operational plants. Another 6,700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come onstream by 2021-22 through projects presently under construction.

The government had in July 2014 set a target of taking nuclear power capacity to over 14,000 MW by 2024.

The reactors will be fully home-grown and will be one of the flagship initiatives of the government under “Make in India”. The ten reactors will be part of India’s latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet with state-of-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety.

With likely manufacturing orders of close to Rs 70,000 crore to the domestic companies, the project is expected to help transform Indian nuclear industry and likely generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment.

With the set up of these reactors, Goyal reiterated that it reflects the country’s commitment to prioritise the use of clean power in India’s energy mix, as part of low-carbon growth strategy and to ensure long-term base load requirement for the nation’s industrialisation.

It also supports India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change, he said.

A pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) is a nuclear reactor,commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel, that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and neutron moderator.

The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a pressurized water reactor.While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it creates greatly enhanced neutron economy,allowing the reactor to operate without fuel- enrichment facilities (offsetting the additional expense of the heavy water) and enhancing the ability of the reactor to make use of alternate fuel cycles.

This comes post the Parliament discussions in March where the Lok Sabha was informed that the country’s nuclear power generation capacity was expected to reach almost 15,000 MW by 2024, with the government expediting the process of setting up new plants.

MoS for PMO Jitendra Singh had informed the house that government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken a number of steps to speed up ongoing nuclear projects as well as the setting up of new plants across the country. In 2014, India’s nuclear power generation capacity was 4,780 MW.

“When we came to power in 2014, we had set a target of generating nuclear power by three time in 10 years and we hope to reach that target,” Singh had said, adding that for the generated targeted nuclear power, there had to be adequate uranium available, from both domestic and foreign sources.

The government was pursuing the process of acquiring uranium from different sources, including from Bihar and Meghalaya the minister had said at the time.

An official release later said that the project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximise cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution.

The release said the approval marks a statement of strong belief in the capability of “India’s scientific community to build our technological capacities”.

“It underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India’s record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly 40 years is globally acclaimed,” the release said.