India debuts largest domestically built nuclear reactor

NEW DELHI • India's success in connecting its largest domestically built nuclear reactor to the grid is a boost for plans to deploy the technology to help the world's third-biggest polluter limit emissions.

The 700-megawatt pressurised heavy water reactor of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station, located in the western state of Gujarat, is the first of 16 planned units that will help balance the grid against growing intermittent renewable generation, according to Mr K.N. Vyas, India's atomic energy secretary.

"Renewables are less capital-intensive and can be implemented much more quickly. Yet, they need to be balanced with more stable power," Mr Vyas said in a phone interview. "Nuclear (energy) provides clean base load power, and that makes it an important element of our climate strategy."

India is counting on its nuclear programme to help meet its Paris climate commitments to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by a third from 2005 levels, by 2030.

So far, domestic-built reactors have avoided cost run-ups that have hit projects planned with overseas technologies, said Mr Debasish Mishra, a Mumbai-based partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Nuclear Power Corp of India, which connected the reactor to the grid last week, expects to start five more units by end-March 2027, and is placing orders for another 10 to be commissioned by 2031.

The combined cost of the reactors is estimated at about 1.5 trillion rupees (S$27.2 billion), according to the state monopoly.

India has 6.8 gigawatts of existing nuclear generation capacity, which accounts for roughly 2 per cent of the nation's total capacity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2021, with the headline 'India debuts largest domestically built nuclear reactor'. Subscribe