XIth Plan makes strong pitch for nuclear deal

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New Delhi, Dec 18 (UNI) In the midst of a snowballing controversy over the civil nuclear deal with the US, the Eleventh Five-Year Plan document makes a strong case for import of nuclear fuel for optimal utilisation of India's atomic power plants, besides opening up the execution of nuclear projects to the private sector for securing country's energy security.

Contending that atomic energy has environmental advantages and is likely to be economical in the long run, the document points out that at present, the installed capacity of nuclear energy is 3900 MWe, which accounts for 3.1 per cent of total installed capacity.

It, however, expresses concern over constraints in nuclear fuel availability, which is the primary reason for lower Plant Load Factor (PLF).

''Constraints in nuclear fuel availability is the main reason for lower PLF...The Government of India is making efforts to import nuclear fuel from abroad, which is expected to improve the supply of nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants,'' says the document.

The PLF of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) stations increased from 60 per cent in 1995-96 to 82 per cent in 2001-02, but it decreased to 57 per cent in 2006-07.

The document, cleared by the Full Planning Commission and the Cabinet, is slated for discussion and approval at a meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) here tomorrow.

The Eleventh Plan (2007-12) power programme sets a target of 78,577 MW capacity addition, out of which 3380 MW is to come from nuclear power plants, all of which are under construction. The thermal sector has set a target of 26,800 MW, while the hydro sector would account for 9685 MW capacity addition.

The Plan document suggests that execution of nuclear projects should be opened up to enable participation by other PSUs and the private sector.

''The effect of this is likely to be visible in the Twelfth Plan period. NPCIL has indicated a capacity addition of about 11,000 MW during the Twelfth Plan,'' it says.

Pointing out that the Fast Breeder Reactor technology is critical for developing stage-II of India's nuclear power programmes, the documents says the country would find it difficult to go beyond 10,000 MWe nuclear capacity based on known uranium resources if it does not develop the wide-scale use FBR technology.

Having successfully completed the research and development phase of the FBR technology, the department of Atomic Energy has engaged the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research for the design, construction and operation of the the country's 500 MWe liquid sodium cooled fast breeder reactor.

The first 500 MWe prototype FBR is likely to be commissioned in the Eleventh Plan, the document says.

It also argues that 20,000 MWe nuclear power programme is critical to develop the thorium-based stage-III of India's nuclear power programme, and use of the FBR technology would enable indigenous uranium resources to support it.

The BARC is also trying to develop Advanced Heavy Water Reactors of 300 MWe capacity that provide an alternative route to the thorium-based Stage-III of the country's nuclear power programme.


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