Atomic Energy News 2019 (Part 1)

Atomic Energy News 2019

(Part 1)

Plan to make use of Nuclear Wastes
   27 JUN 2019  

India has adopted “closed fuel cycle”, where spent nuclear fuel is regarded as a material of resource. Closed fuel cycle aims at reprocessing of spent fuel for recovery of Uranium and Plutonium and recycling them back to reactor as fuel. This finally leads to a very small percentage of residual material present in spent nuclear fuel requiring their management as radioactive waste.

Safe management of radioactive waste has been accorded high priority right from the inception of our nuclear energy programme. High level radioactive waste also contains many useful isotopes like Caesium-137, Strontium-90, Ruthenium-106 etc. With the advent of new technologies based on partitioning of waste, emphasis is accorded to separation and recovery of these useful radio-isotopes so as to make use of the waste for various societal applications.

Initiatives/advancements with respect to partitioning of the waste have been implemented safely and successfully enabling recovery of useful radio- isotopes like Caesium-137, Strontium-90, Ruthenium-106 etc. and their deployment for societal applications. Utmost emphasis is given to waste volume minimization, effective containment and isolation of radio-activity followed by near zero discharge of radioactivity to the environment. As a waste management philosophy, no waste in any physical form is released / disposed to the environment unless the same is cleared, exempted or excluded from regulations. A comprehensive radioactive waste management is established taking into account the operational capability for the management of radioactive waste and an independent regulatory capability for its overview. The nuclear waste management practices are at par with international practices following the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency.

Thorium-Based Nuclear Reactors
  26 JUN 2019  

Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has planned the use of large deposits of Thorium available in the country as a long-term option. A three-stage nuclear power programme has been chalked out to use Thorium as a viable and sustainable option, right at the inception of India’s nuclear power programme. The three stage nuclear power programme aims to multiply the domestically available fissile resource through the use of natural Uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, followed by use of Plutonium obtained from the spent fuel of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors in Fast Breeder Reactors. Large scale use of Thorium will subsequently follow making use of the Uranium-233 that will be bred in Reactors.  The utilisation of Thorium, as a practically inexhaustible energy source, has been contemplated during the third stage of the Indian Nuclear Programme.  As is the case with generation of electricity from Uranium, there will be no emission of green house gases from Thorium also and therefore, it will be a clean source of energy.

It is not possible to build a nuclear reactor using Thorium (Thorium-232) alone due to its physics characteristics. Thorium has to be converted to Uranium-233 in a reactor before it can be used as fuel.

Development of technologies pertaining to utilisation of thorium has been a part of ongoing activities in Department of Atomic Energy.  With sustained efforts over the years, India has gained experience in different areas of Thorium fuel cycle. Efforts are currently on to enlarge the present Thorium related R&D work and activities to a bigger scale and towards development of technologies for the third stage of our nuclear power programme. Safety has been accorded paramount importance in all Thorium technology development studies.

Commercial utilisation of Thorium, on a significant scale can begin only when abundant supplies of either Uranium-233 or Plutonium resources are available. Accordingly, the large scale introduction and utilization of Thorium in the programme has been contemplated after an adequate inventory of Plutonium becomes available from our Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), comprising the second stage of Indian nuclear power programme. This will be after a few decades of large scale deployment of FBRs. In preparation for the utilisation of Thorium in Third Stage of India’s Nuclear Power Programme, efforts towards technology development and demonstration are made now so that a mature technology for Thorium utilisation is available in time.

Power Generation Through Nuclear Energy
  26 JUN 2019  

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) set up in 1958, is the apex body regarding use of nuclear energy, it formulates policy of the Department of Atomic Energy in all matters concerning nuclear energy.

 The actual generation in the year 2018-19 was 37813 MUs.

The Government has planned to increase the installed capacity base of nuclear power in the country for increased electricity production from nuclear power. The present installed nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW would reach 13480 MW by the year 2024-25 with the completion of projects under construction (including 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), being implemented by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (BHAVINI). The Government has also accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for 12 nuclear power reactors aggregating a total capacity of 9000 MW, which are scheduled to be completed progressively by the year 2031. On their completion, the total nuclear power capacity would reach 22480 MW. More reactors based on both indigenous technologies and with foreign cooperation may be planned in the future.

Remarkable Achievements of Department of Atomic Energy for Last 3 Years

The remarkable achievements in the nuclear power sector during the last three years include:

  1. Setting of World Record in continuous operation of 962 days by Unit-1 of Kaiga Generating Station among nuclear power plants of all technologies.
  2. Completion of 50 years of safe operation of Units 1&2 of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS-1&2), which are currently the oldest reactors in operation in the world.
  3. Addition of a nuclear power capacity of 1000 MW by completion of KKNPP- 2 at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu.
  4. First Pour of Concrete (FPC) in KKNPP-3&4 (2X1000 MW) at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu.
  1. Ground break for KKNPP-5&6(2X1000 MW) at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu.
  2. Environmental clearance from MoEF&CC for setting up nuclear power plants at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh.
  3. Accord of administrative approval and financial sanction of – ten (10) indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode & two (02) units of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) being set up in cooperation with Russian Federation.
  4. Entering into enabling agreements with foreign countries for nuclear power cooperation including supply of fuel.
  5. During the last three years (i.e. since July 2016), AMD has augmented atomic mineral resources as detailed below.
  1. 80,221 tonne (t) in-situ uranium oxide (U3O8). The total uranium resources of the country is 3,20,445t in situ U3O8 (2,71,737 t U).
  2. 108.28 million tonnes beach sand heavy minerals resources, thereby updating the country’s beach sand heavy mineral resources to 1173.07 million tonnes.
  3. 3,46,462 tonne Rare Earth Elements Oxide and 19,564t Nb2O5 (Niobium Oxide) is estimated in Ambadongar area, Chhota Udepur district, Gujarat.
  1. Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) has commissioned the Tummalapalle Uranium mining and milling project in Andhra Pradesh in January 2017.  

Radiation Technology for Sewage Treatment
 24 JUL 2019

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in collaboration with Amdavad Municipal Corporation (AMC), Ahmedabad has set up a Technology Demonstration Pilot Project “Sewage Sludge Hygienisation Plant” at Shahwadi, Ahmedabad.  The plant loaded with 150 kCi of Co-60 was inaugurated in February 2019 and is in continuous operation since then. 

Another liquid sludge irradiator; Sludge Hygienisation Research Irradiator (SHRI) is operating at Vadodara for radiation treatment of raw sludge containing 3-4% solids since last 30 years.

BARC has given wide publicity to the use of radiation technology for sewage treatment.  BARC outreach programmes have been used as an effective platform to dispense information about this technology through oral presentations, animated videos, posters, demonstrations at different universities and institutions.  The technology has been also propagated in scientific and public forums through theme meetings, workshops, seminars, newsletters etc.  These efforts have resulted in wide coverage of this technology in print and digital media.

Import of Uranium
 24 JUL 2019

 After assessment of long term demand of uranium in the country and supply of uranium from indigenous sources, Government shall decide on import of uranium from prospective suppliers.

 Government has taken measures to augment domestic uranium supply by state-of-the-art, integrated, multi-disciplinary exploration in several potential thrust areas of the country.

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) a Public Sector Undertaking under Department of Atomic Energy, has made a detailed plan in line with Government’s vision to achieve self sufficiency in uranium production. Considering the resources already identified, major production centres are planned in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Setting up of Neutrino Observatory
 11 JUL 2019

The Government of India has approved a project to build the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Pottipuram in the Theni District of Tamil Nadu. Briefly, the project aims to set up a 51000 ton Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector to observe naturally occurring atmospheric neutrinos in a cavern at the end of an approximately 2 km long tunnel in a mountain. This will help to reduce the noise from cosmic rays that is ever present over-ground and which would outnumber the rare neutrino interactions even in a detector as large as ICAL.

The INO project does not disturb the ecosystem around the site and does not release any radiation, as it does not have any radioactive substance. It measures cosmic rays.

There is no other neutrino detector anywhere in India at present. ICAL at INO would be the first of its type.

Nuclear Insurance Pool
10 JUL 2019

The Government has created an Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) on 12th June, 2015. M/s. General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC-Re), along with several other Indian Insurance Companies, have launched the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with a capacity of ₹1500 crore to provide insurance to cover the liability as prescribed under Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010. This has addressed issues related to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act and had facilitated commencement of work in setting up new nuclear power projects.

The present nuclear power capacity is 6780 MW comprising of 22 reactors. There are 9 reactors with a capacity of 6700 MW (including 500 MW PFBR being implemented by BHAVINI) under construction.  The Government in 2017 has also accorded administrative approval and financial sanction of 12 nuclear power plants totaling to a capacity of 9000 MW. On their progressive completion, the installed nuclear capacity is expected to reach 8180 MW by 2020 and 22480 MW by 2031.

Registration of Scan Machines in Hospitals
10 JUL 2019

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the regulatory authority for issuing Licenses/Registration for X-ray facilities from radiation safety view point. AERB is aware that in spite of its continuous regulatory efforts, there may be some X-ray centres that are using X-ray units without obtaining mandatory approval from AERB. At present, 69,030 diagnostic X-ray equipment are licensed by AERB through its online system namely e-licensing of radiation applications (e-LORA) as on June 2019.

AERB is continuously putting all regulatory efforts to bring diagnostic X-ray equipment, in the country, under its regulatory ambit by increasing awareness  in  close  coordination  with  Ministry of  Health,  States/Union Territories through the respective district Law Enforcement Authorities and District Health Authorities and through AERB’s Regional Regulatory Centres.

AERB issues licence to operate only equipment that have obtained Type (design) approval from AERB. The Type approval process involves physical verification of every model of X-ray equipment and ensures in-built design safety for protection of patient and radiation worker. As part of its online registration process, in the first stage, AERB verifies institution details through review of legal documents such as institution PAN CARD and certification of State/ Local Authorities issued for the institution.

AERB has already comprehensively reviewed the regulatory requirements and incorporated in AERB Safety Code {AERB/RF-MED/ SC-3 (Rev.2), 2016}, based on which the process of registration was implemented in the e-LORA online system.  AERB continuously reviews its regulatory mechanism based on feedback obtained from the stakeholders, international requirements etc., of licensing and revises its licensing process without compromising the radiation safety.

Electricity generation through atomic energy
04 JUL 2019

 The share of atomic energy in the overall electricity generation in the country was about 2.93% in the year 2017-18.

Nuclear share has remained around 3% of the total electricity generation in the country. The main reason for low share has been the low installed capacity base. The reasons for low capacity base are:

  1. Technology development and international embargo regime that persisted from 1974 to 2008. As a result, all the technologies for nuclear power including the fuel cycle technologies had to be developed within the country, thus took time.
  2. Another constraint faced during the first two decades was availability of financial  resources, as  it  had  to  solely  depend  on  budgetary  support. However, the earlier constraints have now been overcome and nuclear power programme is poised for rapid expansion.

 To increase the share of nuclear power generation, the Government has taken several steps to increase the nuclear power capacity and to provide adequate quantity of fuel. These include:

  1. Resolution of issues related to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act & Creation of Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP).
  2. Accord of administrative approval and financial sanction of – ten (10) indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode & two (02) units of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be set up in cooperation with Russian Federation.  
  3. Amendment of the Atomic Energy Act to enable Joint Ventures of Public Sector Companies to set up nuclear power projects.  
  4. Entering into enabling agreements with foreign countries for nuclear power cooperation including supply of fuel.

Nuclear Plant Expansion Programme
04 JUL 2019

Finance Minister’s budget speech in Lok Sabha on 29.02.2016 for 2016-17 budget included the following reference to nuclear energy:

“In the power sector, we need to diversify the sources of power generation for long term stability.  Government is drawing up a comprehensive plan, spanning next 15 to 20 years, to augment the investment in nuclear power generation.  Budgetary allocation up to Rs 3,000 crore per annum, together with public sector investments, will be leveraged to facilitate the required investment for this purpose.”

To meet the large equity requirements involved in implementation of the planned nuclear power expansion programme, formation of Joint Ventures (JV) of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) with other PSUs was contemplated. In this context, NPCIL entered into Joint Ventures (JV) with Public Sector Undertakings NTPC Limited, Indian Oil Corporation Limited and National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO). The Government also brought an Amendment of the Atomic Energy Act to enable Joint Ventures of Public Sector Companies to set up nuclear power projects.

The equity funding of the projects presently under construction and projects whose administrative approval and financial sanction is available, have been tied up.

New Atomic Power Plants
03 JUL 2019

During the last three years and the current year, the government has accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for construction of twelve (12) nuclear power reactors – ten (10) indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode & two (02) units of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be set up in cooperation with Russian Federation to enhance nuclear power capacity in the country.    

 Presently, two public sector companies of the Department of Atomic Energy, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) are involved in nuclear power generation. The Government has also amended the Atomic Energy Act to enable Joint Ventures of Public Sector Companies to set up nuclear power projects.

 There is no proposal under consideration at present to permit private sector in the area of nuclear power generation. However, the private sector participates in the nuclear power sector by providing core reactor components, equipment, materials and services in areas that include construction, fabrication & erection of equipments, piping, electrical, instrumentation, consultancy, auxiliary and logistical services.

Additional nuclear reactors at Kudankulam
03 JUL 2019

A General Framework Agreement (GFA) for setting up two additional units of 1000 MW each at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu (Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, KKNPP-5&6 – 2X1000 MW) was signed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) with Atomstroyexport (ASE) of Russian Federation in June 2017.

Following the signing of the GFA, excavation for main plant buildings and off-shore structures is in progress. The work on the contracts for first priority design works, first priority equipment, long manufacturing cycle equipment, working documentation etc. is in progress.