Domestic nuclear industry goes large as the first 540 MW reactor goes active and already plans for larger still are announced.

The 540 MW Tarapur Atomic Power Project (TAPP)-4, India’s largest totally indigenously built nuclear reactor, has reached criticality. The reactor, on the Arabian sea coast at Tarapur in Thane district of Maharashtra is expected to be joined by TAPP-3, a twin unit of TAPP-4, which is due reach criticality in March 2006. Both reactors are adjacent to the first two reactors built at Tarapur in the late 1960s by GE.

The reactors have reportedly been developed ahead of schedule, taking less than five years, and below costs. The original costs of construction of both TAPP-3 and 4 was expected to be Rs 8,000 crores ($1.86 billion) but apparently came in at Rs 6,000 crores ($1.39 million). Consequently, power from the plant will be sold for Rs.2.65 (¢6.1/kWh) as opposed to the initial estimate of Rs 3.5/kWh (¢8.1/kWh). Maharashtra would receive 39% of the outout from the two new reactors, Madhya Pradesh 19% and Gujarat 17%, while some would be allotted to Goa, Daman and Diu. The Centre would also retain a share for allotment to power deficient states. TAPP-4 is expected to begin commercial operations in August.

Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said that the development signified an important turning point in building larger units. The focus would now be on building nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 700 MW. This echoed S.K. Jain, chairman and managing director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), who unveiled ambitious plans to build two 700 MW reactors, another two reactors of 1,000 MW each and the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) of 300 MW capacity before March 2007. The NPCIL has already built 12 smaller Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) of 220 MW or less which use uranium fuel and heavy water as both moderator and coolant.