Saturday, April 23, 2022

RAPS-7, India's Third 700 MW Nuclear Reactor To Go Critical Only By 2023, Delayed By another Year

RAPS Nuclear India - 01 - 01
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. [NPCIL] has postponed electricity generation from it's upcoming Nuclear Reactor in Rawatbhata by a year.
At the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station [RAPS], work is underway to  setup India's latest generation of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR] - the 700 MWe IPHWR700 design. It would be the third in sequence of these designs, after prior commencement of work on 2 such Reactors at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station [KAPS], in Gujarat. The RAPS facility is already home to 6 Power Reactors, including two Canadian-supplied CANDU Reactor. Work underway to setup two more - the RAPS-7 & RAPS-8, based on indigenous design & manufacturing.
RAPS-7 - 01
This delay in completing construction activities at RAPS, it recently notified to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission [CERC]. The under-construction RAPS-7, at present, is a colossal consumer of electricity, instead of being a provider. This, it draws from the national electricity Grid, with CERC's permission, the nodal agency responsible for ensuring Grid stability.
In this petition, NPCIL had sought extension to draw power beyond June 2022, till when it currently has permission. This, ostensibly, points to prior plans of completing RAPS-7 by June 2022. It makes the case for drawing power for another year, till June 2023, to complete balance work & commence power generation. It cites the COVID-19 pandemic as primary reason. CERC has greenlighted the request.
As noted earlier, the IPHWR-700 at KAPS too is facing issues, that has prompted a halt in electricity generation. NPCIL hasn't publicly come forward with the details causing delay. This petition possibly lets in on the nature of the problem being encountered. It states that,
"RAPP-7 has been provided with multiple First of a Kind (FOAK) systems such as passive heat removal system, containment spray system, etc. for enhancement of safety features. As per the guidelines of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, all FOAK systems have to be proven to meet their design intent by mock up and experiments. The results are further validated by computed code and analysis. The design of these systems is finalized after successful completion of experiments and verification of data of these experiments. This has added to the delay in construction and subsequent commissioning activities".
RAPS-7 isn't a First Of A Kind [FOAK] system. Two other Reactors, coming up at the KAPS premise precede it. Thus, this points to a likelihood that one/some of the FOAK technologies did not perform as expected during the KAPS-3 commissioning, prompting halt in further power generation till a remedy is implemented. This would have a cascading effect on RAPS-7 & possibly 8. An earlier writing provides a comprehensive overview of the design evolution of India's PHWR series, including the FOAK technologies debuting in the 700 MW-e Reactor. The exact nature of the issues being encountered would require NPCIL to be more forthcoming in it's communication.
The availability of adequate number of Indian vendors capable of fabricating components, in conformance to applicable QA/QC standards, too has been cited as one of the delay causes. This portends to a major chicken neck for the NPCIL going ahead, when it embarks on the fleet mode construction of the IPHWR-700. In fact, this facility at Rajasthan is amongst the Nuclear Reactors envisaged to be constructed in fleet mode.
The RAPS-7 facility completed a major milestone, as NPCIL reported successful Hydro Testing. In the construction of a Power Plant, completion of Hydro Test is a major event for celebration amongst those executing the Project. Loading of Nuclear fuel & moderator-coolant is expected to commence only in Feb 2023, it informs, with Reactor criticality planned for April 2023.
Many challenges, the Indian Atomic community appears to be encountering in it's pursuits of self-reliance. Vital that it comes up trumps in it's mandate.
1st pic, courtesy Nuclear Paradise