Mumbai: With public opposition to nuclear energy plants leading to land acquisition issues, Atomic Energy Commission chairman R K Sinha today suggested that the government could allow it to use the sites earmarked for thermal plants to set up N-plants.
"Finding land for nuclear power plants is difficult today. We have lots of sites where coal-based projects are planned. There is uncertainty over coal availability or it`s becoming un-affordable and environmentally un-viable. Enough land and water are available at these sites, which can be used for setting up nuclear plants," Sinha said at a nuclear energy summit here today.
Though this plan cannot be implemented immediately because of regulatory and safety regimes, there is a need to establish extraordinary levels of safety in new reactors to achieve this target, he added.
According to safety norms, it is necessary to provide for `exclusion-radius` which necessitates that people do not live in the radius of 1 km from the reactor, Sinha said.
"We need to establish the extraordinary levels of safety in the newer reactor designs which are now being implemented to make it safe for getting exemption from such large regulatory requirements," Sinha later told reporters.
Sinha further said that this will be demonstrated first in the advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) which is being designed and developed at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in Tarapur near here.
"The design is complete and we will start construction in the 12th Plan subject to land availability. This will meet the requirement of the era," he added.
The 300-mw AHWR is designed to use thorium instead of uranium for power generation. Sinha also spoke about need for working on economies and competitiveness of nuclear power price.
"Today we cannot consider nuclear energy being costlier in locations where electricity from other sources of power is cheaper...There is a need to adopt strategy to keep the cost affordable for states and profitable for power generating firm (NPCIL)," he said.
With a larger share of equipment coming from abroad and rupee fluctuations, there is a need for the industry to work on the economies as well as competitiveness of the power, said Sinha.
He further said the target of increasing nuclear capacity to 63,000-mw through locally-made and imported reactors by 2032 is achievable; out of this, nearly 40,000-mw would be generated through imported reactors, he said.
Currently seven nuclear plants are at different stages of developments. These include two units of Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu (2x1000 mw), Kakrapar in Gujarat (2x700mw), Rawatbhata in Rajasthan (2x700 mw) and proto-type fast-breeder reactor of 500 mw at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu.
These projects will increase the nuclear capacity to 10,080 mw by 2017 from the current 4,780 mw. On the 9,900-mw Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra, Sinha said negotiations between NPCIL and the French company Areva are in progress.
He further said a competitive per unit tariff of Rs 6.50 has been estimated in the year of completion of Jaitapur project in 2020-21.