India is poised to emerge as an exporter of cost-effective, small-sized 220 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to countries with smaller grids. And Kazakhstan will possibly be the first overseas market for Indian-made 220 MWe PHWRs.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Kazakhstan’s nuclear utility Kazatomprom are at an advanced stage of discussion and a feasibility study on using Indian PHWR designs is in the works for an unspecified number of nuclear reactors.
According to Government sources, while feelers have also been received from ASEAN countries, Kazakhstan is likely to be the first breakthrough.
The possibility of reactor sales to Kazakhstan is likely to figure in the broad-based civil nuclear agreement currently under discussion between Indian and the uranium-rich country.
The agreement, which is likely to be signed once the new Government takes office at the Centre, is also expected to address the possibility of joint cooperation in uranium mining, deliveries of Kazakh natural uranium for the Indian nuclear industry, and personnel training.
India has been proactively exploring the possibility of exporting indigenous PHWRs to developing nations that are eyeing nuclear power generation but are constrained by small-sized electricity grids. India had earlier moved a resolution to enable export of indigenous reactors at the IAEA General Conference of Member States in Vienna in late 2007.
With the opening up of international civil nuclear cooperation, which has technically cleared the decks for India to enter the global nuclear trade, the potential for export of indigenous reactors and services is being viewed as a viable commercial proposition, an official said.
“Currently, India is perhaps the only country to have an actively working technology, design and infrastructure for manufacture of small reactors with a unit capacity of 220 MWe. These units have a great potential for exports, particularly to nations with small grids that are planning nuclear forays with relatively lower investment levels,” an official said.
Globally, the major developers of nuclear reactors in the EU and North America have moved on to larger reactor sizes of 700 MWe or 1,000 MWe and above. India stands out in having an active nuclear power programme using 220 MWe reactors, which is based on proven technology in a number of domestic atomic stations. In all, 12 such 220 MWe PHWR reactors are in operation currently while three more are under construction.
Officials said small size nuclear reactors are apt for countries that have small grids of around 10,000 MW. Use of large reactor units in case of countries having small grids could potentially lead to grid failures if even a single large unit shuts down at any point in time.
Besides, assembling clusters of 220 MWe reactors is projected to be more cost-effective than large-sized reactors from the US or Europe, officials said. Several Asean countries are reported to be eyeing the nuclear option, with Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand among those having announced plans to tap atomic energy in the future.
India and Kazakhstan are likely to sign a broad-based civil nuclear agreement , under which the uranium-rich central Asian country will supply fuel and technology to New Delhi.
India has sent a draft of the Inter Governmental Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy to Kazakhstan before the two sides ink the pact. Kazakhstan will be the fourth country after the USA, Russia and France with whom India will have such a broad-based civil nuclear agreement, since the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted ban on New Delhi last September to have trade in this field.