Andhra uranium mine set to fuel nuclear power output to 7-year high

FP

At a time when coal and gas shortages have crippled operations at most of India's thermal stations, a boost in nuclear fuel is set to take atomic power generation to a seven-year record next fiscal.

With supplies from a new uranium mine and processing facility at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh set to commence later this year, the capacity factor of the 20 operational nuclear reactors, adding up to an installed capacity of 4,780 MWe, is now projected to top 80 per cent in 2012-13, according to latest estimates drawn by the Department of Atomic Energy. Uranium imports from Russia, France and Kazakhstan have already helped half the nuclear fleet achieve near-optimal operations.

In 2006-07, the capacity factor was 64 per cent, but plummeted to 50 per cent in 2008-09. (The capacity factor is the ratio of the actual output to its output if operated at full potential.) It bounced back to 61 per cent in 2009-10 and increased further to 71 per cent in 2010-11. In the first nine months of this fiscal, it has reached 78 per cent.

This marks a complete turnaround from the uranium shortage that stymied nuclear power generation for much of the second half of the last decade. Fuel imports from the three countries that supply uranium to India are now more than what is required by the ten reactors under international safeguards. "Currently, ten reactors are fuelled by indigenous fuel, which is not available in the required quantity. So these are being operated at lower power levels," said an official.

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