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Rawatbhata nuclear plant to get 2 new reactors

Jul 22, 2011 11:17 AM IST India India

Rawatbhata (Rajasthan): As the Nuclear Suppliers Group tries to throw a spanner into India's nuclear plans, the country has begun work on its latest nuclear reactor.

While new foreign reactors are welcome, the country has big plans for the cheap and proven nuclear technology it already has.

Rawatbhata in Rajasthan is one of India's largest nuclear plants, with six functional reactors. Now they plan to add two new ones, of 700 MW capacity each. It's the first nuclear reactor being built anywhere in the world, except China - after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The new units will need Rs 12,000 crore and five years to complete. Both use indigenous technology and fourteen similar units will be built at different sites across India.

"India has 1.2 billion people and 40 per cent of them don't have electricity. If we want to grow our economy at 8-9 per cent annually, that means we have to generate up to 10 per cent more electricity every year. Nuclear is the most reliable way of doing that," said Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee.

While India will import nuclear fuel for a long time, there are plans to reprocess the spent fuel we already have into plutonium. Locating what could be one of the world's largest Uranium mines in Tummalapalli, Andhra Pradesh could also mean freedom from stifling international nuclear regulations.

"From 2050 onwards, we will have a major contribution coming from nuclear power. Once it is established, we may be able to call ourselves the sheikhs, if not of oil, then of nuclear power," said Srikumar Banerjee.

But safety is not being sacrificed at the altar of power.

The new reactors are being built just a hundred feet away from Chambal river with the Rana Pratap Sagar dam just 20 km upstream. However, the authorities claim that even if the whole dam was breached and the entire area was flooded, the reactors would still be able to handle that crisis.