Rawatbhata, Rajasthan: An indigenously made nuclear plant in Rajasthan has created history by running continuously for a period 765 days, or a little over two years. Usually, most nuclear plants globally need to be shut down every year for maintenance; only well-maintained facilities can run for longer periods. (10 Must-Know Facts About India's Nuclear Milestone)
With this achievement, the 220 MW reactor has beaten an American unit which ran for 739 days at a stretch. Unit-5 at Rawatbhata, a Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) made at a cost of Rs 1200 crore in 2010, is run by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and is now ranked number two globally for continuous generation of electricity by a nuclear plant. The pole position is still held by a Canadian reactor, Ontario Power Corporation's Pickering-7 plant, which ran continuously for 894 days before it was shutdown in 1994. The PHWRs are a type of reactors that are easier to run for longer periods as fuel can be added into the reactor without shutting them down for maintenance.
The world is lauding India on its achievement. "The achievement of Rajasthan's Unit-5 is another excellent example of how nuclear energy supplies clean, affordable and reliable electricity around the world," Agneta Rising, Director General, World Nuclear Association, London, told NDTV.
In this 765-day period, the reactor produced about 4258 million units of electricity, lighting up nearly 2.5 million homes in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The NPCIL earned Rs 1225 crore by selling the electricity generated by the Rawatbhata plant. According to estimates, this was more than the cost of installing the plant.
The reactor is expected to run for a full life of more than 40 years. Every year, the cost of fuelling and maintaining it comes to about Rs 230 crore and it supplies electricity to the grid at a fixed tariff of Rs 3.43 per unit. On the flip side, it generates about 33 cubic meters of radioactive waste year by burning 40 tonnes of natural uranium every year. This waste can remain dangerous for a very long time.
Basking in the after-glow of the nuclear milestone, Ratan Kumar Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission said, "There is no release of carbon dioxide in the process of power generation from any of the nuclear power reactor including RAPS-5. The nuclear power is a clean and green source of energy which indeed is helpful in reducing the carbon emission in the environment." The NPCIL too points out that in the 765-day period, 4.25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission was avoided. (765 Days Uninterrupted: India's Nuclear Chief Basks in Record Glory)
The reactor used 82 tonnes of uranium to produce the power output. In comparison, to generate a similar quantity of electricity in a thermal plant, a whopping over 3 million tons of coal would have been required.
After this record-breaking dream run, the plant will now be shut down for routine maintenance and safety checks.