The recent grid synchronisation of the third unit at Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP), near Surat in Gujarat, is notable indeed. The 700 MW unit is now our largest-capacity nuclear reactor, and the first of at least 16 units planned to balance the grid as we duly rev up green renewable power generation, intermittent and variable in nature.

The nuclear route provides clean, stable, baseload power, and is an important element of our energy policy and climate strategy. The latest unit incorporates the indigenously developed pressurised heavy-water reactor (PHWR) technology, designed for use of natural uranium and avoid fuel enrichment.

Note that KAPP has two smaller PHWRs, each of 220 MW capacity. Domestic resource endowments — rather small uranium reserves and bountiful availability of nuclear-fertile material thorium — have prompted India to adopt its well-known three-stage nuclear programme.

The stated target is to achieve 63 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2032; uranium imports are no longer a constraint, thanks to the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, agreed upon in circa 2005 and concluded in 2008. The ongoing development of a chain of nuclear reactors here appears to have avoided costly time and cost overruns, reportedly due to modular design, standardisation and proven buildup of expertise over the years.

The country embarked on its second-stage nuclear programme with the successful operation of a research reactor labelled Fast Breeder Test Reactor. Fastbreeder reactors produce more fissile material than they consume. And the 500-MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is slated to be commissioned later this year. The advanced reactors would enable conversion of thorium into fissile uranium in the third stage.

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