Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin today inaugurated unit 1 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Together with J Jayalalithaa, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, where the plant is based, the two leaders conducted the inauguration via a video conference.
The unit is already in service, having started commercial operation on 31 December 2014. Output from Kudankulam-1 is being supplied to India's southern grid and divided between five states: Tamil Nadu (56%), Karnataka (22%), Kerala (13%), Andhra Pradesh (5%) and Puducherry (3%).
The Kudankulam plant's site director, R. S. Sundar, said during today's inauguration that unit 2 will be ready by end of this month. Both units are Russian-built VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors.
During the video conference, which included a link to the plant site in Tirunelveli, Modi said India and Russia plan to build a series of nuclear power plants. "Today's event is a joyful event for the Russian team of engineers in India and Russia. We salute them for their relentless work," Modi said. "I have a vision for India where [the] achievements of our economic development will benefit Earth. Kundankulam. The success of this plant demonstrates a common resolve to build new ties."
Putin said the unit had been built with the latest Russian nuclear power technology. "It is not just construction and commissioning of the power plant. It is well known that Russia is one of the world leaders in nuclear technology and we are glad to share with our Indian colleagues our technology," he said.
Cooperation between India and Russia to build the plant has its origins in an inter-governmental agreement signed in 1988 by the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. First concrete for unit 1 was poured in March 2002, with that for unit 2 following four months later. The units were originally scheduled to begin commercial operation in December 2007 and December 2008 respectively.
Although unit 1 was completed in March 2011, its commissioning was delayed due to protests and legal action following the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant the same month. Plant owner Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) announced in July 2013 that the unit had achieved first criticality. It was connected to the grid in October that year. Unit 2 - India's 22nd nuclear power reactor - achieved first criticality last month.
Indian news agency IANS said today Russia's latest VVER-1200 reactor technology is likely to be used for future units. IANS quoted former NPCIL chairman M R Srinivasan as saying Russia's commissioning last week of Novovoronezh-6 "is of interest for India". Srinivasan added: "We expect to build the larger size units at the second site that is likely to be made available for Russian reactors."
During Modi's visit to Moscow in December last year, Modi and Putin said in a joint statement that cooperation between the two countries on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was a "cornerstone" of their strategic partnership. Putin said negotiations were at an advanced stage for Kudankulam 3 and 4. Modi said India plans to have 12 Russian nuclear reactors at two sites.
Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said today that the 12 units in India will include up to eight reactors "in the Kudankulam area". Talks are now being held, Rosatom said, on a general contract for construction of Kudankulam 5 and 6, which is expected to be signed this autumn.
The Indian cabinet said in January that commercial negotiations between NPCIL and US-based Westinghouse on the construction of six AP1000 units at Mithi Virdi in India are on course to be finalized this year.
Mithi Virdi, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, is intended to host up to six AP1000s built in three stages. NPCIL commenced site works in 2012, and Westinghouse and NPCIL signed a preliminary commercial contract in September 2013. Mithi Virdi is on a list of ten proposed sites for new nuclear power plants given in-principle approval by the Indian government in April 2015.
According to today's Rosatom statement, Putin and Modi are next scheduled to meet at the BRICS summit to be held in Goa in October. BRICS is a grouping of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.