Alexey Zhukov, First Vice President for Construction ASE JSC, wrote an article about Kudankulam NPP. 10 years ago, in October 2013, the first power unit of Kudankulam NPP, its main equipment developed and supplied by Rosatom, delivered the first kilowatt-hours to the Indian grid. The nuclear power plant has become a symbol of the expansion of partnership between our countries, and its six power units lay a reliable foundation for the country's energy independence.
Today, the leadership of Russia's nuclear technologies in the world is proved by the following figures: at present, Rosatom is holding 85% of the NPP export market and is building 22 power units in 7 countries (a total of 26 export NPP construction projects are currently being implemented in the world). India is a long-standing and reliable strategic partner of Russia, with cooperation between the two countries having a long and time-tested history.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in the coming decades, due to the urbanization and industrialization of the country, the demand for energy in India will grow at the highest rate in the world – by an average of 5.6% per year. At the same time, there is an urgent need for the development of the energy system to be based on low-carbon technologies that have minimal impact on the environment. India intends to achieve carbon neutrality by 2070, and the expert community is following the implementation of these goals with great attention, realizing that the energy strategy of the world's most populous country will be crucial for meeting global climate conservation goals.
India pays special attention to nuclear generation in its energy strategy. Currently, there are 7 nuclear power plants in operation in India, comprising 22 nuclear reactors, with 7 more power units under construction. India ranks second in the world after China in terms of the number of nuclear power units being under construction at the same time.
Kudankulam NPP, India's largest nuclear power plant and the flagship project of Russian-Indian technology and energy cooperation, has become the jewel in the crown of India's nuclear development.
Six pillars of India's energy independence
Kudankulam NPP, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, is a plant of six Russian-designed power units equipped with pressurized water reactor plants with a capacity of 1000 MW each. The customer and operator of the plant is Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). The general contractor is ASE JSC; the general designer is Atomenergoproekt JSC; the general engineer is OKB Gidropress. The project is carried out on the terms of technical assistance. This means that the Russian party ensures the design, manufacture, supply of equipment, supervision and training of Indian personnel. NPCIL is responsible for the construction, installation and commissioning, as well as the operation of the plant.
The first two units of Kudankulam NPP were built within the framework of a Cooperation Agreement concluded between the USSR and the Republic of India in 1988 and an Annex to it added in 1998. The construction of Unit 1 started in March 2022, and that of Unit 2 – in July of the same year. In October 2013, Unit 1 was connected to the Indian grid, and in June 2014 it was brought to 100% capacity. Now the first two units of Kudankulam NPP are powering the South Indian states. Since the beginning of operation, both units have generated more than 83 billion kWh of electricity.
In October 2016, within the framework of a Russian-Indian summit, a ceremony was held to mark the start of construction of Kudankulam NPP Units 3 and 4. Construction and installation of the units are underway, and equipment deliveries are close to completion. In 2021, the first concrete was laid on Units 5 and 6 of the NPP.
The advent of Kudankulam NPP has been a game-changer for the people of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. An entire generation of its inhabitants has already grown up under the conditions of a round-the-clock supply of energy. The construction and operation of the plant has provided training, jobs, and new homes for many local people. Indian companies take orders, make money, pay taxes, and replenish the budget. At the same time, transport and commercial infrastructure is developing.
The construction of Kudankulam NPP contributes to the strengthening of India's energy security, ensures its economic growth and sustainable development.
The design solutions of Kudankulam NPP provide for the use of advanced Russian safety technologies. The AES-92 design, which is the basis of the Indian plant, fully complies with the requirements of modern IAEA regulatory and technical documents and is certified to meet the European Utility Requirements for LWR Nuclear Power Plants (EUR) applicable to nuclear power plants built after 2000.
Kudankulam NPP combines active and passive safety systems, as well as four protective barriers that prevent the spread of ionizing radiation and radioactive materials into the environment and make the plant as resistant as possible to external and internal impacts. The first one is the fuel matrix preventing release of fission products under the fuel element cladding. The second one is the fuel element cladding itself preventing ingress of fission products to the primary circuit coolant. The third one is the reactor coolant circuit preventing release of fission products under the containment. And finally, the fourth one is the containment system ruling out a release of fission products to the environment. Kudankulam NPP also incorporates a two-circuit arrangement that keeps all radioactive media inside the containment.
Kudankulam NPP was designed and built to withstand any climatic conditions and natural disasters. The buildings and structures were placed on high ground for protection from a tsunami. In addition, the coastline was protected with wave energy absorption. In addition, a design basis earthquake of magnitude 8 on the MSK-64 scale is taken into account in the NPP design. It is thanks to this that the plant was not damaged during the devastating earthquake and tsunami that took place in South East Asia in 2004.
Specifically for Kudankulam NPP, which is located in a region with a large traditional fishing industry, the Russian Gidroproekt Institute developed an innovative project to protect the aquatic biological resources of Manar Bay in the Indian Ocean from the man-made impact of the plant. The service water supply system of the nuclear power plant provides for a continuous intake of cooling water from the sea; the water intakes of the NPP are extended into the sea to form a coastal transit channel and include fish protection and other hydraulic engineering structures. The protection of aquatic biological resources is achieved with maximizing the use of the natural habitat in accordance with environmental standards and minimizing construction costs.
Advanced approaches and Russian know-how in the construction of nuclear power plants have also made it possible to reduce the work performance timeframe. In particular, the open top technology – installation of equipment through an open top – was used on the project (with the reactor compartment covered with a dome after installation). Analysis of the installation of Unit 3 showed that the method had saved five to seven months.
New horizons of cooperation
The successful implementation of the Kudankulam NPP project provides a solid basis for expanding bilateral cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Indian companies are also involved in Rosatom's project to build Bangladesh's first nuclear power plant, Rooppur NPP. Specifically, Hindustan Construction Company is carrying out the construction and installation of the turbine plant buildings and Paharpur Cooling Towers is constructing all 4 cooling towers and 2 pumping stations of the power units.
New areas of cooperation are also being discussed. It is about the construction of Russian-designed small nuclear power plants (SNPP) in India. Cooperation in nuclear fuel cycle and non-power applications of nuclear energy is also regarded as promising.
Russia and India have great potential for developing cooperation in science and technology, including in controlled thermonuclear fusion and within the framework of a Russian project for a multipurpose fast neutron research reactor which is being built in Dimitrovgrad, Russia.
At the same time, we are engaged in a dialog with Indian partners to jointly develop the transit potential of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Specialized organizations of Russia and India are discussing a possibility of systematic supplies of Russian energy resources (oil, coal, and LNG) from north-western ports of Russia via the NSR to ports of India with transshipment in Russian Far Eastern ports. Options for cooperation are being worked out within the framework of the Euro-Asian Container Transit project, aimed at organizing a pilot line for international container transit through the NSR.
The multi-faceted Russian-Indian cooperation in the nuclear field, based on mutual trust and respect, contributes to the development of a privileged bilateral strategic partnership.