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Four India-designed 700 MW reactors being built at brisk pace

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Chennai: Construction of four India designed 700 MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) are progressing at a quick pace and the first one is expected to go on stream end 2016 or early 2017, said senior officials of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

The NPCIL is building two 700 MW atomic power plants each at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat and Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS).

For NPCIL that has been building 220 MW and 540 MW pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), it is a major jump to go in for 700 MW PHWRs.

“It is the first of its kind reactor in the country,” Lokesh Kumar, project director for the third and fourth units at KAPS told IANS over phone from Kakrapar in Gujarat on Monday.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the sectoral regulator, is carefully poring over the reports submitted by the units before according its sanction.

NPCIL has two units of 220 MW each at KAPS which are operating successfully.

It is the third unit at KAPS with a capacity of 700 MW that is expected to go operational first out of the four under construction.

“We are the torch bearers for this kind of reactor in the country now. Once the first unit goes on stream, it will be easy for other three,” Kumar said.

Queried about the project status, he said: “We are in a crucial stage. The construction work is at its peak. We have energised the start-up transformer. The power system is ready for the unit that would go on stream.”

According to him, work on commissioning of the other systems have begun while the civil construction work is nearing completion.

“This week we will start the installation of the reactor coolant channel. The coolant channel installation work will be over in two months time. Nuclear piping work has begun in the two units,” Kumar said.

He said stator installation work on the turbine will begin this week.

“We plan to start unit 3 by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Then commissioning of unit 4 would happen,” Kumar said.

Concrete was first poured in November 2010 for the 3rd unit at KAPS and in March 2011 for the fourth unit.

Though the first unit was expected to go on stream in 2015, owing to erratic supply of components the progress of work got delayed, Kumar said.

As to the percentage of physical progress, Kumar said the third unit is 75 percent complete and the fourth unit is 65 percent.

“The overall project cost for the two units is around Rs.11,459 crore. The project would be completed within the budget. There will be no cost escalation,” he added.

At RAPS where the other two 700 MW reactors are built at an outlay of Rs.12,300 crore, the preparatory work to install the coolant channels are on for the seventh unit under construction.

“Welding of end shield and calandria is over. Preparation work for core components – coolant channels – has started. It will take six months to complete,” B.C. Pathak, project director for 7th and 8th units at RAPS, told IANS.

He said the seventh unit was expected to go on stream sometime in 2017-18 and almost 57 percent of the physical work had been completed.

The NPCIL already has six units at RAPS, with a total capacity of 1,180 MW (4×220 MW and one each of 100 MW and 200 MW).

Ruling out any cost escalation, Pathak added: “We expect to complete the project within the budget. The softening of steel prices has resulted in lower escalation in costs.”

As for the eighth unit, the overall physical progress was around 40 percent.

“All the tenders have been finalised and contracts issued. There is no major tender that needs to be processed,” he added.

The senior NPCIL official said both the upcoming units will share many common facilities like the switchyard, control building and others.

The other first of its kind reactor in India located at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu is expected to restart power generation on October 30.

The unit has been jumping restart deadlines.

The first 1,000 MW unit at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) was shut down this June for annual maintenance.

The unit was connected to the southern grid in December 2014. The unit was operating at 60 percent capacity for some time before it was shut down for annual maintenance.

At the time of its shut down in June, NPCIL said the unit will restart after 60 days post annual maintenance and refuelling.

The NPCIL is setting up two units at KNPP with Russian equipment. The second unit on which work has been completed to the extent of 98.50 percent is expected to start the fission process in December 2015.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS)

 

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

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Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS