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Nuclear and Thermal Power Plants of India

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  • Last Updated : 14 Apr, 2022

Power or electricity is an essential component of infrastructure development and it forms the basic input in any growth industry. The power sector is one of the largest consumers resources, be it a household or an industry, it impacts everyone as it affects a country’s economic growth and welfare. The basic framework for the electric supply industry in India started after the power sector regulated Electricity Act, 1910. Before 1990, Indian public sector companies controlled the production, distribution, and transmission of electricity, after that, several acts were changed, and finally, it helps to enhance the participation of the private sector and those have transformed the Power sector’s performance.

Currently, Thermal power and Nuclear Power contribute respectively 71% and 3.11% of total power generation in India. According to the recent data, Thermal power is the largest, and Nuclear Power plant is the fifth-largest source of generating electricity in India. The power sector in India did not undergo significant progress before Independence, only Hydropower and coal-based thermal power were the main sources of generating electricity. At that time, power was available only in a few urban cities with a power generating capacity of only 1,362 Mega Watt.  At present, India has 7 nuclear power plants with 23 operational nuclear reactors with a power generating capacity of 7,480 Mega Watt.  

In India, the reserve of uranium is less and for this reason, to provide fuel to our nuclear power industry, we have to be dependent on uranium imports from other countries and this is one of the major causes that nuclear power plants introduce many years after the introduction of thermal power plants. At Trombay, in 1954, Sir Homi Jehangir Bhabha founded a nuclear research center which was later renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Under the leadership of Homi J. Bhabha, the nuclear energy program in India was launched in 1958. Asia’s first nuclear reactor Apsara is the oldest research reactor in India, that was designed by the BARC and built with assistance from the United Kingdom which also provided the initial fuel supply for the reactor. According to the current data, during 2015-19, India got the maximum supply of uranium from Kazakhstan, but since the early age of the nuclear revolution in India, Russia has been a major supplier of nuclear fuel.

History of  Power Sector of India before 1947

During the colonial period, Electricity was introduced in India by the British. They electrified the major cities, offices, and major ports. In 1879, in the history of India, a Private Company named PW Fleury & Co. used light bulbs to display electricity on the streets of Calcutta.  

The first hydel generating station, Sidrapong Power station, is located at the foothills of Arya Tea Estate, and it was set up in Darjeeling with a capacity of 130kW. In 1896, this power station was commissioned to supply power to the Darjeeling tea plantations. Later by 1933, its capacity was increased to 1000kW. In 1920, the Nizam of Hyderabad opened India’s first thermal power station, Hussain Sagar Thermal Power Station. The first thermal power station in Kolkata was commissioned by the Calcutta Electricity Supply Co. in 1899 at Emambagh, Kolkata. The capacity of this plant was later upgraded by installations at different places in Kolkata i.e., Howrah station, Alipore station, and Ultadanga station. Some other important power projects before 1947 are:

1. Sivasamudram Power Station

In 1902, by the Mysore government, Sivasamudram Power Station was installed and at that time this is the major power station in the southern region of India. This power station was commissioned under the Cauvery Power Scheme, mainly to supply power to the Kolar gold mines. Besides this, it supplied power to Bangalore and the Madras Presidency. The initial capacity was 4500kW and by upgrading the capacity was around 56,000 h.p.

2. Jammu And Mohra power plant

In 1909, Jammu and Kashmir had two major generating stations, the Jammu power plant, and the Mohra water power plant. The Jammu Power Plant, built on the river Chenab, and the Mohra Station, built on the river Jhelum. This power station is mainly to supply power to Srinagar City.

3. Mettur Power Station

Power from Sivasamudram was received in the Mettur receiving station to be stepped down and converted to 50Hz and then sent to some cities of Madras. In 1925 a generating plant was set up near the Mettur dam with a capacity of 33,00hp. The Mettur Generating Station supplied power to Madras, Moyar, and Erode.

4. Tata hydro-electric power

By harnessing the rainfall on the Bhore Ghat between Bombay and Pune, the Tata hydroelectric power supply company was formed in 1911, and help to the electrification of the Bombay Presidency. The Tata Hydro-electric Power Supply Co. is the first of these companies, to utilize the monsoon precipitation collected in different lakes and it had a capacity of 48,000 kW.

5. Pykara Power Station

In 1933 with an installed capacity of 6.65MW, the Pykara power station of the Nilgiris was set up. The Pykara power station supplied power to some of the southern towns of India. The water source for this hydroelectric Power Plant is Pykara, Mukurthi, and Sandynallah Rivers. Later, the power plant is owned by the Tamil Nadu State Government under the control of the Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu get maximum benefit by generating electricity from the Pykara Power Station which construction was completed in 1954.

Growth Scenario of  Power Sector of India After 1947

In India, the total power generating capacity from all sources of power has increased from 1,362 MW in 1947 to 379.1 GW by 28th February 2021. India’s electricity sector is dominated by coal-based thermal power plants, which accounted for about three-fourths of the total electricity produced in the country in 2021.

After 1947, the Government of India made electricity a concurrent subject (in which laws can be made both by the Union and the State governments) by Electricity Act, 1948 the State Electricity Boards (SEBs) starts represented the states to generate electricity production. Thus all new power generation and distribution that was not served by private utilities came under the purview of State and Central government agencies. Still, at that time, Nuclear power development is a slower pace, which was introduced, in the last 60s. For the first five years plan, the power supply industry has been under constant pressure to bridge the gap between supply and demand. 

Let’s discuss the topic by dividing the process of power generating in India into three time periods:

The starting phase of the First Five-Year Plan (1951-1956), was the beginning of the planned development of electric power. At that time the private sector then controlled only 12% of the generation while the rest was under the public sector. During this period Electricity Boards had been set up in various states in the year 1956. the first Electricity Board was set up in West Bengal. Before the introduction of five-year plans, the size of each generating unit was 15MW, which has increased to 650MW today. During the early 1960s, to generate electricity process regionally self-sufficient, govt was decided to divide the country into five regions grids, i.e. Southern, Northern, North-Eastern, Western and Eastern.

From, the Fifth Five-Years Plan (1974-79), the Government itself was involved in a big way in the generation and bulk transmission of power to supplement the efforts at the State level and set up The National thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC) in 1975. Later in 1976, govt set up North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) to implement the regional power projects in the North-East, again in 1988 govt was set up Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation (NJPC) and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC). In 1989, to operate and maintain the inter-State and interregional transmission systems govt. created the National Power Transmission Corporation (NPTC).

The government of India announced the Policy Of Liberalization in the year 1991 and amendments in the Electricity Supply Act to open a new path to involve private efforts and investments in the electricity industry of India. According to the act, the private generating companies can set up power generating facilities and can sell the power in bulk to the grid or other persons. Now it was permission able that up to a hundred percent foreign equity participation can be permitted for the projects to set up power plants by foreign private investors in the Indian Electricity Sector.

Nuclear Power Sector and Its Initial Challenges

The introduction of nuclear power in India started in the decade 1966-76. It was introduced in the western, northern, and southern regions of India because of its distance from coal fields, which are largely concentrated in the eastern and central parts of the country. It was a very challenging situation for the govt. to continue supplying coal over long distances to the thermal stations. Especially in the southern region of India where the bulk of electricity was traditionally provided by hydroelectric power, besides this due to successive failures of the monsoons excessive load shedding had become a common phenomenon. On the other sides, Power production from oil and gas was never seriously considered in India, since a substantial portion of our requirements has to be imported. Due to an increase in oil prices, power production by using oil became costly. So, the power production in India continues to rely on coal power and hydropower and, increasingly over the years, on nuclear power.

Nuclear power in India has suffered from generally low capacity factors and one of the main reasons for the low capacity factors is the lack of nuclear fuel. In 1956, construction began at Trombay on a uranium metal plant for the research reactors and the uranium plant came into operation in January 1959, followed by the fuel element facility in February 1960. Since that time, in the field of thorium-based fuels, India has been making advances by working on the design and developing many prototypes for atomic reactors using thorium and low-enriched uranium.

Some Major Thermal Indian Power Plants

S.No. Power PlantLocation
1.Sipat Thermal Power PlantBilaspur, Chhattisgarh
2. Korba Super Thermal Power Plant  Chhattisgarh
3. Rihand Thermal Power Plant Sonebhadra, UP
4. Jharsuguda Thermal Power PlantOdisha
5. Tiroda Thermal Power PlantMaharashtra
6.Mundra Thermal Power Plant Kutch, Gujarat
7.Vindhyachal Thermal Power PlantSingrauli, Madhya Pradesh
8.Talcher Super Thermal Power PlantAngul, Odisha
9. Anpara Thermal Power Plant   Uttar Pradesh
10.Barauni Thermal Power PlantBihar

Operational Nuclear Power Plants in India

             Power station                 

Established

State

Total capacity

Kudankulam                             

2002

 Tamil Nadu

     2,000

Chennai (Kalpakkam)                         

1984

 Tamil Nadu  

      440

Narora                    

1991

 Uttar Pradesh  

      440

Rawatbhata                       

1973

  Rajasthan

     1,180

Tarapur                      

1969

  Maharashtra

     1,400

Kaiga     

2000

  Karnataka

      880

Kakrapar                

1993

   Gujarat

     1140


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