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Advanced boiler for coal-fired power plants in Kalpakkam

Chennai, Sep 6 (Calcutta Tube) The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam has decided to design and develop a 800 MW advanced, ultra super-critical boiler for use in coal-fired power plants.

IGCAR has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with power equipment manufacturer BHEL and power generating company NTPC.

As per plans, IGCAR will design and develop the advanced, ultra super-critical boiler that can operate at a pressure of 350 bar (a measure of steam pressure) and at a temperature of 700 degree centigrade.

While BHEL will manufacture the boiler and other equipment needed for power generation and NTPC will operate the plant.

‘The whole project, starting from design, development, manufacturing, plant construction and commissioning, will involve an outlay of around Rs.10,000 crore. Construction of the plant is expected to start by 2018,’ IGCAR Director Baldev Raj told IANS.

‘Our expertise is in equipment design, development of materials that can operate in very high temperature. We also draw out the equipment manufacturing codes and standards. These have been demonstrated designing and developing materials with the upcoming PFBR,’ he added.

Raj said the three organisations are joining hands because there is a national challenge. ‘Development of this technology is one such challenge which when becomes successful will result in huge savings for India.’

According to him, 40 percent of the projected 800,000 MW power generation capacity by 2031 will comprise of coal- based power plants, which, in turn, means a huge investment on thermal power plants.

Most of the power project promoters have opted for imported super critical boilers (operating at 250 bar and 600 degree centigrade) paying fancy prices.

According to equipment makers, foreign companies are selling super critical boilers at Rs.1.80 crore per MW which includes a premium for technology and branding.

‘Indigenous development of advanced technology will help India to contain the equipment costs,’ said Raj.

The other advantage of such boiler is that it would improve fuel-efficiency and reduce the carbon emissions.

Raj said the proposed project or mission would need about 100 persons and will be drawn from the three organisations.

‘There will be a Mission Director who would oversee and coordinate the project activities. We are yet to decide where the project will be headquartered and who would be the mission director. It could be from the three organisations or even from outside,’ he said.

BHEL has claimed that it has mastered the super critical boiler technology. The company makes sub-critical boilers operating at 170 bar and about 500 degree centigrade.

‘The difference between ultra super critical boiler (operating at 300 bar and 650 degree centigrade) and advanced ultra super critical boilers is not major. If need be we will go in for extensive peer review of our technology as we did while developing the fast breeder reactor,’ Raj said.

IGCAR has successfully designed and developed India’s first 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) which is now under construction at Kalpakkam, around 80 KM from here.

According to officials, a presentation about the new mission will be made to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Principal Scientific Advisor, R. Chidambaram.

The move to develop the technology for coal-fired power plants, however, does not mean IGCAR’s original mandate of developing fast breeder reactors has come to an end.

‘What we are building at Kalpakkam is only a prototype fast reactor. The future fast reactors will be different and the challenges are not small. Further we have to progress and mature the nuclear fuel cycle technology to realise the nation’s three stage nuclear power generation,’ Raj remarked.

A fast breeder reactor is one which breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes and key to India’s three stage nuclear power programme.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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