European pressurised reactors costlier, less efficient: expert

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 03, 2010 16:50 hrs

Mumbai, Dec 3 (IANS) A leading nuclear expert Friday questioned the wisdom of going in for the European pressurised reactors (EPRs) at the Jaitapur nuclear plant, especially since they generate four times more waste than the pressurised water reactors (PWRs).

Addressing a daylong seminar organised by groups like Konkan Bachao Andolan and Janhit Seva Samiti opposing the project, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) chairman A. Gopalakrishna said that the EPRs are not used anywhere in the world as they generate four times more radioactive wastes like bromine, iodine, caesium, etc, as compared to the conventional PWRs.

'These problems would persist during the spent fuel transfer, storage, reprocessing and waste disposal,' Gopalakrishnan warned.

He said that the French company Areva is a predominantly state-owned nuclear power company of France, which has development the 1650 MegaWatt EPRs.

'What is the maturity of EPR technology today? Till date, not a single EPR has been constructed and commissioned for operations anywhere in the world. There are four EPRs in various stages of construction worldwide and two of them are already facing serious problems,' Gopalakrishnan said.

He contended that since no EPR has ever been operated, there is no data on long-term clad integrity under high burn-up. The higher burn-up in EPR would result in thinning of the fuel cladding, making it prone for early failure and fission product release.

Accordingly, the assurances by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd that the radiation dose rates to workers and public will be kept within the AERB-stipulated limits are baseless, he added.

Touching the cost factor, Gopalakrishnan said that the current cost estimate of the Finnish EPR is Euros 5.5 billion, Chinese EPR around Euros 5 billion, giving an average cost of Euros 5.3 billion per 1650MW EPR.

'At the 2010 exchange rates, this comes to a whopping Rs.19.5 crore per MW,' he said.

Expressing apprehension that in the long run, the EPRs could have serious operational, safety and radiological release problems far in excess of current generation reactions, Gopalakrishnan urged India not to embark on an EPR based power project until significant operational experience is gained elsewhere with this system.

The daylong seminar was organised to discuss threadbare the 9,900 Jaitapur nuclear park consisting of six nuclear plants, the biggest in the country, coming up in the state's Ratnagiri district.

The project was accorded environmental clearance Nov 28, a few days before the scheduled visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy to Mumbai.

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