VOLGODONSK: Even as the civil work for the third unit of Kudankulam nuclear power plant, in Tirunelveli district on the southern corner of Tamil Nadu, is going on at a brisk pace, its lifeline is getting assembled approximately 5,500 km away in Volgodonsk. A giant 360- tonne steam generator fixed in an assortment of metallic frames at Atommash, Russia's biggest manufacturer of nuclear power plant equipment, is approaching the 'ready' stage.
"It will take three more months to complete," says Andrey Marchenko, the technical director of the facility. Three months from now would be well before the 'end of 2018' deadline for the start of equipment supply for Kudankulam-3. Three more such steam generators would be assembled for the third unit of India's biggest nuclear power plant and thereafter four more for Kudankulam-4. After that, these would be transported, first through a road-train in a container as big as a football ground, and then through sea route.
"One steam generator requires 600 days to complete -- from casting to finished product," Marchenko says. "The entire process is completed under one roof with a separate deadline for each phase," says Maksim Jidkov, director, operations.
With over 2,500 employees, the Volgodonk utility, one of the 30 companies of the grand conglomerate Atomenergomash spread over Russia and several other countries, has a sprawling 170 hectare campus. Set up in 1976, it shipped out its first reactor five years later. And after overcoming post-Soviet era hiccups, it is now back into production with an enlarged portfolio.
“Nuclear equipment makes for 75% of our revenue. The rest comes from equipment for petrochemical, thermal power and other new products,” Jidkov says. “Upgraded production capacities allow simultaneous fabrication of up to 4 sets of reactor equipment for VVER type nuclear power plants. The branch also produces items for largest Russian and foreign oil refineries, producing and power generation companies. Proprietary river berth for loading of oversize cargoes allows transportation of products to any point in Russia and the world,” he adds.
Nuclear energy is in the core of India-Russia ties. In fact, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in port city Sochi – which last week hosted 10th AtomExpo – they are likely to take this cooperation several steps ahead. While four more units of Kudankulam plant, with a combined capacity of 4000 MW, are now well on track, there are indications that six more reactors are likely to come up in Andhra Pradesh with Russia support.
While AtomExpo in Sochi concluded with a constant push to make nuclear energy safer, the sector seems to have left the despondency of Fukushima disaster behind. While 55 new reactors are likely to come up between 2014 and 2019, India too targets to jack up its total stalled capacity from present 6780 MW to 22480 MW in 2031-32.
(The writer was in Sochi and Volgodonsk on invitation of Russian government)