Rawatbhata (Rajasthan): Sending a strong signal on continuance of its nuclear programme despite the Fukushima accident, India on Monday began construction of its 25th atomic power plant and announced to build four more indigenous 700 MW units than planned earlier.

 The first pour of concrete for the 700 MW indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR), the seventh nuclear plant at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS), took place in this bustling Rajasthan township about 65 km from Kota.

The ceremony, which signals the beginning of the construction of a nuclear plant, was attended by Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) CMD Shreyans Kumar Jain.

 The 25th plant coincides with the silver jubilee of NPCIL next year.

 The construction of this plant was scheduled to start in March but was put off pending safety review in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident, said S A Bhardwaj, Director (Technical) NPCIL.

 "We had to revisit the safety measures and have a relook at the design in the wake of the Fukushima accident" he said.

 Bhardwaj said after the review, some additional safety features were incorporated and the 700 MW plant now can withstand a scenario of a breach in the Gandhisagar dam situated at a height near Rawatbhata and simultaneous July 26 like rainfall in the region.

 "The passive safety measures in the plant take care of a scenario in which all the plant operators are incapacitated," he said.

"The new designs we have developed include learnings from Fukushima," Bhardwaj said.

 On the ocassion, Jain announced that NPCIL will build fourteen 700 MW PHWRs as against the 10 planned earlier. The NPCIL plans to complete the 700 MW PHWR within five years.

The nuclear operator had built the 540 MW PHWR at Tarapur in a record time of four years and 10 months. "We will try to beat that," Banerjee said.

The 700 MW PHWR designed by NPCIL is an upscaled version of the 540 MW PHWRs under operation at Tarapur since 2005.

RAPS already has six units of PHWRs, five of which are producing over 1180 MW.

The NPCIL currently operates 20 nuclear power plants across six sites and has an installed capacity of 4780 MW.

The Centre had given a financial sanction of Rs 24,000 crore in October 2009 for building four units of 700 MW of PHWRs -- two each at Kakrapar and Rawatbhata in Rajashtan.

Two 700 MW PHWRs are expected to come up at Chutka near Bargi in Madhya Pradesh and four in Fatehpur in Haryana.

Besides these 10 four additional plants are expected to be built at different sites in Rajasthan and Haryana.

The NPCIL is building two 1000 MW VVER type nuclear power plants at Kudankulam and two 700 MW PHWRs at Kakrapar in Gujarat.

Unit 1 and 2 at Kudankulam are expected to be operational by August this year and May next year respectively.

Both the 700 MW units at Kakrapar are expected to start producing power by 2015 end.

(Agencies)