S.M. Kumar

    About 150 kilometres from Delhi, along the perennial Ganga, lies a sleepy, small township called Narora in Uttar Pradesh. In spite of its lush green surroundings Narora might have remained obsure. But it is not so. Today Narora is a well-known location on India's nuclear power map.

    The Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS) is a unit of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). It generates 440 KW of nuclear power daily and feeds it to the Northern Power Grid. Altogether seven States are its beneficiaries. The entire operation of power generation at Narora is silent and eco-friendly. But for its massive chimneys, reactors and power lines, the existence of the complex could have remained unnoticed.

    Narora is the fourth atomic power station in the country. Its foundation was laid on January 4, 1974. The nuclear power plants to have been commissioned in India earlier were Tarapur (Maharashtra) Rawatbhata (Rajasthan) and Kalpakkam (Tamilnadu). The first unit of Narora went critical on March 12, 1989 while the second one achieved this distinction on October 24, 1991. The commercial production of power from the first unit of NAPS started on January 1, 1991. The second unit began its output on June 30, 1992.

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    Recently NAPS achieved a feat. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) presented it the ISO-14001 certification for its excellent track record in environmental safety. The plant conformed to the highest norms of safety as per the international standards. India is the first country to enact legislation to provide for the protection and improvement of environment in its constitution.

    In the parlence of environmental management system ISO-14001 certification is applicable to all industries and establishments irrespective of their shape, size and type of operations. This certification was approved by International Organisation on Standardisation (ISO) in 1996 and is universally acceptable.

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    NAPS was conferred the ISO-14001 certification for its overall continual improvement in environmental performance. This nuclear power house keeps the environmental effects of radiation at the losest possible level. It complies with all the applicable legal requirements by continuously adhereing to the lowest limits of discharges. NAPS follows the guidelines set by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board. It maintains and develops a green belt all around the complex and provides awareness among workers on environment safety besides improving their competence level.

    What is nuclear power? According to the Law of Physics when a specific quantity of uranium in a certain amount of heavy water is arranged, it causes nuclear fission. This leads to generation of heat and consequently electricity. This law was discovered by Frederick Joliot together with his wife, Irene Joliot Curie, both French scientists, in 1934. They were the first to produce artificial radio activity. The first chain reaction in a pile of graphite was demonstrated by Enrico Fermi, an Italian-born American physicist, and his team in December 1942. India was still struggling for Independence at that time. The industrial revolution had practically bypassed us. It is to the credit of the great visionaries that soon after India became free, steps were initiated for self-reliance in nuclear energy. With this goal our country has been designing and commissioning nuclear power plants from the 1970s. These plants have been of the capacity of 220 MW. With this experience in hand, a 500 MW nuclear plant has been successfully designed and its construction is in the process.

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    To harness nuclear fission more efficiently and purposefully we need a scheme of things - the engineering. A nuclear plant is only such a scheme which allows harnessing of nuclear fission for generation of electricity. A number of such schemes or designs have been evolved by our nuclear scientists.

    One such design is Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) which uses natural uranium as fuel, heavy water both as moderator (to slow down neutrons, essential to sustain the nuclear fission chain reaction) and fas coolant - the medium used to remove the heat produced in the fission to raise steam. The steam is transmitted to the turbo-generator for producing electricity.

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    No equipment failure is acceptable in an nuclear power plant. But there may be possibilities of failure at times. There are a large number of checks and balances at all levels to ensure that public safety is not compromised at any cost. At NAPS as in any other nuclear power plant in the country all equipment are thoroughly tested every day. Periodically the Power House is shut down to inspect the system and to ensure that every equipment in the complex mechanism of the power plant functions smoothly.

    Nuclear power is an option compared to thermal and hydel energy. It is clean and green power. Unlike a thermal power plant a nuclear reactor does not cause global warming. The wastage in any nuclear plant is negligible compared to a thermal power plant. It does not produce green houses gases.

    The demand for power is going up all over the world every day. According to a rough estimate in the 20th century alone the world consumed energy equivalent to all its consumption in the last five millennia.