Russia has offered a new type of fuel assembly for the reactors at the Kudankulam power plant which will increase the period between replacements by 10 months and save millions of dollars in downtime while the process is on.
The present fuel assemblies used in Kudankulam need replacement after around eight months. The new version however will need replacement only after around a year and a half, Oleg A Grigoryev, Vice President of TVEL, the company through which Rosatom, the Russian atomic power corporation supplies fuel, told on the sidelines of the Atomexpo in Moscow.
“It saves 60-70 operational days in around three years, and saves $60-70 million which would have been lost had the plant not been working,” he said.
A fuel assembly is a structured group of fuel rods – long, slender, metal tubes containing pellets of fissionable material which provide fuel for nuclear reactors.
The Kudankulam plant uses the UTVS type of fuel assembly that consists of spacer grids floating on the load-bearing skeleton. Talks are on for using a new type of fuel assembly, called the TVS-2M, which consists of spacer grids welded to guide channels.
This assembly increases the number of operational days for the plant by increasing the fuel cycle, which means a greater gap before the next change.
“Negotiations are on for the TVS-2M fuel assembly for Kudankulam. This is a modern design which is more efficient and contains a higher load of uranium,” Grigoryev said.
“This means an assembly can be used for generating more power and the fuel cost per kilowatt comes down,” he said.
He added that in around four years time, both reactors of Kudankulam will have this new fuel assembly.
The first 1,000 MW at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is at present generating to its full capacity. Fuel has been loaded in the second 1,000 MW reactor and it is likely to start generating power by mid-July.
The ground breaking for the third and fourth units, also of 1,000 MW each, was performed earlier this year.