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Cover Story | July 2017

We are qualified to supply nuclear grade equipment globally

Sayaji K Shinde, Vice President & Global Head (Power), Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL)

What is the current nuclear power scenario in India? What are the options available for boosting it?
Apart from the ongoing programmes such as RAPP and Kaiga, NPCIL is now talking about setting up 10 reactors simultaneously.

Apart from this, understandably, initial few reactors are allocated at the Kudankulam site and are being built by the Russians. There are also other international players such as - EDF-AREVA, Westinghouse and GE, who have shown interest in putting up NPPs in India by bringing in their technologies.

KBL is accredited with the N, NPT and MO stamp by American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). This certification qualifies us to manufacture nuclear grade equipment and components. This is a stringent qualification test conducted by the ASME and we have got recertified for the same last year with zero non-conformity report.

When we took up the challenge of getting the ASME certification, that was the time when we were already focussed and satisfactorily supporting NPCIL. However, to be able to support the foreign NPP manufacturers who would be given opportunities to build NPPs in India, we decided to go ahead with the arduous journey of getting ASME certification. This certification will play a vital role for us, as we assist the foreign players, in their India localisation program, which is a pre-requisite.

Is there any benchmark globally that identifies the best current technology or whether we are just depending on the three people AREVA, Westinghouse and GE, who have the technology?
In my personal understanding, the technology being currently used in the Indian nuclear programme is 'Candu', which is a Canadian technology. Globally, there are other NPP technologies such as the Russian, French, American, Korean etc. Generally speaking, the quality systems that go into building NPPs and the associated processes of manufacturing and documentation may vary slightly.

In my personal opinion, these technologies would more or less be at par/ similar when we relate the same to the equipment to be supplied by us.

Recently, I happened to be part of the KBL team that visited ITER (International Thermo-nuclear Experimental Reactor) power plant being set up in France. This power plant is based on fusion technology and is being undertaken by the international scientific community from USA, South Korea, France, UK, India and China. KBL is supporting this project with the supply of 45 numbers of Cooling Water Pumps. The power plants based on the ITER fusion technology could soon be yet another safe and dependable source of sustainable energy for the future.

After Fukushima accident global perception has changed about nuclear power. Some countries are walking out. How do you see its potential as a future source of cheap and clean power for the masses?
In my understanding, technologies for building newer power plants, are being continuously upgrading, based on past experiences and learning. In my opinion, what is also important to consider is the larger impact of plants generating power using coal, and thus adding to the increasing greenhouse gases.

Nuclear power, in relative terms, is a much cleaner power. It is a sustainable source and in some technologies it is also regenerating in nature. So, if you look at it from a sustainability point of view as well as environmental impact, and if all safety and precautions are applied, it is a far more sustainable source of energy.

I say this keeping in mind that the other alternatives such as solar and wind, are based on elements. During night there is no sun or there are times when there is no wind. If you have to look at base load power generation as an alternative to thermal power, then nuclear power does appear to be next best alternative or next better option in terms of cleaner power.

How competitive is nuclear when compared to solar and wind in pricing?
I may not be an authority to go into exact economics, but I know the cost of setting up an NPP is higher than the cost of a TPP, in terms of cost per mega watt. But when we look at the lifecycle cost (cost of ownership), the NPPs may emerge as very competitive.

Tariffs are based on several factors including the government policies and I would not consider myself competent to comment on them. However, I think, NPP technology may be expensive to begin with, but because they are low on operating cost it may prove to be economical in the long run.

At this juncture, it is also prudent to add that with the proposed fleet ordering by NPCIL, the overall capital costs of setting up an NPP in India may significantly come down, with economies of scale kicking in for the supporting industry.

What is your company's involvement in nuclear power sector and what is its importance?
We, at Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL) have been associated with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) right from its inception. Our association with NPCIL, BARC and DAE goes back several decades as we supported several of their projects and development programmes.

A few weeks ago, the Government sanctioned 10 new 700 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) for nuclear power projects. The announcement of this mega programme was followed by an Industry Meet 2017, called by NPCIL wherein industry representatives were encouraged to share their experiences and make suggestions on how this programme can be most effectively executed within the specified timeframe.

Apart from the interactive sessions with NPCIL, it was also a great networking opportunity with fellow industry partners who like us, have been supporting the nuclear power program of NPCIL. The important takeaways from the meet were:

i.NPCIL would consider a fleet mode ordering, for critical and long lead equipment required for the 10x700 MWe nuclear power projects.
ii.Understandably, their plan is to have one project commissioned and put one more into operation every year, after the initial gestation period.
iii.While the plan appears ambitious, with the collaborative partnership it appears possible and implementable
KBL has geared up for this program in terms of capabilities in design and engineering, in-house manufacturing (which has steadily enhanced over the years) and most importantly, having in place the human resource. The nuclear programme calls for highly skilled and knowledgeable manpower that understands nuclear product engineering, nuclear quality standards, manufacturing processes, documentation requirements and are familiar with the culture of working in the nuclear environment.

Human resource with such a profile is not readily available. Organisations need to build such teams through training, grooming and providing opportunities at work, commensurate with their knowledge and experience which has been cultivated over several years. At KBL, we have experienced team leaders with dedicated teams in key functions such as engineering, manufacturing, procurement, QC & documentation etc. We are hence ready to take on the challenges. This initiative will indeed bring about a renewed vigour into the industry.

What are the products or services you are associated with in the nuclear power sector?
For several decades now, we have been supporting DAE and NPCIL with critical pumping solutions (and in some projects, on an EPC basis). These are:-
1.Condenser Cooling Water Pumps (CCW Pumps)
2.Condensate Extraction Pumps (CEPs)
3.Primary and Secondary Coolant Pumps for Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR)
4.Auxiliary Boiler Feed Pumps (ABFP)
5.Canned Motor Moderator Circuit Pumps
6.We are in advance stage of executing the order for the development of the Shutdown Cooling Pumps (SDCP) and have also been recently awarded the contract for the development of the Main Boiler Feed Pumps (BFPs) for the 700 MWe Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).
We have also been qualified for the development of the Primary Coolant Pump for the PHWRs, which are one of the most critical equipment inside the NPP reactor.

Are you associated with any company in nuclear suppliers group or you are independently associated with any project in India?
We always had a very strong in-house Research and Development (R&D) base and we try to be independent on critical technologies such as this. We have seen organisations get into technology tie-ups and then with changes in environment, such technology support gets withdrawn. The products that have been developed for the nuclear programme are totally indigenous and in the true sense 'Made in India'.

-BS Srinivasalu Reddy

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