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Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant : Unlocking Power

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Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant : India’s Largest Power Plant

It’s one of the most securely guarded places in the country. A mammoth enterprise working around the clock to deliver high voltage electricity with a combined capacity of fourteen hundred megawatts from its four units, Tarapur, is India’s largest nuclear plant. It’s a place where a very few people have access to, an insight to what goes on behind the walls of a nuclear power plant. It is probably the most futuristic thing to be seen outside of science fiction building.

The world of nuclear power is indeed fascinating. Most of the people really don’t know what goes inside the walls they tend to give their imagination. But what is actually happening inside these walls is that a clean source of energy is being used to produce electricity. Inside the atomic power plant nuclear energy production is in full-swing. Tarapur units three and four are India’s most up to date pressurized heavy water reactors in operation and each is capable of generating 540 megawatt of power. There are 31 countries worldwide that have about 430 commercial nuclear reactors. India has 21 nuclear reactors that are operational which are run by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited on NPCIL. Tarapur is India’s most iconic nuclear plant when the first two nuclear reactors came up to Tarapur way back in 1969 it was an historic event. It was a long journey for the nuclear equipment which was transported all the way from foreign shore. An agreement has been signed in 1964 between General Electric USA and India to set up the plant. Two more units Tarapur III and IV came up by 2005-2006 using indigenous technology. Put all four together and you have the largest nuclear power plant in the country in terms of capacity. We have four units, the oldest unit no. I & II are generating 320 Megawatt per day comes out to be 1.6 million units per day. In Tarapur III & IV the latest units are generating around 26 million per day and that comes out to be a very huge amount of electricity. The TMS site is giving one third generation of the total order NPCL is producing today.

At the heart of nuclear power plant generation is that colossal dome structure around which the entire plant is built, the nuclear reactor. The nuclear reactor is built where all the action lies. It is where that the electricity is generated. Nuclear electricity is produced by the splitting of the Uranium atoms to release energy. When a neutron hits Uranium atom it becomes week and unstable breaking down in to smaller atoms releasing more neutrons and energy. This fission chain reaction releases heat which is eventually harnessed to produce electricity. The source of nuclear energy is raw Uranium ore which is processed in to fingertip sized Uranium dioxide pallets. To get the same energy output as single Uranium fuel pallet around 800 kilograms of coal or almost 150 gallons of oil is burned. The pallets have been loaded into metal fuel rods which are grouped together from a power pack bundle. Each of these bundles weighs about 24 kilos. Hundred of bundles are inserted into a giant cylindrical vessel called the Calendria that is the heart of the nuclear reactor. When a neutron bombarded Uranium it causes the Uranium atom to split into two smaller atoms releasing large amount of energy. So fission creates heat that is used to convert water into steam that turns huge turbines that drive generators that make electricity.

While nuclear energy is produced in a reactor everything is controlled in what is perhaps the most important room in the plant, the control room. The control room is the hub of a live 24 hour production of nuclear power and is manned by personnel working around the clock. If anything goes wrong the reactor would lose 0.5 % of its power per second in about three and a half minutes, the entire system will shut down. The highly skilled and the trained personnel in the control room eyes on all monitors and are responsible for making sure that the parameters are under controlled. Since refueling happens at the core of the nuclear reactor robotic machines that function as arms pushed the new fuel bundle into the slots in the Calendria so that they can undergo nuclear fission.

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