India’s Kudankulam Atomic Power Plant Approved After One-Year Delay
By Srinivas Laxman | Top News
March 20, 2012
After a one-year long stand-off, Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha approved the operation of the 1,000-megawatt Russian-aided Kudankulam atomic power plant on Monday.
AsianScientist (Mar. 20, 2012) – Nuclear scientists all over India went into celebration on Monday after Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha approved the operation of the first unit of the 1,000-megawatt Russian-aided Kudankulam atomic power plant near Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India.
Jayalalitha’s decision on Monday is significant in the context of her earlier opposition to the plant, and came after a four-member expert committee set up by the Tamil Nadu government, headed by former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), M. R. Srinivasan, explained in detail the safety aspects of the plant and declared it safe.
While presenting the report to Jayalalitha on February 28, members of the expert committee highlighted the difference in design between the Fukushima and Kudankulam atomic power plants.
“At the end (Jayalalitha) was satisfied with our presentation,” Srinivasan told Asian Scientist Magazine.
Even as the announcement was made in Chennai, about ten anti-nuclear activists near Kudankulam were arrested.
AEC Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told Asian Scientist Magazine on Monday that following the approval, the next step is to obtain clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for initiating fuel loading operations, and mobilizing the workforce to commission the plant as early as possible.
Banerjee said that although he could not give a precise date when the first unit will become operational, he hoped that it would be before August. He also promised to make a visit to the plant soon.
“But, let me emphasize, at this stage I cannot fix a precise date,” he said. “There has been a heavy loss because of the stalemate and our staff was unable to enter the plant since October.”
At a recent media briefing in Mumbai, S. A. Bhardwaj, Director, Technical, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), announced that the first unit will attain criticality exactly six months after the Tamil Nadu government gives its approval. So, based on this estimate it is possible that the plant may be commissioned in September 2012.
Following the approval, top officials of the NPCIL went into a day-long meeting in Mumbai to chalk out the future course of action.
The one-year delay in the commissioning of the plant was the result of a series of protests by the local population residing in villages around the atomic unit. They felt that the nuclear station posed a risk to the villagers based on the experience of Fukushima.
Recently, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an interview to the Washington-based Science magazine accused foreign NGO’s funded largely by Americans of spearheading the agitation.
AERB Chairman S. S. Bajaj said that some inspections have to be carried out at Kudankulam prior to the fuel loading operations.
“All the systems at Kudunkulam were in a preservation board and the plant should be in an okay condition,” he said.
Asked when AERB will give the clearance for the fuel loading exercise, he said “in a few weeks.”
M. R. Srinivasan expects the first unit to be operational by the end of 2012.
“In my view the fuel loading operation should be completed in three to four months, but there should not be any short cuts. Hopefully, I expect the first unit to become operational before the end of the year,” he said.
“The main challenge now was mobilizing the work force, perhaps even from other nuclear power plants and re-establishing the equipment,” he added.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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