Kudankulam-1 gets AERB clearance, to go critical

India and Russia have ensured that the power station is equipped with the very latest safety systems. Source: Reuters

India and Russia have ensured that the power station is equipped with the very latest safety systems. Source: Reuters

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board says plant complies with all safety directives requested by India’s Supreme Court.

After completing a Supreme Court-mandated review, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Thursday gave its approval for the first approach to criticality (FAC) of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project’s first unit.

The approval was given after the plant complied with all the safety directives of the Supreme Court, AERB said in a statement. “FAC is the commencement of the controlled nuclear fission process for the first time and is a step towards the subsequent beginning of power production in a nuclear reactor,” AERB said.

Once the unit attains criticality, it will be run without producing power initially, followed by small units of production until the output reaches the maximum. “Several number of low power tests will be carried out in order to verify the conformance of reactor characteristics to the design objectives before granting clearance for the next commissioning stage which is the phase-wise increase in reactor power level,” AERB’s statement read.

“Unit-1 of KNPP is a VVER (Russian) reactors located at Kudankulam with an installed electric generating capacity of 1,000 MW and is the first commercial Pressurized Water Reactor-based nuclear power plant in the country,” AERB said.

The Kudankulam units comprise of 1000 MW reactors of the VVER-1000 model being constructed by NPCIL and Russia’s Atomstroyexport.

India signed a contract with the Soviet Union to build the Kudankulam plant in 1988, while the actual construction started only in 1997 due to due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The power plant has come under criticism by protestors who demand the scrapping of the project citing the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Although safety concerns remain over the project, NPCIL and Atomstroyexport maintain that the plant is in full compliance with all safety standards and requirements set forth by the International Atomic Energy Agency after the devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan.

India and Russia have ensured that the power station is equipped with the very latest safety systems.

The plant is fitted with dual-action localising and protective shells which are able to withstand the impact of an airplane; hydrogen re-combiners prevent explosions from within (which is what occurred at Fukushima); the passive heat extraction system cools the reactor even in the absence of an external power supply, and a device to localise molten material in the active zone — the so-called “melt trap” — prevents the release of radioactivity beyond the unit even in the event of a hypothetical failure of the reactor vessel.

In addition, the station will operate a desalination system in full compliance with all requirements.

NPCIL has made maximum use of local building and construction organisations in the project. Indian firms now have expertise in the construction of nuclear power plants based on Russian technologies, which means that the next units will be built more quickly.

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