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AERB begins inspection of K'kulam unit

Chennai/New Delhi, October 18, 2012, DHNS: 0:12 IST
A 10-member team of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) began a crucial and final pre-commissioning phase inspection of the first 1,000 MWe unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu on Thursday.

With this, KNPP has entered a critical phase of its commissioning activities that would lead to the Unit-I’s ‘First Approach to Criticality (FAC)’ - namely to “conduct the commencement of the controlled nuclear fission process for the first time in Unit-I of the KNPP,” a top AERB source told Deccan Herald over the phone.

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), spearheaded by S P Udayakumar, in a statement from Kudankulam on Thursday demanded to stop all the commissioning activities. They have planned to lay siege to the Tamil Nadu Assembly here on October 29, demanding permanent closure of the over Rs 14,000-crore project.

Since the removal of the “dummy fuel” from the first unit’s Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) was completed by June-July, the AERB had given the clearance on August 10 for the initial fuel loading and FAC of first unit of KNPP.

Now, the enriched uranium fuel in the form of 163 fuel assemblies had been fully loaded into the first unit’s RPV and the process of sealing the RPV was going on, the sources said. The AERB team would again do a series of inspections and checks and submit their report to the board in the next four to five days.

“Only after a review of those Inspection reports will the final clearance for FAC be given if all the stipulations have been complied by the nuclear plant operator, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL),” the sources said.

Making it clear that no exact date “can be given now” on when the first KNPP reactor would go critical – to be able to generate its first unit of electricity and feed it to the power grid - the sources said that was an aspect the NPCIL would decide after AERB gave the ‘final clearance.’ It (FAC) could be in the first week of November 2012.

Still, NPCIL expected the first unit’s ‘commercial operation’ to begin only in December 2012, as its power factor had to be raised in stages.

Environmental clearance

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explain if it was necessary to take prior environment clearance for setting up de-salination plants while hearing the petitions that raised the safety concerns at KKNPP. A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra also wanted to know from Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, appearing for the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to inform about the source of fresh water required for the plant located at Tirunelveli district.

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