India has taken steps to ensure safety of n-plants: Banerjee

India has taken steps to ensure safety of n-plants: Banerjee

In the backdrop of protests in Kudankulam and Jaitapur, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee said scientists had also revisited designs of future nuclear reactors to ensure that they conform to tests of robustness against earthquakes, flooding and extended station blackout.

"A scaled down reactor primary containment test-model of the 540 MWe PHWR, with extensive instrumentation is being subjected to a series of tests leading up to its ultimate failure," Banerjee said addressing the 55th General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria.

He said the results of the tests were being analysed as an International Round Robin exercise involving fifteen participants from various countries.

"This is one of the largest containment test facility in the world," Banerjee added.

Recently, some parts of the country have witnessed protests against under-construction and planned nuclear plants mainly over issues concerning their safety, particularly in the post-Fukushima scenario.

Banerjee said the design of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor was also revisited to understand and confirm its robustness against events such as earthquake, flooding and extended station blackout.

Referring to its rich experience in the entire gamut of nuclear power plants, Banerjee said India was looking forward to exporting its proven small and medium sized reactors -- the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs).

"We possess all technologies and infrastructure relevant to small and medium sized PHWRs of 220 MWe, 540 MWe and 700 MWe capacities, which would be a safe, proven and cost- effective option for countries with small grids planning to start their nuclear power programme," he said.

Indian PHWRs have a very competitive capital cost and offer very low unit energy tariff, Banerjee said adding that the Indian nuclear power sector has registered over 345 reactor years of safe operation.

He said India accorded highest priority to ensure safety of atomic plants while implementing her nuclear programme.

Noting that safety reviews were carried out at nuclear plant sites across the country post-Fukushima, Banerjee said the results of the exercise have been made public as mandated by the government.

A Bill to confer statutory status to the national safety regulatory authority was introduced in Parliament, he said.

Banerjee said India will also invite IAEA missions -- Operational Safety Review Team and Integrated Regulatory Review Service for peer review of safety of nuclear power plant, and of the regulatory system, respectively.

He made a strong pitch for examining the data from Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents and factor the same while establishing new guidelines for intervention limits for emergency response.

"India is committed to fulfill all its obligations and looks forward to participating in reviewing these for effective implementation," Banerjee said.

On the safety front, India has deployed over 100 solar powered environmental radiation monitors have been deployed at various locations covering nuclear plant sites, uranium mines, and major metropolitan cities, Banerjee said.

"A Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership is being set up near New Delhi to pursue studies in the field of Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Nuclear Security, Radiological Safety, and Applications of Radioisotopes and Radiation technologies," he said.

Memoranda of Understanding have already been signed with the US and Russia for setting up the Centre and a similar document will soon be signed with the IAEA.
France has also expressed desire in signing an MoU, he said.

Besides atomic power, India assigns equal emphasis to nuclear energy applications in the areas of healthcare, agriculture, hygienisation of municipal waste and water desalination.

"In our continuing support to nuclear medicine practices in India, a new facility for production of Technetium-99m generators has been set up at the laboratories of the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology in Navi Mumbai," Banerjee said.

"In order to further enhance our self-reliance, we will set-up a new facility for production of fissionproduced Molybdenum-99 in Trombay," he said.

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