Govt firm on Kudankulam:NCPIL

Process of the nuclear power project first unit to start in 3 months

The Government is committed to getting both 1000MW light water reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) started, despite the current stalemate with the protesters.

Disclosing these intentions to reporters on Wednesday after a scientific meet on ‘Radiation and Cancer’, where Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)’s latest report on the health profile of its employees country-wide was released, Mr S A Bhardwaj, Director (Technical), NPCIL said the whole process of starting KNPP’s first unit “will take three to four months.”

The top NPCIL official said that all the tests for the first reactor had been completed between July and October 2011 during the unit’s “hot run” with dummy fuel. But as further work had been stopped due to protests, a fresh Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) clearance was required before the real fuel could be loaded and a series of tests needed to be conducted before the reactor went critical to generate electricity. Only then, “step by step we can increase the power factor,” he pointed out.

“The whole objective is to start power generation at KNPP; the plant belongs to the Country and will serve the Country,” asserted Bhardwaj to signal that NPCIL, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Central Government were not cowed down by the protests. He admitted that the apprehension of th locals was genuine, but hoped to resolve the issue amicably.

He stated that the contract workers who had left the plant would be needed to enable the preparatory work and that the second unit would require additional expert manpower for operationalisation, which would take time.

He also mentioned that the Government had realised that their outreach programme on the plant’s safety needed to be more extensive.

“We are going round schools and colleges in Kudankulam area as part of this effort,” he added.

He affirmed that India had one of the best safety records of operating nuclear power plants in the last 42 years, since the Tarapur plant began operations and that the country “is capable of handling any nuclear accident.”

On nuclear waste, Bharadwaj explained that the small quantity of irradiated nuclear waste from reactors including from Kudankulam plant will be converted into glass, hermetically sealed in stainless steel containers and kept in safe underground lockers, adding that “today such well shielded waste maintained as glass in caskets occupy one small corner of a room at BARC.”

He also said that the DAE was testing various other locations in the county that could withstand extreme temperatures and pressures to keep such vitrified waste safely.

As 2012 is the silver jubilee of the NCPIL, the Government had decided to undertake a special initiative to “spread education around all our nuclear power plants in the country.

Dr V Rangarajan, Head of the Department of Bio-Imaging, Tata Memorial Centre Mumbai, sought to dispel various myths about radiation, said that radiation was not a cause of cancer, nor did it lead to genetic deformities or affect normal fertility in women.

Dr S K Jain, Chief Medical Superintendent, NPCIL, presented the findings of their latest study for the period 1995-2010, saying it showed that employees working in nuclear power stations in the country, “are not prone to any higher rate of occurrence of disease, particularly cancer, than the general public”.

The study showed the average natural incident rate of cancer among the general public in the country was 98.5 per one lakh, against the incidence rate of 54.05/per one lakh among the NPCIL employees.

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