IAEA completes inspection of K'kulam

Protesters say plant wont generate power even two years from now

As the two-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) panel completed its work on Tuesday at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, the KNPP authorities pin their hopes on the M R Srinivasan-led State panel’s report to help resolve the over six-month-long standoff with anti-KNPP protestors.

Playing down the significance of the IAEA team visit, sources in KNPP told Deccan Herald over phone that their inspection of the “imported nuclear material” (enriched uranium fuel from Russia for the 2000 MWe project), was part of their “annual nuclear material accounting” process, as KNPP came under the IAEA safeguards. “It is part of our International obligations to show that the nuclear materials in the plant complex is used only for peaceful power generation purposes; the IAEA team’s visit closely following an aborted visit of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) experts was purely coincidental,” sources said. But due to the tense situation triggered by the protestors, the IAEA team’s visit was kept under wraps.

Only few days earlier, the protestors forced AERB engineers to beat a retreat without entering the plant as they feared that fuel loading in the first unit had begun. But KNPP sources reiterated today that nothing of that sort was happening inside the plant since the ‘hot run’ with ‘dummy fuel’ took place in July last year.

Roll out

Clarifying that the IAEA’s and AERB’s domains did not overlap, the sources said that “the former has nothing to do with processes of our regulatory authority who will have to finally give the go-ahead for the start-up process.” The KNPP had submitted its data and reports on the ‘hot run’ to the AERB who will have to take the final call, the sources emphasised.

Even if a positive resolution of the crisis came about in the next two weeks, the sources said that rolling out the preparatory process would take a longer time. “We will now have to again look at all the equipment and do a detailed review and send it to the AERB again, which gives only stage-by-stage clearance,” the sources explained.

The AERB engineers would have to again come down to physically verify the condition of the equipment.

While the new State panel headed by the former AEC Chairman M R Srinivasan is expected to submit its report to the Tamil Nadu Government in the next few days, the ground situation in Kudankulam continued to be tense as the 48-hour fast by the protestors at Idinthakarai entered the second day.  They were insistent that the State panel members should personally come and meet the villagers.  

The anti-KNPP protest group’s coordinator, S P Udayakumar, pooh-poohed the Union Minister of State in PMO, V Narayansamy’s optimism earlier in the day that the first KNPP unit could go on stream in 15 days as the Srinivasan Committee had also found the plant to be very safe. “Let people of Tamil Nadu take note that the plant will not generate even 1 MW of power for the next two years,” asserted Udayakumar.

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