The first 1000 MW unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, slated to generate electricity from mid-January this year, has missed the Pongal festival deadline and its commissioning delayed once again, due to a valve problem in the reactor.
The first unit attaining criticality, which eventually leads to commercial production of electricity and feeding it into the grid, is now beset with a peculiar hurdle as a component in a valve has befuddled engineers in the wake of its redesigning by the Russian engineers for this new generation Vver-type reactor.
While official sources at KNPP declined to be specific about what exactly the ‘valve problem’ is all about, saying “it is too technical”, a senior official of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), when contacted by Deccan Herald on Sunday, said over phone that the problem was related to instrumentation and internal monitoring in the reactor.
The problem was noticed during the recent pre-commissioning tests and was being resolved, he said, explaining the delay.
A team of AERB officials continues to camp at Kudankulam overseeing the preparatory works and “we have still not given the final clearance for the reactor’s first approach to criticality,” the AERB official said. The regulatory body wanted to ensure that “everything is perfect” before the start-up.
Consequently, after this “valve problem” came up, the final heating up of all the systems to test their material integrity at very high temperature and pressure could also not be carried out, another source said.
The Russian engineers had also gone home for Christmas in the third quarter of December and have returned to Kudankulam now, but that also has contributed to the delay, the source added.
Asked if the KNPP’s first unit could go critical by January-end, the AERB official said, “It might be before that also”.
This, in any case, implies that generation of the first unit of electricity from this Russian-assisted nuclear power plant, which has been through several controversies, may happen only in February 2013.
Against the initial scheduled date of commercial operation from December 2007, the KNPP first unit’s latest expected date of commercial operation is February 2013, according to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, a delay of over five years already in its commissioning. The second 1000 MW KNPP unit is now expected to go on Stream in September 2013, NPCIL said.