NPCIL allays fears on K'kulam nuclear plant

Quality checks being scrutinised by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), which operates the 1,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), has assured a group of scientists that all safety measures are in place at the plant.

The plant underwent many quality checks whose results were scrutinised by the nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

The component and equipment installed at KNPP have undergone multistage quality checks at various stages to ensure quality and safety standards. All the reports of tests and inspections are reviewed by AERB and stage-wise clearances accorded, Nalinesh Nagaich, one of the executive directors of NPCIL said in a letter to the scientists.

A group of 60 scientists, majority of them from Bangalore, had written to the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well to the secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, earlier this week sharing their concerns on KNPP’s safety.

As many as 24 scientists from the Indian Institute of Science were among the signatories, besides five scientists each from Raman Research Institute and Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

The letter raised questions on quality control and safety aspects of the KNPP units following the arrest of Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, by the Russian authorities on corruption charges for having sourced cheap sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India.

Arguing that Shutov’s arrest led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in Bulgaria and China, the scientists said they were not advocating for or against nuclear energy but favoured being assured on matters related to safety.

Without mentioning Shutov, Nagaich said inspection of components and equipment in KNPP, including that of the reactor pressure vessel and its internal components, have been carried out for their quality and performance checks at various stages–from material selection, manufacturing, installation and during commissioning tests–in line with the laid down quality checks and procedures.

The nuclear power plant has in-service inspection system for checking the internal function of reactor pressure vessel components, while the plant is in operation. “It is a mandatory regulatory requirement and an integral part of plant operation,” he said. Automatic and remotely operating tools are available for such checking.

The NPCIL has postponed the operationalisation of the controversial plant to June 2013 after decks were cleared by the Supreme Court. The two units of 1,000 MW each are sitting idle for close to two years due to intense anti-nuclear agitations.

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