Kudankulam plant gets AERB clearance

Processes next major stage of commissioning

Kudankulam plant gets AERB clearance

The much-delayed Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project ( KNPP) took a step towards commissioning as atomic regulator AERB grants permission to start the nuclear chain reaction in the first 1,000 MW unit of the power plant.

“Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has granted Clearance for 'First Approach to Criticality (FAC) of Unit-l of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project as the next major stage of its commissioning,” R Bhattacharya, its secretary said.

FAC refers to the beginning of the controlled nuclear fission process for the first time in the power plant, leading to production of power. The KNPP will have two Russian origin nuclear power plants of 1,000 MW capacity each in the first phase. The power production from the first unit of Kudankulam is expected to start within the next two months, while the second unit may be commissioned early next year.

As per the power sharing formula, Karnataka will get 442 MW electricity from the two power plants.  While granting clearance, AERB said that it has been ensured that the directives of Supreme Court given its judgement on May 6 are fully complied with. It had submitted a report on the safety audit of the plant to the Supreme Court last week.

The first unit of the project was expected to be commissioned in December 2011 but got stuck due to intense anti-nuclear protests that broke out in September that year.

Anti-nuclear activists along with locals laid an eight-month siege to the plant during which little less than maintenance work was carried out. They were concerned over the safety of the plant in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The clearance given for FAC is the culmination of in-depth review of all associated safety aspects, commissioning results, corrective measures of the identified non conformances and submissions regarding fulfillment of various regulatory requirements,” Bhattacharya said.

Following the FAC, a number of low power tests will be carried out to verify the conformance of reactor characteristics to the design objectives before granting clearance for the next commissioning stage which is the phase wise increase in reactor power level.
The nuclear project is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia signed in 1988.

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