Fuel loading has not begun at KNPP: AERB chairman

Fuel loading has not begun at KNPP: AERB chairman

As anti-Kudankulam protests intensified, India's nuclear regulator today said it was yet to give final clearance for loading of enriched uranium fuel into the first 1000 MW atomic plant built with Russian collaboration.

"Fuel loading has not yet begun," S S Bajaj, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) told reporters at a briefing on safety measures at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).

Bajaj said a seven-member AERB team was carrying out last minute checks at the first 1000 MW unit of KNPP located at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

"As soon as those (checks) are completed we will get the report from the ground team. We will then review the report and only then give clearance for fuel loading," he said.

Bajaj said it was the responsibility of the plant operator -- Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) -- to meet all the regulatory parameters after which a go ahead can be given to load fuel in the plant.

"We do not know how much time it will take. It is the responsibility of the utility (NPCIL) and not AERB. We will only ensure whether safety measures have been met or not," he said.

Kudankulam and its adjoining villages are witnessing a fresh wave of protests led by anti-nuclear activists and the locals against commissioning of the atomic power plant.
Bajaj refused to be drawn into a debate on the timeframe commissioning of the plant and made it clear that it was the responsibility of the operator.

"Timeframe for commissioning of the plant are issues with the utility. Regulatory body will only give clearances when the safety measures are met. It can be done tomorrow or one year later. If we are satisfied we will clear it," he said.

On the safety of the Kudankulam plant, Bajaj said an AERB committee had said the plant was safe and robust as fas as tsunami-like conditions are concerned.

He said the committee had made 17 recommendations for incorporating additional safety measures in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Bajaj said the recommended actions were to be reviewed and resolved and AERB has set up a timeframe ranging from six months to two years for their implementation.

"Already implementation of some recommendations has begun. There are working groups who will review it. Without that kind of satisfaction, we will never give any clearance," he said.

On the recent CAG report on the functioning of the AERB, Bajaj said the nuclear regulator was an autonomous body and does not get its regulatory decisions cleared from anybody.

"We would like to clarify that with regards to regulatory decisions, AERB is an autonomous body and we do not report to anybody to clear our regulatory decisions," he said.

Bajaj said AERB has taken many enforcement actions in the past and will continue to do it in future as well.

"We will not agree to that we are not effective," the AERB Chairman said.

He refused to comment any further on the findings of the CAG report which would be taken up by a parliamentary committee for examination.

"CAG report is with Parliamentary committee and it is not advisable that I talk about it as it will be inviting privilege issues of Parliament," Bajaj said.