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NEW DELHI, January 27. /TASS/. India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has approved the start of excavation works at the site of the third and fourth units of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, site director R. S. Sundar told TASS on Wednesday.
"For the third and fourth units, the AERB has given its nod for taking up site excavation work," Sundar said. "Site excavations for the two units would commence in a few weeks. Once the excavation is completed, the ‘first pour of concrete’ for the reactor would take place within a year from now."
If the current pace of construction work is maintained, the new blocks will be placed into operation in 2020-2021, Sundar added.
"The first unit of the Indo-Russian joint venture had attained criticality on January 21 after successful completion of re-fueling shutdown and maintenance activities," he said. "In the next step, scientists would increase the reactor power in ‘phases’ to generate 1,000 MW of power".
The first block of the Kudankulam NPP, with a capacity of 1000 MW, was connected to India’s national electricity grid in 2013. It was shut for its first scheduled maintenance in June 2015. It had been operating for 9,200 hours and generated 6.8 billion kilowatt per hour of power.
"Second Unit is in advanced stage of commissioning and all efforts are on to commission it shortly," Sundar said, adding that the first start up is scheduled for the middle of this year.
"The clearance from AERB for Units three and four would enhance construction activities of these units," he said.
Total investments at this stage stand at 170 billion rupees ($2.74 billion). According to Sundar, the construction of the two subsequent blocks costs 390 billion rupees ($6.29 billion) and the implementation of the project, from zero cycle to running at design capacity will require 69 months.
The Kudankulam NPP is being built with Russian technical assistance under the inter-governmental agreement signed in 1988. In 2014, Russia and India signed a general framework agreement for construction of the second stage, including the third and fourth blocks.
The "road map" for cooperation in nuclear energy between India and Russia envisages the construction of 15 nuclear power blocks in India, including at the Kudankulam site.
At the moment, Russia is the only country actually cooperating with India in the nuclear energy sphere, and building an NPP in there. The first power block of the Kudankulam NPP is among the most powerful in India, and meets the latest safety requirements.