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Indian Supreme Court orders government to provide Kudankulam NPP safety report

February 17, 2014, 23:04 UTC+3 NEW DELHI
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NEW DELHI, February 17, 22:58 /ITAR-TASS/. The Supreme Court of India on Monday, February 17, upheld a petition filed by the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy and ordered the government and the atomic energy regulatory body to present a report on the safety of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Court’s judgment says that the government should report in three weeks’ time whether the Court’s recommendations of May 2013 on the improvement of the power plant’s safety had been implemented.

A source close to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India said that the court judgment could affect the current testing of unit 1 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant while the documents were prepared but would not cancel the commissioning of the station.

He said the authorities had repeatedly presented different documents proving the safety of the power plant, and added that the documents would be presented again and would satisfy the Supreme Court.

Activists of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, whose protests delayed the launching of the station for almost a year, keep filing petitions to the Supreme Court, demanding that the power plant’s safety be reexamined in hope that this would delay its commissioning.

The Supreme Court earlier proclaimed the Kudankulam nuclear power plant safe and stated that its commissioning was necessary for further growth of the Indian economy.

The plant’s unit 1 is now on a trial run at 75 percent of capacity. Several tests were conducted and the unit was disconnected from the power grid for an inspection of equipment and systems.

Unit 1 was synchronised to the power grid on October 22, 2013, generating 160 MWe. The power will be further raised to 500 MWe, 750 MWe and 1,000 MWe in stages. At every stage, various tests are conducted and the technical parameters are verified. Based on the results of the tests at each of the stages and with AERB clearances, subsequent stages are reached.

With the addition of Unit 1 of 1,000 MWe capacity, nuclear power contribution in the country will increase from 4,780 MWe to 5,780 MWe. Unit 1 is the 20th nuclear power station of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited connected to power grid in the country.

In the middle of July 2013, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) gave the green light to the launching of the first unit at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

The Board granted Clearance for the First Approach to Criticality (FAC) of Unit 1 as the next major stage of its commissioning. FAC is the commencement of the controlled nuclear fission process for the first time and is a step towards the subsequent beginning of power production in a nuclear reactor, it explained.

Unit 1 is the first of two units of VVER reactors located at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, with installed capacity of 1,000 MW each. It is the first commercial pressurised water reactor-based nuclear power plant in the country, the Board said.

AERB had earlier granted the final permission for the Initial Fuel Loading in Unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in September 2012. The clearance given to 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 fulfilment of various regulatory requirements, the Board said.

Following FAC, several number of lower power tests will be carried out in order 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 Board said.

The Times of India said AERB Chairman S.S. Bajaj was satisfied with the power plant’s safety.

Earlier India’s Supreme Court ruled that the plant was safe and that its construction would boost the Indian economy.

The Kudankulam nuclear power plant being built with Russia’s assistance in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu can withstand a strong earthquake or tsunami, members of the government committee for the evaluation of the nuclear power plant's safety said.

However the commissioning of the first stage of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant scheduled for late 2011 was delayed by mass protests that demanded its closure.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that protests at the Kudankulam NPP construction site reflected people’s safety and environmental concerns, and stressed that the government took them seriously. The government set up an independent group of expects to respond all legitimate and realistic needs and concerns among the local population, he said.

Singh stressed that cooperation between Russia and India in the field of nuclear energy, specifically under the Kudankulam NPP project, was progressing.

He said that the development of the Indian nuclear programme is a key element of the bilateral partnership. The construction of unit No. 1 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has been completed and it will soon start generating electricity.

“Unit 1 is ready for launch. And we hope to launch Unit 2 next year,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in the autumn of 2013.

India plans to build 19 nuclear power units with a combined capacity of 17,400 MWe by 2017. Eight of them will be built in cooperation with other countries. Russia will help build units 3 and 4 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Each will have a capacity of 1,000 MWe.

The construction of Unit 2 is almost completed. Rosatom Head Kiriyenko said earlier that Unit No. 2 would be commissioned by the summer of 2013. “All the rest depends on when the Indian side makes the decision,” he added.

He also said that the coordination of commercial terms of building units 3 and 4 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant had been completed. “We earlier signed an agreement on a loan to India to build Units 3 and 4. The technical parameters have also been approved,” he said.

The Kudankulam NPP will supply electricity not only to the state of Tamil Nadu, where it is located, but also the whole south of India.

In 2010, Russia and India signed a roadmap for serial construction of up to 14-16 nuclear power units in the country, using Russian project design solutions.

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