“The sector has over 345 reactor years of safe operation”

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident, the emergency response and preparedness measures in India's nuclear facilities had been strengthened and several recommendations of the safety reviews mandated by the government of India had already been implemented, said Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), on Wednesday. A road map was being prepared for implementing the other recommendations.

Addressing the 52nd general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Dr. Banerjee said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, immediately after the accident at Fukushima this March, emphasised that the safety of nuclear power plants would be a matter of the highest priority for the government of India while implementing the national nuclear power programme.

Bill introduced

Several actions had been taken in this regard. A Bill to confer statutory status on the national safety regulatory authority had been introduced in Parliament. The results of the safety reviews mandated by the Union government had been made public. The National Disaster Management Authority had drawn up a holistic and integrated programme of “Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies”.

The IAEA missions, the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) and the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) would be invited for conducting peer review of the safety in plants [in India] and of the regulatory system, the AEC Chairman said.

He suggested that nuclear power countries should be prepared to scientifically examine the substantial data available from the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima and factor them in while establishing new guidelines for emergency response.

Competitive capital cost

India now has 20 reactors with an installed nuclear power capacity of 4,780 MWe. “The Indian Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors [PHWRs of 220 MWe and 540 MWe] have a very competitive capital cost and offer a very low unit energy tariff. By now, the nuclear power sector has registered over 345 reactor years of safe operation,” Dr. Banerjee said. India was looking forward to exporting its proven small and medium reactors with capacities of 220, 540 and 700 MWe.

Kudankulam ‘hot run'

The construction work at the two 1,000 MWe reactors at Kudankulam, being set up in technical cooperation with the Russian Federation, was nearly complete. The commissioning activities in the first unit had reached an advanced stage and the ‘hot run' was recently completed. The progress in the second unit was following closely, said Dr. Banerjee.

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