Unit 1 at Kudankulam to begin operation shortly; unit 2 may be commissioned early next year
In the face of an ongoing agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, Dr. Ratan Kumar Sinha, chairperson, Atomic Energy Commission of India, has said work on the first of the two 1000 MWe Light Water Reactors (LWRs) at Kudankulam is complete. The operation of unit-1 is expected to commence shortly and the second unit may be commissioned early next year.
A year after the Fukushima Daiichi accident, India was committed to implementing the IAEA action plan on nuclear safety, Dr. Sinha said. He was speaking at the 56th session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) general conference in Vienna on September 19. A copy of his speech was made available by the Department of Atomic Energy.
The preparation and planning for inviting IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) for peer review of India’s regulatory system was also in progress and, in due course, India would approach the Agency with a request to undertake this mission. In October this year, India in collaboration with the IAEA, would host an international workshop on “Safety of Multi-Unit Nuclear Power Plant Sites against External Natural Hazards.” This will be preceded by a meeting of the working group of the IAEA project on ‘Seismic safety of nuclear power plants.’
“Our experts will continue to participate and assist the IAEA Secretariat in its endeavour to enhance nuclear safety through a cluster of measures it has formulated,” he said. “The first Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission to India for Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) units 3 and 4 is now planned from the end of October this year.”
Nuclear power generation in India continued to grow due to an improvement in the supply of uranium from domestic as well as international sources. This year, the country had registered about 23 per cent increase in generation over last year. The average annual availability of the reactors had also increased from 83 per cent to 91 per cent, he pointed out.
India had identified new resources of uranium, he said. In the last five years, the country’s reserves had registered a steep increase of about 70 per cent. Production of PHWR (Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor) fuel was 751 MT in 2011-12, an increase of about 15 per cent over the previous year.
He also referred to the published results of recently concluded Indian studies based on screening newborns for congenital malformations in the high level natural radiation areas (HLNRA) in Kerala, where the radiation fields ranged from less than 1 mGy/year to 45 mGy/year, against the global average of approximately 2.4 mGy/year from natural sources of radiation. During the period August 1995 to December 2011, over 140,000 newborns in the HLNRA and normal radiation level area were screened for different health-related parameters.
The studies had shown that there was no significant difference between the populations belonging to HLNRA and normal radiation level area with respect to the frequency of congenital malformations, Down Syndrome and still-births. No significant difference was observed in the frequency of occurrence of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei too.
Earlier studies carried out in the same region on nearly 400,000 people did not show any significant increase in the incidence of any type of cancer in the HLNRA, he added.