Central panel made a presentation before State nominees, local people

A Fukushima-type accident is not conceivable at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the 15-member Experts Group, constituted by the Centre to interact with the local people in and around the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), has concluded.

The group, which reviewed design safety aspects of the KKNPP, came out with its conclusion during a presentation before the nominees of the State government and the local people at the office of Tirunelveli Collectorate on Friday. The text of the presentation was released to the media here on Saturday.

It did not address five issues – inter-governmental agreement, impact of bilateral relations between governments, Russian and Indian liability, Nuclear Suppliers Group-related issues and setting up possible weapon facility at the KKNPP – mentioned in the memorandum submitted by two representatives of the local people at the previous meeting on November 8.

Referring to the reports of apprehensions among sections of the local residents on the safety of the plant in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in March this year, the group noted that preparatory work for an off-site emergency exercise, a requisite as per safety regulations of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) prior to loading nuclear fuel, seemed to have further aggravated the apprehensions.

“The root cause of the accident at Fukushima was complete loss of power supply to units 1 to 4 on account of flooding at the site caused by tsunami. While units 1, 2 and 3 got shut down automatically (unit 4 already in shutdown state with its fuel unloaded in the spent fuel pool), the cooling of their core could not be maintained in the absence of power supply, which caused the accident,” the group stated in its 39-page response to the memorandum submitted by the two representatives of locals at the first meeting between the group, representatives of the State government and local people on November 8.

The group examined the design of the KKNPP in this respect and found “all safety related structures, systems and components of KKNPP are located well above the maximum flooding that can cover the site from all possible causes including tsunami”. A total loss of power supply at KKNPP, unlike in the case of Fukushima, was, therefore, not possible.

In addition, the KKNPP was provided with certain engineered safety features (ESF) such as the Passive Heat Removal System. With the ESFs, the reactor core could be effectively cooled under the condition of total loss of electric power.

The group referred to the AERB's in-depth review of the KKNPP.

The board's “extensive review” provided assurance of “the robustness of the safety design and construction of KKNPP”.

The commissioning programme was also progressively reviewed by the board.

Among the issues covered by the group were the global trend on the use of nuclear energy for power generation, radiation in the environment around nuclear plants in the country, safety features of the KKNPP, environmental impact assessment, local employment opportunities, nuclear waste management, tsunami warning systems available, emergency preparedness and noise pollution.

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