Additional safety features being installed in all reactors

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee on Wednesday ruled out a Fukushima-like nuclear plant disaster in India, saying the nuclear reactors in the country had a passive cooling system unlike the Fukushima Daiichi reactor and additional safety features were being installed in them.

Dr. Banerjee pointed out that taking lessons from the Fukushima disaster where the radioactive fuel rods became overheated as water could not be introduced into the reactor on time, additional flanging was being done in the country's reactors so that extra water could be pumped in to remove the decay heat generated by nuclear fuel.

The AEC chief was speaking on the sidelines of celebration of Statistics Day and the 118th birth anniversary of Professor P.C. Mahalanobis, organised by the Indian Statistical Institute here.

He said that six independent committees were set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to analyse the safety standards of all the reactors and submit regular recommendations.

“The NPCIL has set up four committees and the AERB and the BARC have set up a committee each to independently analyse the safety standards of different reactors…they have recommended additional safety features for the reactors according to their locations. Supplementary water cooling system and power supply are the two primary recommendations.”

Designs for reactors in India had to be done keeping in mind natural calamities such as flooding due to heavy rainfall, cloudburst or dam-break or even a 9/11 kind of terror attack.

“Except Narora, all other nuclear reactors in India are located in Seismic III zone, thus reducing chances of an earthquake. A tsunami protection wall has been built at the Kalpakkam reactor. The EPR [European Pressurised Reactor] proposed to be set up in Jaitapur is so designed that it can even withstand a commercial airliner crash.”

It was, however, possible that all designs would fall short in case of an unforeseen calamity and for that margins have to be evaluated and safety measures added to the reactors, Dr. Banerjee said.

With the new Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government opposed to the setting up of a nuclear reactor at Haripur in Purba Medinipur district, Dr. Banerjee said the AEC had not yet approached the government over the issue.

“There has been no discussion at the government-level so far. Part of the geo-technical survey for the project is over. More than government approval, it is public acceptance of the project that matters,” he said.

Asked if the AEC was considering an alternative site for the project, he said geo-technical investigations by the site selection team were on at various other sites.

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