India’s nuclear regulator is carrying out a thorough review of the first unit of the much-delayed Kudankulam atomic power plant as directed by the Supreme Court last month.
“We are reviewing the safety aspects of Unit 1 at Kudankulam as directed by the Supreme Court,” an AERB official said.
On May 6, the Supreme Court had cleared hurdles in commissioning of the first 1,000 MW nuclear power plant of the Indo-Russian project, saying the safety and security requirements have been taken care of.
At the same time, it spelt out 15 directions on ensuring safety at the nuclear facility as well as handling of spent fuel among others.
The apex court had ruled that the plant should not be made operational unless the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) accord final clearance for commissioning of the unit “ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance.”
Officials said most of the safety features of the plant were found to be satisfactory during the ongoing review process and the regulator was leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the apex court directions were fully met with.
They said the AERB would grant clearance for first approach to criticality only after ensuring that NPCIL has adhered to all the safety measures incorporated in the plant.
The apex court directions include compliance of all the conditions set by the AERB and the Ministry of Environment and Forests by the NPCIL.
It also asked the NPCIL and AERB to maintain constant vigil and carry out inspection of the plant at least once in three months and rectify forthwith defects, if any.
Other court directions include sending of periodic reports by NPCIL regarding the functioning of the plant to AERB, ensuring that the radioactive discharges do not cross the limits prescribed by regulatory bodies, steps to implement disaster management guidelines and carrying out emergency exercises both on site and off site.
The court had also asked the nuclear establishment to ensure safe management of the spent fuel and set up a Deep Geological Repository at the earliest to address the concerns of the people regarding storage of spent fuel.
Meanwhile, NPCIL, the nuclear power operator, has pushed the commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project to July. The first unit was earlier scheduled to be commissioned late this month.
The project has missed several deadlines since December last year, when it was scheduled to be commissioned after government managed to overcome the months-long protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.
The NPCIL website states that physical progress of up to 99.67 per cent has been achieved for the first unit at KNPP.
The second unit has achieved a physical progress of 94.52 per cent and was expected to be commissioned in March next year, it said.