The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has begun loading enriched uranium fuel rods in the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu following a green signal from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

“The fuel loading started on Wednesday. It is expected to be completed in about a week,” said a highly placed source in the government.

Replying to a query, AERB Secretary R. Bhattacharya said the Board granted its final approval for loading of 163 fuel assemblies containing about 80 tonnes of low enriched uranium fuel on Tuesday evening, after the NPCIL had fulfilled all the stipulated conditions.

To another question, he said the unit could go into operation in about three to four months after several rounds of tests. “At every stage, the NPCIL would have to seek the approval of the AERB before proceeding to the next step.”

Speaking to The Hindu, he said that an AERB team was supervising the fuel loading process on a day-to-day basis at Kudankulam.

The nuclear plant, with two units of 1,000 MW capacity each, has been built with Russian collaboration. It will use light water as booth coolant and moderator. Russia, which has provided all equipment, including the reactor pressure vessel, steam generators and turns, will supply the fuel for the life time of the reactors.

The first unit was earlier scheduled to go on stream about a year ago. But, the process was halted after the Tamil Nadu government asked the Centre to suspend all operations till those residing in the neighbourhood, who had launched a protest on safety aspects, were reassured that there would be no danger to them. Work was resumed in March this year after the State government gave its nod following a series of meetings and reports by expert committees.

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