Generated power to be connected to grid once it reaches 300 MW
The four-foot-thick concrete walls around the first reactor core of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project reverberated with thunderous applause at 11.48 p.m. on Thursday. Senior officials of the upcoming nuclear park and scientists celebrated the moment of the control rods being lifted prior to ‘boron dilution’ that marked the preparation of the reactor for generating power.
The small group of scientists, including Russian specialists, greeted each other, showing how relieved they felt after overcoming many technical and legal hurdles in the way of the reactor’s commissioning.
After the control rods were gradually lifted to increase neutron concentration inside the core, where 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel bundles have been kept, the dilution of boron solution started to facilitate early chain reaction. As the boron solution had been kept until now in a particular concentration, it absorbed the neutrons to temporarily avert chain reaction.
Once the boron dilution is started, it would gradually allow neutron concentration to go up and eventually kick-start nuclear fission - the chain reaction that will generate the heat required for producing water vapour which, in turn, would operate the turbine to produce electricity.
“As boron dilution, which requires 36 to 48 hours, will be completed by Saturday evening, we expect the reactor to attain criticality either on Saturday night or Sunday morning. The entire process that started on Thursday night is so far very smooth and uneventful,” highly-placed NPCIL sources said.
The quantum of electricity generated will be increased gradually and connected to the grid once it reaches 300 MW. NPCIL officials expect that synchronisation of KKNPP power with the grid would be before Independence Day.
The NPCIL sources categorically denied that the First Approach to Criticality (FAC) had been granted even before mandatory clearances were obtained.
“All agencies associated with this exercise have submitted their reports, which have been cleared subsequently by the authorities concerned. All mandatory clearance including the clearance for desalination plants have been obtained. Only after this, the Chairman and Managing Director, NPCIL, gave the green signal, which arrived here (at KKNPP) at 8.15 p.m. on Thursday after the AERB’s permission,” said a KKNPP official.
Though there was no major activity at Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the ongoing anti-KKNPP struggle, on Friday, even after preparations for the reactor’s criticality started inside the high-security complex situated just three km away, around 500 police personnel were deployed, while a similar number of law-enforcers were kept ready to face any eventuality.
On its part, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) deployed its armed personnel along the barbed wire fence between Idinthakarai and the nuclear complex and also on the dyke.
The police, who had created a check-post on the main road near the Kudankulam police station, frisked contract labourers about to enter the site.
Devotees, who used to take bath in the sea in view of the 8th day celebrations of St. Anne’s Church at Kudankulam after reaching the beach via the KKNPP site every year, were not allowed this time.