To test preparedness and also fulfil IAEA and AERB stipulations

The district administration on Saturday conducted a mandatory drill near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project site to measure the preparedness of various arms of the government in the event of a crisis at the reactor complex.

The offsite emergency exercise held at Nakkaneri, a small hamlet seven km from the site, was aimed at ascertaining the government's response to a possible crisis inside the upcoming nuclear park which would house six nuclear reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000 MWe.

Sequence of events

According to Collector R. Selvaraj, the shift engineer of the KKNPP declared a plant emergency early in the morning. Subsequently the Site Director, R.S. Sundar, reached the site to declare the beginning of the ‘site emergency exercise.

All associated departments, including the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the District Collector, who will be the offsite emergency director during the crisis, were alerted.

After declaring emergency, the Collector reached the Anu Vijay township at 9.30 a.m. to occupy the offsite emergency control room along with Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tirunelveli Range, V. Varadharaju, and Superintendent of Police Vijaendra S. Bidari to coordinate the exercise.

On receiving instructions from the offsite emergency director, men and material from the departments of Police, Transport, Revenue, Fire and Rescue Services, Health Services, Public Works, Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry were mobilised at Nakkaneri where Sub-Collector Cheranmahadevi, Rohini Ramdas and Deputy Superintendent of Police Valliyoor N.K. Stanley Jones camped to coordinate the government agencies participating in the drill and guide the residents.

Even before the officials could arrive at the spot, the Environment Survey Laboratory vehicle of the KKNPP gauged the wind direction, wind velocity, possible spreading of radiation, level of radiation in various areas around KKNPP. The data was immediately conveyed to the Collector at Anu Vijay Township to enable him issue proper instructions to various teams formed in the wake of the crisis.

According to plan

Teams formed for access control, warning, advice, traffic diversion, evacuation, convoy and guarding were positioned at vantage points. The teams performed their tasks as required.

As the exercise concluded around 11.30 a.m., a review meeting was also conducted in which the heads of various departments and those who headed the teams shared their experience. The shortcomings were rectified on the spot. One of the stipulations laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency states that offsite emergency exercise should be conducted in a village close to nuclear installations to check the preparedness of various arms of the official machinery in case of a crisis inside the nuclear facility and also to sensitise the public on the measures to be taken during such a situation.

As the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) is ready for receiving enriched uranium fuel rods and the AERB nod expected any time now, the district administration ran the drill to fulfill the IAEA and AERB stipulations.