There will be a wait to reach the planned capacity of 1,000 MWe

After fine-tuning all components of the first of the twin 1,000 MW reactor units of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) and completing all mandatory tests with a remarkable success rate, the KKNPP technocrats are about to repeat the success of the hydro- and hot-conditioning tests.

This they are doing as mandated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, as a reassurance of the reactor’s performance. Following the announcement by Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy that power would start flowing from the first reactor on December 15, the project proponent, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, and the upcoming nuclear park’s senior officials are under tremendous pressure. They must, at any cost, ensure the much-awaited criticality before this deadline.

Under the guidance and constant monitoring of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, they are repeating tests to ensure the smooth functioning of every part of the reactor.

“As the fine-tuning of every component is over, we’re about to conduct the hydro- and hot-conditioning tests, which were already conducted with a high degree of success, once again under the watchful eyes of AERB experts, who will give final clearance for criticality. In other words, we’re fully ready for commissioning the plant and only waiting for the final nod,” said a senior official of NPCIL.

Once the plant is commissioned, the process of synchronising it will follow automatically. In the initial stage, the reactor, having the capacity of 1,000 MW, will be allowed to generate only 400 MW as the first round of inspection by the AERB experts will be conducted at this stage to assess whether it would be safe to increase the quantum of electricity generated.

“If the AERB experts are satisfied with the performance of the reactor, they will allow us to increase the quantity to 750 MW and conduct another round of inspection before allowing us to take the generation to 900 MW. The reactor will be allowed to attain its maximum capacity of 1,000 MW only after the inspection conducted prior to this ultimate level is satisfactory,” said the NPCIL official.

On ‘waste management,’ the NPCIL officials say the reactor, now housing 75 tonnes of enriched uranium in its core, would generate one-third of this quantity as ‘spent fuel,’ which would be stored in the spacious ‘spent fuel pond’ close to the reactor core for seven years. Thereafter, it will be either transported to a ‘designated destination’ or retained on the KKNPP premises, as safety measures are in place.

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KudankulamDecember 9, 2012

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