Kudankulam plant is safest in the world, says Russian official

In December 2014, both sides announced a decision for the construction of at least 12 more units in India.

August 01, 2016 01:42 am | Updated 10:41 am IST

Vladimir Angelov, Director of projects for ASE group of companies in India, part of Rosatom of Russia spoke on the safety aspects and progress of setting up Russian nuclear plants in an exclusive interview to The Hindu in response to written questions.

Many people raise safety concerns after the incident with at Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP). What measures have been taken to tackle such situations?

Kudankulam NPP is the first nuclear power plant in the world where the post-Fukushima safety enhancement requirements have already been implemented and being operated successfully. We analysed the basic technical design of Units 1 and 2 in terms of the lessons from Fukushima. We came to the conclusion that they would have withstood a Fukushima-like incident.

However, we are enforcing even stricter requirements. The Indian side requested us to review the possibility of enhancing certain parameters and we also undertook the effort of analysing and enhancing them. So Units 3 and 4 are designed for even higher seismic, climatic and technical impact.

All power units are equipped with modern diagnostics systems which prevent the anticipated operational occurrences before they start. There are number of the advanced active and passive safety systems which ensure unprecedented level of nuclear and ecological safety into the design of the NPP. Double localizing and protecting containment, passive heat removal system from reactor plant, core catcher, and closed industrial water intake for NPP are some of them.

For example, passive heat removal system ensures cooling of the steam generator in automatic mode. Personnel participation is not required at this process. This system also does not require the energy supply. Another one is core catcher, which is provided with the absorbing elements. In the case of anticipated operational occurrences it prevents penetration of the melting core into the ground and environment.

The reactor plant of the NPP is protected from the impact of earthquake, tsunami, tornado and hurricanes. According to our estimations KNPP can withstand any anticipated operational occurrences, it can even withstand fall of aircraft. Therefore, we can firmly state that presently India possesses the safest NPP in the world.

The great attention in Kudankulam NPP project is put to preserve the biological diversity and reach local flora and fauna of the Mannar Bay. Sea water is supplied from the so called “bucket” constructed in the sea into the special facilities and systems which ensure that fish and plankton return to sea.

Could you update us on the current status of Unit 1 and 2 of KNPP?

Upon completion of scheduled preventive repair and refueling, the Unit 1, which began generating power in October 2013, is under the stable operation at 100 percent power level since the third week of February, electric load is 1003-1009 MW against 995 MW of design load. Unit 1, which is in commercial generation since December, 2014, has so far produced 1006 crore MW of electricity. The electricity tariff for the power generated by Kudankulam NPP is maintained at the level established by the Indian Government in 2010-11 without any escalation and is considered to be one of the most efficient tariffs in India.

When will power start-up of the Unit 2 take place?

On July 10, 2016 the Unit 2 attained criticality after fuel loading had been completed in May, four days ahead of schedule. According to the schedule presented by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and as estimated by the Russian party, Unit 2 connection to the grid is planned in August.

What were the reasons for several postponements?

Considering that technology for construction of light-water reactors (LWR) VVER-1000 reactors has been adopted in India for the first time, commissioning of the units took longer than it was planned under the initial mobilization schedule. It is natural because initially the NPP construction time was estimated in accordance with a typical project construction time in Russia. Specifics of working in India rather extended the time. Also works have been postponed due to a necessity of gaining experience of joint workmanship between Indian staff and Russian specialists.

What about the Units 3 and 4?

In February this year Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) had begun soil excavation and preparation of pits for construction of Units 3 and 4. The following contracts have been signed and are executed: supply of long-term manufacturing equipment and first-priority supplies (first equipment supplies to the NPP started in May 2016); Detailed Design Documentation development (25 packages of DDD have been forwarded to since December 2015); supply of all other equipment and materials from Russia. Draft contract for supplies from third countries is being prepared.

Manufacturing of equipment under the signed contracts for long lead equipment and equipment of first-priority supply is opened. Equipment ordering process has been started under the signed contract for remaining equipment.

What are Rosatom future plans in India?

In November 2015, Russia submitted technical-commercial offer to India for Units 5 and 6. Design of Units 5 and 6 has been agreed upon. NPCIL accepted critical decision on implemented project for Units 5, 6 - it is VVER-1000 project. In February, 2016 a road map for construction of Units 5 and 6 prior to the General Framework Agreement (GFA) has been signed. The GFA is expected to be signed in autumn this year (September-November, 2016).

What about a new site other than Kudankulam for additional reactors?

On December 11, 2014 India and Russia signed the Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. It envisages the construction of 12 more Russia-designed NPP power units within the next 20 years in India.

On December 25, 2015 Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, during his official visit to Russia made a statement that leaders of the countries agreed on allocation of one more site in India for construction of nuclear power units of Russian design.

Newest VVER-1200 type reactors shall be constructed there with implementation of the most up-to- date and safe technological solutions. Currently an issue on allocation of one more site for construction of six new Russia-designed nuclear reactors is being considered by the Indian party. We hope to obtain more detailed information on site in the nearest time.

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