Work on Koodangulam plant in full swing

TUTICORIN, MAY 8. The Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Atomic Enenrgy (DAE), Dr. R.Chidambaram, today said efforts were on in full swing for setting up the Rs.10,000 crore nuclear power plant at Koodangulam in Tamil Nadu and the project would be started within 18 months.

Dr. Chidambaram told newspersons here on Monday evening that a detailed project report was being prepared now and the National Power Corporation (NPC) and its Russian counterpart were working on it.

The NPC would take up with the Government at the appropriate time the issue of starting the project with two reactors, each with an installed capacity of 1000 MW, he said. ``My feeling is that the work will start in a year and a half.''

Dr. Chidambaram said it was his personal view that apprehensions about the safety of the nuclear power plants were on the wane and the people had started realising the importance of nuclear power. This was evident from the fact that more States, including West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, wanted to have nuclear power stations. He explained the steps taken by the NPC to allay the fears of the people in and around Koodangulam about the safety of the proposed plant.

Dr. Chidambaram said the NPC, with the assistance of the M.S.Swaminathan Foundation, was working on a project to find ways to use nuclear and bio-technology tools for improving the living conditions of the people living around the coastal nuclear power stations.

Striking a positive note on the prospects of the nuclear power programmes in the country, Dr.Chidambaram said in contrast to the allocation of Rs.170 crores for the nuclear power programme during the 8th Plan period, funds to the tune of Rs.900 crores had been earmarked under the 9th plan. As the NPC was doing well, it was in a better position to generate internal resources, besides availing itself of credit facilities at a cheaper rate of interest, he opined.

Dr. Chidambaram said the NPC, during 1998-99, had paid the government a 20 per cent dividend on the net profit of Rs.250 crores. The amount would be higher for 1999-2000, he added.

On the ongoing nuclear power projects, he said two pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) each with a capacity of 220 MW would be set up at Kaiga and Rajasthan. In view of the advantages of going in for 500 MW units, two such projects would come up in Tarapur. Similarly, a 500 Mw FBTR unit would be set up at Kalpakkam, he hoped. The NPC was also taking steps to bring down the gestation period from 7 years to five and a half years.