Chennai: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is hopeful of soon getting clearance from the sectoral regulator to fuel the first reactor at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), a senior official said Sunday.
“We had two detailed meetings with Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) Friday and Saturday. We hope to get a positive response from AERB in a week’s time-by coming Saturday or Sunday,” S.A. Bhardwaj, director (Technical) told IANS from Mumbai over the phone.
According to him, NPCIL is not working towards any specific date like Aug 15 (Independence Day) to load the 163 fuel assemblies into the 1,000 MW light water reactor (LWR) supplied by Russia.
“Prior to the loading of the fuel we have to put in some components into the reactor. We will do that after getting AERB’s nod to load the fuel. The process may take couple of days. We do not want to fix the components without the regulator’s nod. We hope AERB would not ask to do us some more tests,” Bhardwaj added.
“After getting the AERB nod we have to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about moving the fuel from the stores to the reactor. It is up to IAEA to send a person or not to oversee the process,” Bharadwaj said.
As KNPP falls under the safeguard agreement signed by India with IAEA, the latter have to be informed about fuel loading.
According to officials, NPCIL has communicated to the Tamil Nadu government that the fuel loading would happen around Aug 15.
“The loading may happen around Aug 15. It could be Aug 16th or 17th,” Bhardwaj remarked.
Interestingly the fuel loading is expected to happen nearly one year after the protest against the KNPP erupted at Kudankulam and nearby Idinthakarai in August last year.
NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW reactors – supplied by Russia – in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from here.
Work at the project came to a standstill last year after villagers in the area, fearing for their lives in case of a nuclear accident, mounted an intensive protest under People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) banner.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier passed a resolution asking the central government to halt work at the plant and to allay the fears of the locals.
To resolve the issue, the central and state governments set up two panels.
The central panel submitted its final report Jan 31. The Tamil Nadu government set up another expert committee which too favoured the project.
In March this year, the state government gave its green signal to the project and also announced Rs.500 crore for local area and infrastructural development.
Following that, work at KNPP was restarted with police protection.
Queried about the status of work on the second unit, the official said that the electrical systems are being charged and the sea water pumps are running.
While unit one is 99.40 percent complete, the second was 94.80 percent complete in June.
The NPCIL has announced that the first unit will be commercially operational next month and the second unit in March 2013.