Kudankulam nuclear plant to restart operations in two days

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The first unit of 1,000 MW capacity at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) is expected to restart power generation in two or three days, said a source Friday.

The unit which got the atomic energy regulator's sanction to generate up to 75% power levels last week stopped Jan 29 as its turbine tripped. The unit on that day touched a peak generation of 650 MW. "Turbine tripping is a normal phenomenon in a new plant when the power levels are being increased. Other maintenance activities are also being carried out while the turbine issue is being addressed," the official told IANS, preferring anonymity.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) is setting up two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, 650 km from here. The total outlay for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) is over Rs.17,000 crore. The first unit attained criticality - beginning of the fission process - in July 2013.

In August 2013, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board permitted NPCIL to operate the reactor up to 50% level. As the first unit at KNPP is yet to be declared commercially operational, the power generated is termed as infirm power and supplied to the home state - Tamil Nadu - at low rates. "Currently, the power is supplied to Tamil Nadu power utility at just over Re.1 per unit," said a source not wanting to be identified.

Only when the unit is declared commercially operational, the NPCIL can charge higher rates. The NPCIL is expected to realise the full commercial tariff. "Officials of NPCIL and others said huge losses were being incurred daily when the construction work was stopped earlier due to protests by PMANE (People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy). Why is that NPCIL is not declaring the unit as commercially operational several months after it attained criticality," questioned G Sundarrajan.

Sundarrajan had filed a case in the Supreme Court against KNPP. The apex court laid down 15 conditions to be fulfilled by relevant authorities before the unit could generate power. He also wondered whether the AERB has actually issued its sanction to KNPP to increase the reactor power levels from 50% to 75%. "It is a major milestone but AERB's website is silent on the aspect," he said.

Meanwhile, 11 persons consisting of core committee members of PMANE and villagers, including four women, began their indefinite fast at Idinthakarai near Kudankulam pressing their demands. According to PMANE, the performance of the first two reactors should be tested by independent scientists. People should also be told whether the conditions laid down by the Supreme Court last year has been complied with. The other demands of PMANE are making public the site evaluation report, safety analysis report, VVER Reactors Performance Report and the emergency preparedness report.

The PMANE also demands withdrawal of 360 cases filed against around 270,000 people in the area. The anti-nuclear power movement also urged Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa to reject the setting up of the third and fourth units at Kudankulam.

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