Why is the commissioning of Unit-I of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP) getting delayed? It’s because parts of the plant are undergoing a refit to ensure foolproof safety, according to sources. The delay is on the supply side from Russia as a whole lot of components have been replaced, some of which had to be shipped in.
Why the refit? Since Unit-I was almost idling for months together because of a major agitation plus litigation in the Supreme Court, there were chances of corrosion and leakage since sea water was used as the coolant. So, the atomic energy establishment first conducted comprehensive checks and later decided to replace components that could have been affected.
In fact, to save time, most components meant for Unit-II that were already in the warehouse were used as replacements for Unit-I. “Besides, some safety equipment shipped by Russia came in through the Thoothukudi Port last week. The containment vessel of the nuclear core too has been changed since the old one had sprung a leak, which was detected three months ago during testing, informed sources at KKNPP said.
“Remember there was a year-long delay in fuel loading and criticality after the first hot run in August 2011 because of the ongoing agitation. Idle equipment is vulnerable to corrosion. That’s why the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) directed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to conduct the second heat up test at Unit-I,” said officials.
The calendar for commissioning of Unit-I has now been shifted to May and mentioned in the NPCIL’s official website as well. NPCIL had earlier said that the unit would commence commercial power production in February last. All this would happen only after AERB’s clearance in various categories after examining the outcome of the second heat up (hot run).
Though fuel was loaded in October last, AERB did not give the nod for criticality (jargon for atom splitting), but directed the KKNPP to do the hot run again to ensure total plant safety.