Kudankulam to get first 'Away from Reactor' spent-fuel plant

Since the facility is to come up near the nuclear power units, activists have raised concern, saying it could pose a threat to the local population.

Published: 11th February 2022 05:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2022 05:53 AM   |  A+A-

File picture of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli | Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has floated tenders for construction of India’s first ‘Away from Reactor’ (AFR) nuclear spent-fuel storage facility for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant’s (KKNPP) units 3 and 4.

Since the facility is to come up near the nuclear power units, activists have raised concern, saying it could pose a threat to the local population. When a similar AFR facility was proposed for KKNPP units 1 and 2 and a public hearing was announced in 2019, there was a huge political and public outcry, forcing the then State government to indefinitely postpone its plans.

The deadline to submit bids is February 24, and the bids will be opened the same day. NPCIL had earlier extended the deadline twice. The two reactors will add 2,000 mega-watt (MW) to the existing 2,000 MW project. NPCIL has two more units (5 and 6) under construction at Kudankulam. All are being built with Russian technology and equipment supplied by Rosatom.

Public hearing not must to build AFR facility

A public hearing is not required to build an AFR facility for units 3 and 4 since it has been included in the list of approved essential and safety buildings for which environment clearance was already granted. Anti-Kudankulam activist G Sundarrajan, of Poovulagin Nanbargal, told TNIE the State government should not allow NPCIL to build an AFR facility and withhold the Consent to Establish (CTE) issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for the under-construction nuclear power units 3 and 4.

“Without deciding on Deep Geological Repository (DGR), we would run the risk of making AFR a permanent nuclear waste site that can pose a serious risk to local population. The Supreme Court had directed the authorities to build the DGR at the earliest so the spent fuel could be stored there. Initially, NPCIL told the court it would be done within five years, which ended in 2018, and another five years was sought, which will expire in 2023. So far, no steps have been taken,” he said.

Union Science and Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, in a recent reply to a question raised by DMK MP TR Baalu in the Lok Sabha, said the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement of 2010 facilitates storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel generated at KKNPP. “India has adopted a ‘closed fuel cycle’, where spent nuclear fuel is regarded as a material of resource.

Given the very small quantity of high-level waste generated post reprocessing and technologies for separation, partitioning and burning of waste being developed by the country, there is no need for a deep underground geological disposal facility in the near future,” Singh said. He had also dispelled safety fears of storing spent fuel at the KKNPP, saying AFRs are designed with a comprehensive approach to withstand extreme natural events such as earthquakes and tsunamis with provisions of large operational safety margins.


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