Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant
|Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant|
|Construction began||31 March 2002|
|Commission date||22 October 2013|
|Owner(s)||Nuclear Power Corporation of India|
|Units operational||1 x 1000 MW
(13 July 2013)
|Units under const.||1 x 1000 MW|
|Nameplate capacity||9200 MW|
Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power station in Koodankulam in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The plant's first reactor is the first Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) belonging to the Light Water Reactor (LWR) category in India, and the 21st nuclear power reactor in the country. N. Nagaich, Executive Director (corporate planning and corporate communications) of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), described the first unit at Kudankulam as "the harbinger of the large-size LWR technology in India". Construction on the plant began on 31 March 2002, but faced several delays. Long construction times for nuclear reactors are common in India, but this delay was partly due to the 500-day long anti-nuclear protests by local residents, led by the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).
The first reactor of the plant attained criticality on 13 July 2013. The plant was commissioned six years after the scheduled date, and 12 years after the construction of the plant began, when unit 1 was synchronized with the southern power grid on 22 October 2013. The original cost of the two units was 13,171 crore, but it was later revised to 17,270 crore. Russia advanced a credit of 6,416 crore to both the units.
An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on the project was signed on 20 November 1988 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two reactors. The project remained in limbo for a decade due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and differences cropping up between India and Russia over the rupee-rouble repayment ratio. There were also objections from the United States, on the grounds that the agreement did not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). M.R. Srinivasan, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman from 1987 to 1990, called the project "a non-starter". However, the project was revived on 21 June 1998, when a supplementary agreement to the earlier IGA was signed in New Delhi by the Russian Minister for Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov and then AEC Chairman Rajagopala Chidambaram. The move is considered to be a testament of Russian friendship with India, as it came within a month of India conducting five nuclear tests in May 1998 which led to international sanctions.
Construction began on 31 March 2002, with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) predicting that the first unit would be operational in March 2007, instead of the original target of December 2007. However, the project faced delays in the supply of designs, drawings and equipment by Russia, and fell behind schedule by a couple of years.
A small port became operational in Kudankulam on 14 January 2004. This port was established to receive barges carrying over sized light water reactor equipment from ships anchored at a distance of 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi). Until 2004, materials had to be brought in via road from the port of Tuticorin, risking damage during transportation. The construction of the port required the erection of a dyke, which required 30 lakh tonnes of rock in the waters of the Gulf of Mannar. Two caissons, concrete structures each weighing 2,500 tonnes, float in the sea. In 2008, negotiations on building four additional reactors at the site began. Though the capacity of these reactors has not been declared, it was expected that the capacity of each reactor will be 1200 MW or 1.2 GW. The new reactors would bring the total capacity of the power plant to 6800 MW or 6.8 GW.
The delays worsened with beginning of an anti-nuclear agitation by the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) from September 2011. Fishermen and other residents of neighbouring villages further delayed the project by several months by blocking the entry of NPCIL employees. PMANE representatives erected a marquee near the plant's main gate, and between September 2011 to March 2012, permitted only 50 workers a shift to man the reactors' equipment, although the task required several hundred workers. The project was able to get back on track after the Tamil Nadu State Cabinet on 19 March 2012, reversed its 22 September 2011 resolution, and instead adopted a resolution for the early commissioning of the plant. The State government was under pressure due to power cuts of more than 12 hours across Tamil Nadu, as the state was facing a shortfall of 4,000 MW. The State government's handling of the power crisis had led to protests across the State. The project was behind schedule by five years, by March 2012.
The Supreme Court, hearing an appeal by social activist G. Sundararajan against the Madras High Court's decision declining to impose any restraint on the project, on 12 September 2012 declined to stay the loading of the fuel into the first reactor, but agreed to examine the risks that the project may cause to the safety of people living near the plant. The Court threw out the appeal on 6 May 2013, and allowed the commissioning of the reactor observing, "We have to balance economic, scientific benefits with that of minor radiological detriments." The Court also stated that it was part of the national policy to develop, control and use atomic energy for the welfare of the people and economic growth. However, it also listed 15 conditions to be followed before the plant could be commissioned. One of the conditions before making the plant operational was getting final clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the NPCIL and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) after ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability was of vital importance. Another requirement was that the AERB, the NPCIL, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would "oversee each and every aspect of the matter including the safety of the plant, the impact on environment, the quality of components and systems in the plant before the commissioning of the plant" and file a report with the Supreme Court before the plant's commissioning.
All agencies submitted their reports to the Supreme Court. After the NPCIL received a formal communication from the MoEF on the evening of 11 July 2013 that the latter had submitted its report, the process of approach to criticality was started at 11:49 pm IST the same day. The first reactor of the plant attained criticality on 13 July at 11:05 pm. Since then various tests and procedures were conducted to resolve problems with valves. At 2:45 am on 22 October 2013, nearly 160MW produced by unit 1 of the plant was synchronized with the southern grid. More power was connected to the grid after further tests.
A healthy growth in fauna has been observed around the Kudankulam plant. This is due to measures taken to enhance green cover around the nuclear plant. Russian nuclear experts have repeatedly pointed out that the Kudankulam project gives special attention to preservation of biological diversity and richness of the adjoining Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. In 2006, only six birds lived in the area, whereas today there are more than 40 birds nesting here including the Grey Pelican. Thus, cooled sea water intake of the plant is equipped with special fish protection devices preserving fish as well as plankton, the nutritional base of the fish. If this is the case the issues that many local fishermen are worried about may never come to pass.
Design and specification
Two 1 GW reactors of the VVER-1000 model are being constructed by the NPCIL and Atomstroyexport. When completed they will become the largest nuclear power generation complex in India producing a cumulative 2 GW of electric power. Both units are water-cooled, water-moderated power reactors.
Russia supplied the designs, drawings and all the equipment for the two identical reactors, which was then built by the NPCIL. This was the first time that the NPCIL dealt with Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology. The reactor building is 80 metres tall, and 300 pillars support the turbine hall. The reactor pressure vessel (RPV), made of stainless steel, is 19.5 metres tall, has a diameter of 4.5 metres and weighs 316 tonnes. The turbine-generator weighs 380 tonnes. The core catcher, a large vessel into which the molten fuel core will drop in the event of an extreme accident, weighs 101 tonnes.
Four more reactors are set to be added to this plant under a memorandum of intent signed in 2008. A firm agreement on setting up two more reactors, has been postponed pending the ongoing talks on liability issues. Under an inter-government agreement signed in December 2008, Russia is to supply to India, four third generation VVER-1200 reactors of 1170 MW.
The Unit I of the plant had dummy fuel loaded into it in April 2010, and the hot run of nuclear steam supply system was conducted in August 2011. After successful testing, the dummy fuel was removed in June 2012 and in October, nuclear fuel was loaded. The reactor was loaded with fuel assemblies containing about 80 tonnes of uranium oxide. Subsequently, a number of safety tests at the operating temperature and pressure were carried out. Unit I achieved 99.7% physical progress as on December 2012.
Unit I, which is also India's first 1,000MW pressurised water reactor, attained criticality on 13 July 2013 at 11.05pm IST, after the "Boron dilution process" allowed neutron concentration to go up and begin nuclear fission, generating heat. The plant was commissioned six years after the scheduled date. It is expected to begin power generation before the end of August 2013. According to Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Ratan Kumar Sinha, "In the first stage, the unit is expected to start generating 400MW power in 30 to 45 days. After fulfilling procedural and regulatory requirements, power generation will be increased stage by stage."
Tamil Nadu will receive 925 MWe out of the 2,000 MWe to be generated from the two reactors at Kudankulam. Karnataka will receive 442 MWe, Kerala 266 MWe, Puducherry 67 MWe and the unallocated share will be 300 MWe. The NPCIL will sell the electricity generated from the reactors to State utilities at 2.50 a unit. The reactor has attained criticality and will supply power to the Central Grid by end of Aug 2013. According to the revised allocation, out of the 1000 MW from the unit 1, Tamil Nadu will get 562.5 MW, Karnataka 221 MW, Kerala 133 MW, Puducherry 33.5 and unallocated 50 MW.
The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) board members have approved signing of a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for sourcing electricity from the Kudankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP). Problems with valves in the first unit at the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) has delayed the synchronization of the unit with the grid.
KKNPP was first synchronized to grid at 2:45 am on 22 October 2013. Power generation from first nuclear reactor started on the same day. Unit-1 was operating at 73% capacity (680 MW) by April 2014.  Unit 1 attained its maximum capacity of 1,000 MWe at 1:20 pm on 7 June 2014.
In 2011, thousands from the vicity of the plant, have protested against it fearing a nuclear disaster. According to the protesters, evacuation of people in the event of a nuclear disaster would be impossible. According to S P Udayakumar, of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, "the nuclear plant is unsafe". However, in 2012, the chief of India's nuclear energy program, Dr Srikumar Banerjee, called the plant "one of the safest" in the world. In December 2012, The Hindu reported that hundreds of villagers in the region were largely ignorant of the risks and benefits of the plant.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed against the government’s civil nuclear programme at the Supreme Court. The PIL specifically asked for all proposed nuclear power plants be stopped until the safety issues are resolved. In May 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the plant, stating that the nuclear power plant was in larger public interest.
In March 2012, nearly 200 anti-nuclear protesters were detained for a few hours by the police. The protesters were set to join protests objecting resumption of work of one of two 1 GW reactors, a day after the local government restarted work on the project.
On, 24 February 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed American and Scandinavian NGOs for fuelling protests at the power plant. News agencies reported that three of the NGOs had used foreign funds received for social and religious purposes to fuel the protests, violating foreign exchange regulatory rules. The PM also blamed these NGOs for opposing genetically modified foods and the use of biotechnology to increase food production in the country.
There are allegations from various agencies throughout India and officials from Home Ministry that several Christian organisations and Christian NGOs are behind the protest against KKNPP. The Church of South India, The Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the National Council of Churches openly oppose the KKNPP. It is also implicitly recognizable that officials in the Catholic Church of these regions too spread rumours through anti-nuclear videos from church premises and through Missionary Schools. The prime motives for opposing the Nuclear Reactor were allegedly multi-faceted. One of the allegations was that the protest was meant to damage the Russian civil nuclear credibility and to make it impossible for Russia to recover costs of construction, and thereby, artificially creating a state of uncertainty for future foreign investments in India Another was that it was meant to increase the inevitable dependability of India towards the US alone for future foreign investments.
Response from officials
Former Indian President Dr. Abdul Kalam had expressed satisfaction about the safety of the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant after having detailed discussion with KNPP officials and inspecting the safety features of the plant.
Former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India Srinivasan said that one should never compare the Fukushima plant with Kudankulam and added "The Fukushima plant was built on a beachfront, but the Kudankulam was constructed on a solid terrain and that too keeping all the safety aspects in mind. Also, we are not in a tsunami prone area. The plants in Kudankulam have a double containment system which can withstand high pressure. At least Rs.14,000 crore has been spent. If we don't operate the plant immediately, it will affect the economic stability of our country".
A centre panel constituted by the Government of India, which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, said the Kudankulam reactors are the safest and fears of the people are not based on scientific principles. Dr. Muthunayagam, the panel's convener, also added that the protesters have asked for some documents which are not related to the safety of the reactor, hence he suspects the very nature of their questions. Nuclear scientist and principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India Rajagopala Chidambaram has said “We have learnt lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident, particularly on the post-shutdown cooling system,” and also added Fukushima nuclear accident should not deter or inhibit India from pursuing a safe civil nuclear program.
The Tamil Nadu state government formed a four-member expert panel which submitted a report to the government after inspecting the safety features of the plant. The Tamil Nadu government in the wake of the acute power shortages in the state has ordered in favour of the commissioning of the plant.
Allocation of Power
Government of India announced the power allocation from the 2 units of the reactor on Aug 29, 2013
|Tamil Nadu||925 MW|
|Not allocated||300 MW|
Tamil Nadu may get another 100 MW over its allocation.
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