AERB nod to fission process of Kudankulam's 2nd n-plant

Chennai: India's nuclear sector regulator has given the nod for the second 1,000 MW unit at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu to go critical/start fission process, said a top official. According to the official, the unit will start operations once the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change submits its report about the plant's safety to the Supreme Court following which the fission process will start. "We have given the necessary permission to NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd) for the second 1,000 MW unit at Kudankulam to go critical," Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) Chairman Shiv Abilash Bhardwaj told IANS. He said it was up to NPCIL to decide when the second unit at Kudankulam could be taken to criticality. Confirming the receipt of AERB's nod, NPCIL's Chairman and Managing Director S.K.Sharma told IANS, "In matter of days the unit will go critical. Officials from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will be visiting Kudankulam on June 30 to study and make a report." He said as per the Supreme Court order, four agencies - AERB, NPCIL, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change - have to file a report with the apex court certifying the plant is safe to operate. "Before the commissioning of the first unit similar reports were filed with the Supreme Court. It was opined that same procedure be followed before starting the second unit," Sharma said. The AERB, NPCIL and TNPCB have filed their reports and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will be visiting the plant to prepare their report. The ministry has set up a committee for this purpose, he noted. "The process is moving. It is just matter of days before the second unit goes critical," Sharma said. India's atomic power plant operator, NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW atomic power plants at Kudankulam in Tirunelvelli district, around 650 km from here, at an outlay of over Rs 17,000 crore. The first unit attained criticality, which is the beginning of the fission process, in July 2013. Subsequently it was connected to the southern grid in October 2013. However, commercial power generation began only on December 31, 2014. The unit also experienced several breakdowns after commercial production started. Operating at full capacity, the first unit supplies power to Tamil Nadu (562.5 MW), Puducherry (33.5 MW), Kerala (133 MW), Karnataka (221 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (50 MW). Currently, the first unit is generating over 900 MW daily. Once the second unit at Kudankulam goes critical, the total atomic power capacity in Tamil Nadu would go up to 2,440 MW. Already, the NPCIL has two 220 MW units at Kalkpakkam near here under its Madras Atomic Power Station. Another 500 MW of nuclear power is also expected to be added soon by India's fast breeder reactor company, Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd when its prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) starts nuclear fission process. "AERB is looking at the plant in detail as it is first of its kind in the country. It may take some time before PFBR goes critical. However no time frame can be given for that to happen now," AERB's Bhardwaj added.