Chennai: Atomic power reactor operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) hopes to get the regulatory nod to fuel the first unit of Kudankulam nuclear power plant in a week`s time, a top official said here on Saturday.
The NPCIL had sought the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board`s permission on April 18 for loading the fuel in the nuclear project in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.
"We are hopeful of getting the board`s nod in a week`s time. We will then remove the dummy fuel (similar to the real fuel in terms of specifications but without enriched uranium) and start loading the real nuclear fuel," SK Jain, chairman and managing director of NPCIL, said.
"If everything goes well, the fuel loading process will be completed by May or June," Jain said. He cited Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa`s April 25 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the reactor "will be fuelled in the next few days" and it will attain criticality in 20 days` time.
"We have been able to mobilise necessary workforce within three weeks following the state government`s nod to go ahead with the project. The hot run of the reactor (trial run without real fuel) was 200 percent success," said Jain while speaking about the status of the first unit of the reactor.
He said the reactor`s life expectancy was around 60 years and the NPCIL has the in-service testing capacity for which data was to be collected after hot run.
According to Jain, pre-service inspection will be completed in a couple of days while fine tuning of data is going on.
"We have completed integrated emergency core (reactor core) cooling system simulation. This is a prerequisite for fuel loading," Jain said.
Officials at the Kundankulam plant have tested more than 600 pumps and motors, 200 control panels and the same number of electrical panels and individual systems of the reactor.
Terming reports about the presence of a spring near the reactor building as a rumour, Jain said the NPCIL spent around Rs 10 million to conduct isotope hydrology test to find water reservoir near the project site and could not find even salt water.
Speaking about the safety drills conducted prior to loading nuclear fuel, Jain said they were of three kinds: Plant emergency, site emergency and off-site emergency. The first two of these drills have been completed, Jain said.
"The plant emergency is declared if there is any system malfunctioning. Under this drill, all the plant personnel are required to assemble at a designated place if a warning is sounded. The second drill is site emergency that applies to all those present within 1.6 km radius of the plant. They too have to assemble at a designated place on hearing a warning sound in case of an emergency," Jain said.
The off-site emergency drill is conducted by district administration officials, who are trained by the NPCIL, Jain said.
"We have trained the district administration officials on safety drills such as traffic diversion and informing the people about how to react in an emergency. Training on evacuating people and handling other emergency situations will be done before the reactor goes critical," Jain said.