Kudankulam: First reactor might miss deadline

With protests bringing work to a standstill, atomic power plant operator NPCIL`s hopes of commissioning the first 1,000 MW unit at the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu by the extended deadline of March 2012 may not fructify.

Updated: Nov 17, 2011, 13:50 PM IST

Chennai: With protests bringing work to a standstill, atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd`s hopes of commissioning the first 1,000 MW unit at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu by the extended deadline of March 2012 may not fructify, an official said.

Nor is it possible to accelerate the completion of the second unit so that it can be commissioned first, they say.

"Only basic maintenance work is going on at the first reactor. Once the agitation against the plant ends we have to mobilise the workforce who have left Kudankulam. The systems have to be inspected and we have to be satisfied that everything is in good condition," an NPCIL official said. The first reactor was to have been commissioned in December.

For the past month, KNPP officials have not gone to their office on the advice of the district administration, fearing violence by the agitators.

According to NPCIL, 99.2 percent work has been completed at the first unit and 94.6 percent in the second unit.

"It is not possible to accelerate work on second reactor so that it could be commissioned earlier than the first reactor as construction work has come to a standstill," he added.

Officials said the stagnant coolant water in the reactor vessel and the pipelines have to be drained and inspected for any damage.

NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam, around 650 km from here.

Villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident and the long-term impact it would have on the population.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, thereby delaying the commissioning of the first unit by several months.

In order to allay the fears of the public, the central and the state government have formed two separate committees. The state panel includes representatives of the People`s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that is spearheading the protest against KNPP and other agitators.

The central committee is holding its deliberations at Kudankulam for the second day Thursday. A meeting with the state committee is slated Friday.

"The members are experts in their own fields and some have headed or are heading organisations and naturally they ask probing questions. It is not a challenge for us to provide answers to the technical questions," a NPCIL official said.

The central committee has to satisfy the state panel members who in turn have to spread the message to the public at large in Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the anti-KNPP protest.
NPCIL officials hope things would normalise in 15 days and they would be able to attend office but that depends on the support they receive from the state government.

At Idinthakarai near Kudankulam, the relay protest fast has entered its 31st day.

"Around 300 people from Viayapathi village are participating in the fast," M. Pushparayan, convener of the Coastal People`s Federation and member of the state committee, said.

PTI