BY | September 11, 2012

Chennai, (IANS) A team of officials from the Indian atomic energy regulator was Monday doing the final studies of the first reactor at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), said a top official.

“Our team of officials is now at Kudankulam, poring over reports and studying the finer details of the reactor systems to satisfy themselves before giving the final clearance for the loading of the fuel,” S.S. Bajaj, chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

He said that if all goes well, the fuel loading would happen this week.

India’s atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is setting up the KNPP at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here with two Russian-made VVER 1000 reactors.

The first unit is in advanced stage of commissioning, with AERB giving its nod Aug 10 to load 163 of the enriched uranium fuel bundles in the reactor.

After the reactor is fuelled, activities to approach first criticality-starting fission chain reaction, for the first time in a reactor, will be taken up. Then the power generation will be gradually scaled up on AERB’s permission based on the results of various studies.

“After fuel loading, NPCIL will have to do certain tests. Based on the test results, we will give clearance for criticality. Following that, the raising of power generation will be permitted in stages and the reactor will have to operate at 100 percent satisfactorily for sometime, Bajaj said.

The AERB would then issue NPCIL the operational licence for the first unit of KNPP.

The KNPP is an outcome of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed between India and the erstwhile USSR in 1988. However, the project construction began in 2001.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said: “The project was initially delayed due to non-sequential receipt of equipment from the Russian Federation and subsequently due to local protests impeding the work from September 2011 to March 19, 2012.”

According to NPCIL officials, the fuel-loading process would take around one week and the observers from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may come at the start or at the end as KNPP reactors fall under the safeguard agreement that was signed with the former.

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