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Awaiting a new(nu) year(clear)!
The Kudankulam Unit I is due to resume power production in January 2016 and Unit II will start in the middle of the year. Hopefully, an uninterrupted additional power generation of 2000 MW is welcome news for Tamil Nadu.

This amounts to a substantial 20 per cent increase in installed capacity in the state, with the inherent higher availability factor of nuclear power and represents four times more capacity addition in the seven years, 2007-2013. If all goes well, the share of Tamil Nadu in nuclear power would be a fourth of the nation’s installed capacity by the end of 2016.

Nuclear power would become more acceptable to the public if the lacunae in delivery are removed and targets are firmly and realistically fixed with more transparency.

Let us hope the teething problem with the VVER units from Russia is a bad dream of the past. But with the past experience of repeated missing of schedules and without any inkling of the exact nature of the problems which interrupted power production after commencing commercial production and licensing by the regulatory authority, one is naturally nervous and uncertain.

Why lack of conviction on nuclear power?


With sustained availability of power from Kudankulam, the opposition to nuclear power should vanish. Delivery of power to a clear cut schedule is the imperative to remove public doubts about nuclear power. The anti-nuclear agitations, the lack of clear-cut schedules and inability to stick to announced schedules were the main reasons for lack of conviction of the public.

At the sister VVER unit in China, construction started in 2000 and it was commissioned in 2007 and had no such problems. It has the energy availability factor of 86.3 per cent and has supplied 55.88 TW.h of electricity till 2014 working out to around 8 TW. h per year. This implies only 45 days of shutdown on an average in two years of operation. Its first criticality date was 1 May 2007, first grid connection 14 May 2007 and commencement of commercial operation on 16 August 2007.


Not stable after start...

Compared to this KKNPP Unit I attained first criticality on 13 July 2013, first synchronisation to grid in October 2013, reached full power on 8 June 2014, commercial production announced in December 2014 and licensed to operate by the regulatory authority in July 2015; but it was unable to supply uninterrupted power till today.

Only after seven months of start of commercial operation the KKNPP Unit was shut down in June 2015 for annual maintenance for 45 days, which is not normal for our own indigenous reactors.  Perhaps some allowance can be given to KKNPP in the light of additional safety features insisted by India.

Compared to this, however, our Indian PHWRs have excellent record of un-interrupted operation of up to 700 days and more. There seems to be teething troubles with the KKNPP reactors, unlike in the same type of reactors operating in China. Thus the problems do not seem to be generic to VVERS, but specific to the Indian context.

A report mentioned that components of KKNPP Unit II, which was getting ready for commissioning, had to be cannibalised and used for replacement in the Unit I to ensure an earlier restart of the first unit. So the problems seem to be lack of timely ans sequential supply of components. This aspect needs to be addressed by the government to stick to the schedule in future.

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