It is exhilarating to learn that KKNPP units 3 and 4 are being constructed with ground breaking done in February 2016 and that units 5 and 6 are also scheduled for construction. Thus KKNPP will be one of the biggest nuclear power complexes in the world with 6000 MW capacity. Tamil Nadu will be major beneficiary.
Was it spare part supply?
However, a few things need to be taken care of. We hope at least ROSATOM and NPCIL know what those measures are! It is now clear from the latest announcement that the spare part problem was responsible for the nagging delays suffered by units 1 and 2. This was suspected, as analysed in an article in IE January 2016 issue. The oft beaten reason of liability propped out may not be the only issue. We need to suspect that the denial of spare parts from international suppliers might be due to their commitment to Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) to not supply nuclear parts to those countries who had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If that is the case, the supply issue will continue until it is sorted out. The authorities might have found the liability issue a convenient ruse!
Risky to depend solely on desalination
Availability of abundant processed water is critical for nuclear power stations from the safety point of view. The pioneers in DAE who set forth the norms for nuclear site selection, had stipulated supply of water by the state government as one of the basic criteria. This requirement has been meticulously followed in all other nuclear sites in India. Initially water supply to KKNPP was supposed to be met by the Pechiparai dam as assured by the TN government. But it went back on it to appease the farmers who were exploited and prodded by political parties to agitate on the ground that giving water to KKNPP will affect their livelihood.
Wholly dependant on desalination. Too risky
As a result, DAE had to turn to Israel to supply four huge desalination plants to provide process water to the first two units. Thus we have the unique distinction of running two huge nuclear power plants fully dependent on water supply from desalination plants. This is a source of concern since continuity of cooling under all conditions is a requirement for NPPs and machines have got an uncanny feature of failing!
The six units would need in all 12 huge desalination plants and are to be imported at a cost of more than Rs 500 crore!
To handle the situation smooth and safe, the Tamil Nadu government should provide a reliable, natural water source to this huge nuclear complex not only because the state is a major beneficiary of large installed capacity for power but that also provides jobs; but safety should be a major concern.
Even during the project construction stage when water from the Pechiparai dam was promised, AERB had stipulated stringent requirements about insuring water supply from the dam and for its storage. With more units to be installed and with no natural source of water supply, AERB needs to have a re-look on this critical requirement.