Armed with a green signal from India's atomic energy regulator, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is gearing itself to repeat the full systems test - also called the hydro test - of the first unit of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), a senior official said Friday.
"Yesterday (Thursday) there was a meeting with the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board). After reviewing the test reports, the AERB gave its nod to do the hydro tests again," NPCIL Director (Technical) SA Bhardwaj said over phone from Mumbai Friday.
Queried about the delay in completing the testing process as the fuel was loaded in the reactor last year, Bhardwaj said: "Every time we test we have to submit our report to AERB.
"Incorporating AERB's recommendations involves consultations with the Russian experts. Further this reactor is first of its kind in India and we want to be doubly sure. So there is a time delay."
The country's atomic power plant operator, NPCIL, is setting up the nuclear power project in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made VVER 1,000-MW each reactors.
The nuclear power project is an outcome of an inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, the construction began only in 2001.
The AERB gave its nod for loading the 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor at KNPP Sep 18, 2012 after the plant complied with all the conditions laid down by the bureau in its Aug 10 sanction order.
NPCIL completed the fuel loading process Oct 2, 2012.
When asked whether the delay is due to non receipt of major components like valves from Russia, Bhardwaj said no valve or major component has been replaced at KNPP.
"Some minor parts had to be brought from Russia. Some instrumentation systems have to be readjusted. There were no repairs or major replacements and leaks at the plant," he said.
According to him, one of the valves did not perform as per expectations during the tests and the matter has been resolved.
"We have to understand why it happened and for that Russian assistance is needed," Bhardwaj said.
Another senior official preferring anonymity told IANS: "All the reactor systems were individually tested and were found to be functioning satisfactorily before the first hydro tests. But when the whole system was heated up during the testing the valve showed some deviation. It was like a person's behaviour individually and as a group."
The unit is getting ready for repeating the tests and in a day or two the process would begin, the official said.
During the hydro tests, the systems will be heated up and during that process a number of tests have to be carried out by NPCIL to the satisfaction of the AERB.
Once the stated parameters are achieved, the next step would kick in - criticality.
"If all goes well the entire testing process would be completed in 15 days time and then AERB would review the reports and finally give its nod for the reactor to attain criticality," Bhardwaj said.
According to him, there is adequate stock of consumables/spares at the site and hence there will not be any delay for want of parts.
NPCIL officials are confident that the first unit of KNPP would start commercial operations sometime next month.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) in a statement issued Friday said it would lay a siege of KNPP if a white paper on the actual happenings along with the Site Evaluation Report (SER), Safety Analysis Report (SAR), Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP), VVER-1000/412 performance report in the larger interests of the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are not provided in 15 days time.
The PMANE, which is spearheading the protest against KNPP, wondered if it suffers from leaks and repairs, how did former president APJ Abdul Kalam, nuclear scientist MR Srinivasan and the central and Tamil Nadu government appointed expert teams gave their certificates in support.
"Were they all speaking non-truths? Why are they silent now?," a PMANE official asked.