Everything is safe at the Kaiga atomic power station and it was a false alarm that led to the shutting down of its third reactor on Friday, an official said Sunday, adding that it would re-start on April 17.
"Preliminary investigation has revealed that it was a false alarm. There was no fire or fuel leakage in the temperature moderator equipment in the reactor. Nothing abnormal was noticed. Everything is safe," Kaiga power generating station director J.P. Gupta told IANS.
He said the reactor will re-start April 17 after surveillance tests.
"We have decided to re-start the 220 MW third unit and connect the generated power to the grid April 17 after completing the surveillance tests and investigation into the smoke detection alarm that appeared in its control room early Friday," Gupta said.
Operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, the Kaiga station has four pressurised heavy water reactors to generate 220 MW of power each. The highly protected sensitive facility is located near Karwar on the west coast in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, about 500 km from here.
Gupta said following explosions and radiation leakage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the east coast of Japan after the massive earthquake and tsunami March 11, multi-level safety measures were put in place at the Kaiga plant.
"We have put in place multi-level safety and evacuation plans to meet any eventuality at all the four reactors. Advanced technology with sensors is being used to prevent any radiation leak in case of emergency," he said.
Though Kaiga does not fall in an earthquake zone, the plant shuts down automatically if any radiation leak is detected.
"The earthquake gauging centre at the plant can immediately warn us of any seismic activity in the vicinity," he said.
Ruling out any fire mishap, Gupta clarified that the third unit was shut down Friday as a precautionary measure after shift engineers detected the smoke alarm.
Reiterating that safety was the first priority, Gupta allayed fears of any health risk to the employees and assured the people that the unit was safe.
"We are investigating the root cause of the false alarm on all parameters and to find out if there was any equipment failure. I have visited the control room to check the safety measures in place and analyse the data. We found nothing unusual," Gupta said.
"Though the third reactor was to be shut for the biennial tests and maintenance next month (May), we have decided to conduct them ahead this week and bring back the unit online from next Sunday," he added. When re-activated, the 220 MW third reactor will generate only 175 MW of power, as enriched uranium fuel supply is limited and has to be proportionately used in the three other reactors.
"Due to fuel supply constraints, we have been operating the reactors at 75-80 percent of their installed capacity. The output will be increased to 90 percent when we have sufficient stock," Gupta added.
While the third reactor was commissioned in 2007 and fourth early this January, the first two reactors commenced commercial operation in 2000.