Chennai, July 11 (IANS) India's atomic regulator Thursday gave its nod to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) for commencement of controlled nuclear fission process, a step towards power generation from a nuclear reactor.
"Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has granted Clearance for 'First Approach to Criticality (FAC) of Unit-l of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project( KNPP) as the next major stage of its commissioning," its secretary R. Bhattacharya said in a statement.
In general terms, FAC is the commencement of controlled nuclear fission process for the first time, and is a step towards the subsequent beginning of power generation.
India's atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of 1,000 MW each.
The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001.
Fearing for their safety in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam plant, under the the banner of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) have been opposing the project.
City-based environmental activist G. Sundarrajan had filed a case in the apex court demanding the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for the NPCIL, the AERB, the union environment and forest ministry, the Tamil Nadu government and the state pollution control board to follow.
The project, however, had been delayed mainly due to non-sequential supplies of components from Russian vendors.