Kudankulam reactor system to be heated up to maximum

Chennai, Feb 5 (IANS) Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) officials are confident about increasing the first reactor systems' temperature to 280 degrees Centigrade in a day or two while electrical systems in the second unit have been charged.

"We have touched 160 degrees Centigrade. Going further, we will increase the temperature to 260 degrees and then to 280 degrees in a day or two," a senior official of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) told IANS Tuesday.

Once the systems are heated up to maximum range, there will be a week of testing after which reports will be submitted to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), said the official, who did not want to named.

AERB Jan 24 gave its nod to NPCIL to do the hydro tests in the first KNPP unit. As part of the tests, the systems are heated up gradually to touch the maximum of 280 degrees.

According to a NPCIL official, the reactor systems were earlier heated to the maximum range in 2011 with dummy fuel -- fuel pins similar to real fuel in all aspects without the fission material.

NPCIL, India's atomic power plant operator, is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, around 650 km from here, with two Russian-made VVER 1,000-MW each reactors.

KNPP is an outcome of the Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction only began in 2001.

The AERB gave its nod for loading the 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor at KNPP Sep 18 last year after the plant complied with all conditions laid down by the bureau in a sanction order.

NPCIL completed the fuel-loading process Oct 2.

During the first hydro tests, the authorities found the systems not performing according to original standards.

Officials said the systems might have failed to achieve standard parameters as the plant was closed for nearly six months last year.

After corrective actions, the second hydro tests are now being carried out.

According to an official, after a week of testing post heating up the systems up to 280 degrees, AERB will be approached for clearance for starting the fission process or making the reactor go critical.

"Before going to AERB, we want to ensure that the systems work as per the copy book," the official said.

Though the focus of officials is entirely on getting the first unit started at the earliest, work on the second unit is also progressing but at a slow pace.

"We have charged the electrical systems of the second unit. Some flushing of the reactor systems is also on. The experience of setting up the first unit is helping us with the second unit's work," the official said.

The first unit is expected to start commercial operations by February-end and the second unit by September.

Meanwhile, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy spearheading a protest against the project sent a letter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday urging him to announce a moratorium on all atomic power projects till the general elections due in 2014.

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