Chennai, Sep 7 (IANS) The loading of 163 enriched uranium fuel bundles in the first unit of the two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) will happen around Sep 11, said a senior official of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) Friday.
"We expect the fuel loading to happen around Sep 11. We are not working towards any specific date. Going the current situation, the first reactor will be fuelled by Sep 15," S.A. Bhardwaj, director (Technical) at NPCIL told IANS on phone from Mumbai.
India's atomic power plant operator NPCIL is setting up the KNPP at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, amid protests from the local villagers under the banner People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).
The PMANE leaders, who are currently at Idinthakarai neighbouring village to Kudankulam, have decided to intensify their protest further by taking out a procession Sep 9 to protest outside KNPP.
"Ours is a non-violent protest. Though there is a prohibitory order against assembly of people near the plant we will gather and protest. We have not taken any anticipatory bail against our arrests," S.P. Udayakumar, coordinator of PMANE told IANS on phone from Idinthakarai.
Bhardwaj said the fuel loading process would take around one week and the observers from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may come at the start or at the end as KNPP reactors fall under the safeguard agreement that was signed with the former.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) gave its nod to NPCIL to load the fuel and first approach to criticality Aug 10.
After the reactor is fuelled, activities to approach first criticality-starting fission chain reaction, for the first time in a reactor, will be taken up. Then the power generation will be gradually scaled up on AERB's permission based on the results of various studies.
"After fuel loading NPCIL will have to do certain tests. Based on the test results we will give clearance for criticality. Following that raising of power generation will be permitted in stages and the reactor have to operate at 100 percent satisfactorily for sometime," S.S. Bajaj, chairman, AERB told IANS on phone from Mumbai.
The AERB would then issue NPCIL the operational licence for the first unit of KNPP.
The KNPP is an outcome of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed between India and the erstwhile USSR in 1988. However the project construction began in 2001.
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy said: "The project was initially delayed due to non-sequential receipt of equipment from the Russian Federation and subsequently due to local protests impeding the work during September, 2011 to March 19, 2012."
Work at the project had come to a standstill last year after local villagers, fearing for their lives in case of a nuclear accident, mounted an intensive protest by people under PMANE.
The Tamil Nadu government had last year passed a resolution asking the central government to halt work at the plant and to allay the fears of the locals.
To resolve the issue, the central and state governments set up two committees. The central panel submitted its final report on January 31. Another expert committee set up by the Tamil Nadu government also favoured the project.
In March this year, the state government gave the go-ahead to the project and announced Rs.500 crore for local area and infrastructural development.
Following that, work at KNPP was restarted with police protection.