Chennai: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has completed the boron flushing of the first reactor at its Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), a major exercise stipulated by the atomic energy regulator, an official said Wednesday.
"The NPCIL completed the boron flushing (flushing of reactor systems with boric acid) activity Tuesday. The reactor vessel has to be dried," S.S. Bajaj, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) chairman told IANS on phone from Mumbai Wednesday.
A team of AERB officials are camping at KNPP to look into various safety aspects before giving the final nod to load the enriched uranium fuel bundles into the reactor.
Top officials of NPCIL are also camping at KNPP to clear the regulators queries.
Efforts to reach NPCIL officials were not successful as they are maintaining a studied silence with regard to media given the anti-KNPP protest spearheaded by People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) turned violent recently.
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 with two Russian-made VVER 1,000 MW reactors.
The first unit is in advanced stage of commissioning, with the AERB giving its nod Aug 10 to load 163 of the enriched uranium fuel bundles in the reactor.
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, the raising of power generation will be permitted in stages and the reactor will have to operate at 100 percent satisfactorily for sometime," Bajaj said.
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 Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy had 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 from September 2011 to March 19, 2012."
According to NPCIL officials, the fuel-loading process would take around one week and observers from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may arrive at the start or end as KNPP reactors fall under the safeguard agreement.