Chennai, June 26 (IANS) The crucial stage in an atomic reactor's life is when the nuclear fission first starts and all systems should be in perfect condition, said a former chief of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
"The crucial stage in a reactor's lifetime is when it goes critical when the nuclear fission process starts for the first time. The reactor, instrumentation and controls and other safety systems should be in perfect condition when the reactor is taken to criticality when the nuclear fission process starts for the first time," A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERB, told IANS.
Gopalakrishnan rattled the country's nuclear establishment twice this year when he first questioned the quality of equipments used in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and problems with the cabling work in the project's first unit.
In an article published in an English daily June 19, Gopalakrishnan said there were "spurious signals of untraced origin appearing in many of the instrumentation cables of paramount importance to safety, like the reactor neutron chamber output lines, wiring of the safety and shut-off rod control systems, etc".
Though NPCIL replaced four faulty valves after Gopalakrishnan's first article, it is maintaining silence on his charges of faulty cabling work.
"Given the lack of official information, my surmise is that NPCIL, to minimise the size and number of fresh openings in the already completed reactor containment, could have put all the cables close to each other, resulting in electro-magnetic interference and spurious signals in the instrumentation lines," Gopalakrishnan added.
India's atomic power plant operator 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.
According to NPCIL officials, the first 1,000 MW unit at KNPP was ready for commissioning and there were no serious problems relating to equipment or the cabling.