Nuclear Power
Nuclear reactors shut down once in two years. Why has Kudankulam been forced to shut so many times?

The first reactor of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant was shut down for maintenance last Friday. Shutting down a plant for maintenance work would have been normal procedure, but in Kudankulam's case, it has happened too many times.

Anti-nuclear activists have raised questions over the safety of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant after the latest shutdown.

Speaking to The News Minute, Devaprakash, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant PRO said that Unit 1 has been taken in for a planned shutdown for 10 days. “Unit 1 has been operating for 278 days from February 22 until last Friday. During this period, 6244 million units of electricity has been produced,” he said. 

G Sundarrajan, coordinator of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an NGO -----, however, points out that since its inception two-and-a-half years ago, the reactor has tripped around 35 times at least. “Globally, nuclear power plants trip or are shut down once in two years for refuelling or for small issues. But we have never come across nuclear power plants that develop technical snags so often,” Sundarrajan notes.

Raising questions over the quality of the components used in Unit 1, the activist argues that Russian Federal Prosecutors had in 2007 arrested the procurement director of ZiO-Poldolsk, a subsidiary of Rosatom, the country’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation on accusations of corruption. ZiO-Poldolsk was accused of knowingly selling inferior equipment manufactured for nuclear reactors. The same company was supplying material and reactor parts to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.  

Sundarrajan went on to accuse Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited of trying to hide facts, suggesting that officials at Kudankulam were camouflaging the defects at Unit 1 and 2, so they could roll out Unit 3 and 4. 

“Unit 1 and 2 will be made to die a natural death after the other reactors come up,” he claimed. 

Demanding an independent review of unit 1 and 2, Sundarrajan observed that India is one of the only countries that doesn’t have an independent nuclear power regulator. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, which regulates safety and security measures at India’s nuclear power plants, is not autonomous given that it falls under the Department of Atomic Energy. 

But this isn’t the first time Sundarrajan and other anti-nuclear activists are demanding an independent inquiry into safety measures at Kudankulam, The Supreme Court had in 2013, dismissed Sundarrajan’s petition, observing that nuclear energy is the need of the present and future generations.

The Poovulagin Nanbargal activist also demanded that the government stop the expansion of the Kudankulam power plant. India and Russia had recently signed an agreement to expand the plant, adding two more units. 

Opposing the move, Poovulagin Nanbargal along with People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy will organise a conference in Chennai on December 10 against the plant’s expansion. Political parties barring the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK are expected to participate in the conference.