Months after Poovulagin Nanbargal, a Tamil Nadu based volunteer group working on environmental issues, raised concerns over the unusual number of outages of reactors at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has accepted the NGO’s claim.
Kamlesh Nilkanth Vyas, the Secretary of the DAE and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, in an interview to News18 Tamil Nadu, said that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is trying to fix the issues faced by the Kudankulam power plant.
“I do agree (that the number of stoppages of units 1 and 2 are unusual). We are trying to address it. There are some initial problems,” he said. Adding that similar operational issues were faced in Tarapore also during the initial years of operations, he said, “I feel definitely NPCIL is putting in tremendous amount of effort and they will be able to overcome the difficulties.”
This is the first time someone from the government is accepting that there are issues with the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. In November 2018, the group had written to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) seeking the appointment of a committee with independent experts to inspect Units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam plant. In its 5-page letter, Poovulagin Nanbargal had stated that Unit 1 of the plant had tripped 40 times since it began its operations in 2013 and also listed a few instances of such outages. The letter had also called AERB’s attention towards the fact that on every instance the plant stops working, it takes at least four months for it to restart operations.
“Also, recently NPCIL achieved a “historic milestone” by declaring that the nuclear plant in Kaiga produced power for more than 900 days continuously, whereas we don’t have any data to understand that the two units at Kudankulam ran successfully for at least 600 days continuously,” the letter read.
The letter also alleged that contrary to an order by the Supreme Court which made it compulsory for the NPCIL to report every outage that happens in the plant to the AERB, the NPCIL did not submit any report of these outages. “The failure on the part of the NPCIL in not sending any reports to the AERB and other authorities can be confirmed by the “Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, Units I and II”, published on March,2017,” reads the letter.
The AERB, in its reply to Poovulagin Nanbargal on December 20, 2018, had stated that the glitches the two units faced were normal issues which affect the production of the plant. “None of the events has challenged reactor safety…All safety systems are available in line with the requirement of Technical Specifications for Operation,” read the response from AERB which dismissed the request for appointment of an expert committee to review the safety systems in the reactors.