India’s largest nuclear reactor was formally inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a joint dedication through video conferencing.
Jointly built by Russia and Nuclear Power Corporaton Limited (NPCIL) at a cost of Rs 17,270 crore, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tiruneveli district will provide electricity to the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking in New Delhi said, “Kundankulum is an important addition to India's continuing efforts to scale up production of clean energy in India.”
Speaking of the importance of Indo-Russian ties, he said, Kudankulam “signals our joint commitment to build pathways of partnership for green growth.” He also noted that in the 12-year cooperation with Russia, India would build a series of nuclear units.
Highlighting the importance of Indo-Russian nuclear cooperation, Putin said, “It is a big event for India and for Russia. The power plant is constructed on the most advanced and updated Russian technology.” The Russian President also said, “We are glad to share our technology with our Indian colleagues.”
Speaking on the occasion from Chennai, Jayalalithaa said, “Nuclear power is clean, green and which a rapidly growing state like Tamil Nadu aspiring for higher growth really needs. I have extended support to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant while allaying fears of the local people."
Ahead of the dedication, activist SP Udaykumar, who spearheaded the protests in 2011 wondered, “Why can't Putin come in person and hand over this world-class nuclear power plant in person? Why doesn't the Prime Minister, who goes around the whole world come to Kudankulam and receive it? He can gift it to the country then and there.”
Alleging there were accidents in the power plants, Udaykumar on his Facebook page stated, “The PM can conduct a 'Mann ki baat' with the Tamil people about who is responsible, who will give compensation etc.”
The 1000-MW nuclear plant has been in the works for nearly 28 years after an agreement was signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the then Soviet Union Head of State Mikhail Gorbachev in November 1988.
The much-delayed nuclear power project has seen its fair share of controversies and resistance over the years. The disintegration of the Soviet Union, the objections of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and thereafter protests against the plant by the fishing community.
Twelve years after the construction began, Unit 1 of the KNPP attained criticality in July 2013.
Following Unit 1 starting commercial operations on December 31, 2014, NPCIL announced a price of Rs 4.29 per unit, making electricity generated from KNPP cheaper than purchasing private thermal power.
Power generation has been disrupted on several occasions, with KNPP shutting down the plant for maintenance and due to a leakage in a steam pipe.
The second unit of the nuclear power plant attained criticality on July 10, 2016 and is expected to be connected to the grid later this month. With the capacity of both units 1000MW each, Tamil Nadu was allocated the most power with 925MW, Karnataka 442MW, Kerala 266MW, and Puducherry 67 MW. The remaining 300 MW has not been allocated.
Two more units will be built at the cost of Rs 39,747 crore.