Chennai, Nov 1: India’s atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) Thursday began the process of sealing the pressure vessel of the first 1,000 MW Russian-built reactor at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), said a senior official.
“Two technicians from Germany reached Kudankulam Wednesday. They have started their work today (Thursday). It may take around 10 days to fully complete the work,” a senior NPCIL official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
Sectoral regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) Oct 20 gave the nod to close the pressure vessel post loading of 163 enriched uranium fuel bundles.
According to the official, the machine to close the reactor pressure vessel is of German make and a technical team from the company has to operate the equipment.
NPCIL officials told IANS that at the current pace of work, the reactor may become critical (start of fission process) sometime during the second week of this month.
Once the reactor pressure vessel is closed, the NPCIL has to approach the AERB for permission for the next process which is called heating-up process.
During the heating up process, a number of tests have to be carried out by NPCIL to the satisfaction of the AERB and once the stated parameters are achieved, the next step would kick in – criticality, a NPCIL official told IANS.
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 AERB gave its nod for loading the bundles of enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor at KNPP Sep 18 after the plant complied with all the conditions laid down by the bureau in its Aug 10 sanction order.
NPCIL completed the fuel loading process Oct 2. 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.
Closure of the reactor pressure vessel is the first step. Then the power generation will be gradually scaled up on AERB’s permission, based on the results of various studies.
The KNPP is an outcome of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, the project construction only began in 2001.