nuclear plant: not only a construction site but also a university
Tatyana Sinitsyna, RIA Novosti
is building its biggest energy temple in Tamil Nadu the Kudankulam
Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). It will not last for centuries
like Shiva or Vishnu temples because physicists who are now
in the cradle are bound to invent something better than nuclear
fission. But in our century, the NPP is bound to have an active
life there is no alternative to nuclear energy for the time
is helping India build the NPP. To be more precise, Indian
workers are building it under a Russian project. Hence, the
designer (supervision) is also Russian. Both sides are closely
watching the project and looking forward to its successful
completion. There are other observers as well any nuclear
project attracts attention and even jealousy.
news came from Kudankulam recently on June 2, it received
the first three batches of Russian nuclear fuel for Reactor
1. The nuclear fuel rod is packed with heat-emitting fuel
elements "tvels", in nuclear jargon. The level of
uranium enrichment is low no more than 4.1 per cent, which
conforms to international standards. There are enough of them
for the reactor's initial loading and reloading in a year
after its commissioning (such are the rules).
on May 29, a ship with regular 41st consignment of equipment,
weighing 2,362 tonnes, left St. Petersburg for Tuticorin.
It consists of fittings, pipes, pumping equipment, control
panels, and metal cable ware. This equipment is being sent
in line with the decision of the second meeting of the Joint
Coordinating Committee on Kudankulam, which took place on
April 25-26. In the estimate of Atomstroyexport, the Russian
company in charge of NPP construction abroad, the aggregate
volume of Russia-sent equipment is 320,546 cubic metres, and
the weight is 78,690 tonnes (or 83 per cent of the total).
project consists of the two nuclear reactors under construction
and four 1000-MW blocs, which will be built later on. Once
the project is completed, the Kudankulam NPP will be a source
of energy on a truly global scale. But when will this happen?
The first scoop of concrete was poured for Reactor 1's foundation
on March 31, 2002. Now the Indian builders are doing all they
can to complete the project by the deadline Reactor 1 at the
end of this year, and Reactor 2 in a year. But it is clear
that the schedule will change for several reasons.
was impossible to calculate everything beforehand, especially
since Kudankulam is not a typical construction site. It has
a second important mission as a university where Indian specialists
are getting unique knowledge, mastering the construction of
light-water reactors. Russian high-level professionals are
the professors at this university they represent a country
with vast experience in all levels and stages of the nuclear
to say, nuclear energy is not new for India. It has long occupied
a major niche in this sphere it has 17 old heavy-water reactors,
and is taking an active interest in new global nuclear achievements.
India is one of the few countries to have developed a full
nuclear cycle from the production of uranium to nuclear waste
disposal. At the same time, India did not have any experience
in building and running safer and more efficient light-water
reactors. Now it is gaining this experience with Russia's
help. India has a long-term nuclear energy programme, which
is aimed at reducing the energy shortage and increasing the
number of NPPs, and is learning to do everything independently.
project's operators realise that this is slowing down the
rate of construction. Indian specialists are following a new
technological road, and each step, be it pouring concrete
or assembling nodule, brings new knowledge that must be mastered.
The historic inclination for knowledge is part and parcel
of Indian mentality.
Klonitsky, deputy chief engineer at the Moscow-based Atomenergoproject
company which took part in designing the Kudankulam NPP, expressed
respect for the persistence of Indian colleagues in building
energy blocs with Russian WWER-1000 reactors. The Nuclear
Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) could have simply
bought blocs from Russia as a turn-key project, he added.
of Russia's foreign partners choose this pragmatic option.
This is how two blocs of the Chinese Tianwan NPP were built,
and the same terms underlie the construction of the Belene
NPP in Bulgaria. Initially, the Indians were also tempted
to go for this easy option, but then firmly decided to learn
how to build light-water reactors on their own. Russia agreed
to share its knowledge with its long-time friend and partner,
and is providing valuable lessons. As they say: "If you
give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day. If you teach
a man to fish, you'll feed him for a lifetime."
order to get this priceless experience, Indians are doing
all the building and assembly work on their own. All in all,
there are more than 1,000 people at the site. The group of
Russian specialists from Atomstroyexport is rather small only
about 100 engineers. To implement the intergovernmental agreement
on the NPP construction, they are supervising the construction
of buildings and infrastructure, and equipment supplies. Their
other responsibilities include technical support during the
reactors' assembly and commissioning, as well as training
operators and service personnel.
support from Russia
Duma (Lower Chamber of the Russian Parliament) Deputy Mikhail
Grishankov said, "successful implementation of the contract
with India will promote the prestige of the Russian nuclear
industry abroad. We are giving all-round support to our Indian
colleagues in developing their nuclear power industry with
an open heart."
is certainly interested in the project's effective completion.
This will strengthen its image as a reliable partner who respects
agreements and produces top quality work. Today, Russia has
already supplied India with 83 per cent of equipment required
for the NPP, 98 per cent of the project's documentation, and
delivered the first consignment of nuclear fuel.
and security override everything else. The International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) has recognised the WWER-1000 reactor
project as one of the best in the world both in terms of technology
and safety. The possibility of an accident is negligibly small
is guaranteed by the project's author the Russian side, and
regularly monitored by the Indian side. All major technological
processes are subject to check. Here is a recent example:
a quality check was done on the recently supplied nuclear
Grabelnikov, chief operator at the Novosibirsk Plant of Chemical
Concentrates, reported that the Indian inspectors thoroughly
checked the external appearance of the fuel assemblies, conducted
ultrasound, radiographic, and metallographic measurements,
and verified the level of uranium enrichment, to name a few
aspects. The documents note that Russia is strictly abiding
by all terms of the contract.
some people hear the words "nuclear energy", they
become dazed. This is because of radio-phobia, which was caused
by the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Chernobyl
disaster 40 years later. But civilisation has no other choice
than to get rid of these fears it never imagined that it would
become so addicted to energy.
power giants like Kudankulam are called upon to deal with
energy shortages. Last February, Russia and India initialled
the intergovernmental agreement on the construction of four
blocs at Kudankulam, and other sites. This is a good prospect
for Russia and India, but it may be subjected to a difficult
trial by rivalry in the relevant market, and political intrigues.
the time being, India's nuclear reactors are covered only
by the IAEA safeguards. They will look much more convincing
if they are backed by political guarantees, notably, India's
ratification of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation.