Chennai: With the atomic energy regulator's clearance to gradually increase power generation levels to 500 MW at the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, the Nuclear Power Corp of India (NPCIL) hopes to connect the plant to the grid this month end, said officials.
"We gave our clearance to the first unit (of KNPP) to increase the power levels to 50 percent of its rated capacity (1,000 MW) Wednesday," R. Bhattacharya, secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), told IANS over telephone from Mumbai Thursday.
Soon after the receipt of AERB's clearance, NPCIL has started its work at the KNPP's first unit.
"We are hopeful of connecting the plant to the grid generating 500 MW this month," R.S. Sundar, site director at KNPP, told IANS.
India's atomic power plant operator NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.
After several years of delay, the first 1,000 MW Russian-made reactor at KNPP and India's 21st reactor began its nuclear fission process July 13.
Queried about the status of second unit at KNPP, Bhattacharya said NPCIL had completed loading the dummy fuel.
The dummy fuel assemblies, made of lead instead of uranium, are the exact replica of the actual nuclear fuel assemblies, both in dimension and weight.
A total of 163 dummy fuel assemblies will be loaded into the core.
The dummy fuel assemblies are loaded into the reactor for conducting full-scale thermo-hydraulic tests of the reactor systems, prior to the loading of the actual fuel, so as to assess the design performance of the systems.
Following the dummy fuel loading, the major activities to be carried out are the reactor box-up for conducting "hydro-test" and the "hot circulation flushing" of the primary coolant systems.
During this process, the nominal parameters of the plant are achieved and tests are conducted for design evaluation of the plant.
After this, the nuclear fuel is loaded and the reactor is made critical - the time when it starts generating power.
A senior official at KNPP told IANS: "While flushing of the systems and other works are progressing at the second unit, the primary focus is on the first unit."
According to him, the power levels in the first unit will be increased gradually and clearance from AERB have to be obtained at the beginning of each stage.
NPCIL had earlier said at the first stage, the plant will be synchronised with the southern grid when power generation touches 400 MW.
After necessary regulatory clearances, power generation will be increased gradually to 50 percent, 75 percent, 90 percent and finally 100 percent.
When that happens, the total installed nuclear power capacity in the country will go up to 5,780 MW.
KNPP is India's first pressurised water reactor belonging to the light water reactor category.
While the power from KNPP will be shared by the southern states, the lion's share will be for the home state Tamil Nadu, which is suffering from power deficit.