Sunday, June 2, 2013

Russia’s Three Red Lines for the Kudankulam N Plant by rajeev sharma 27/5/13
Russia’s collaboration with India in the Indian civilian nuclear program is currently under test – a test by fire.
The Russians have been helping the Indians for over a decade in a multi-billion dollar nuclear project in Kudankulam for the Kudankulan Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in the Indian southern state of Tamil Nadu for well over a decade, a plant that is set to add several thousands of megawatts to the Indian nuclear energy basket.
The first unit of the KNPP should have been commissioned three years ago. But as has been happening with a lot of other Indo-Russian strategic ventures, the KNPP too has routinely missed deadlines after deadlines over the years.
KNPP’s first unit is ready for commissioning. But there is no word from the Indian stakeholders concerned when it would start generating power, and more importantly, when the KNPP power generation would be connected to the grid.
This is despite the recent green signal from the Indian Supreme Court which cleared all obstacles in a landmark judgment on 6 May, 2013. The Indian government, doubly sensitized in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in early 2011, has sent a word to all KNPP stakeholders not to worry about the deadlines and go for a fool-proof security and safety architecture of the plant. After all, it is a flagship project of the Indo-Russian collaboration in the civilian nuclear sector.
Three Red Lines
KNPP 1 is ready. All it is waiting for is a nod from the stakeholders for commissioning it. This nod has more political considerations than considerations of technocrats and bureaucrats. There is still some work to be done before the plant actually starts producing electricity.
The Russians cannot take it as a finished business till three things happen. One, the
people's protests should get over. Signals emanating from the plant site in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are to the contrary.
The activists have vowed to intensify their agitation. M.Pushparayan of the People's Movement
Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and one of the prominent local leaders who have been spearheading the agitation against the Kudankulam plant, criticized the court judgment and said the agitation will continue. "It is a delayed and unjust judgment. It will not bind us and our protest against the project will continue," Pushpanarayan said, adding that 25 school children had submitted a petition to the Tirunelveli district collector to shut down the nuclear plant due to its "substandard" equipment.
Two, the four safety valves in Kudankulam Unit 1, which have been found to be defective by
India's apex nuclear body Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, have to be rectified as soon as possible so that the plant can be commissioned. Russia has an important role to play in this context because the valves for the nuclear reactor were supplied by the Russian company ZiO-Podolsk. G Sunderrajan, an IT professional and the main petitioner in the case before the Indian Supreme Court, had put ZiO-Podolsk in the dock for allegedly supplying "sub-standard
equipment" for the Kudankulam plant. 
Three, the Indian Supreme Court has issued 15 guidelines on commissioning, safety and security and environmental issues concerning the Kudankulam plant and has directed the government that the plant should not be made operational unless AERB, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and department of atomic energy (DAE) accord final clearance and the quality of various components and systems is fully ensured.
Problems Galore
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) chairman S.S.Bajaj went on record as saying thus in Chennai on May 7, 2013: "As of now, the test reports and the results submitted by NPCIL relating to the first unit of KNPP are satisfactory. A team of experts will be going to KNPP Monday. If all things go well, it will be in matter days we will issue the sanction for the reactor beginning the fission process."
Bajaj also said KNPP 1 will be given five-year operational license and added that the license period may be restricted, if needed, based on the plant's performance parameters. Besides, Bajaj said the test reports submitted by NPCIL about KNPP will show whether the performance of the equipments are as per design specifications or they vary. In case the test results are at variance with those of the design specifications, then corrective actions have to be taken by NPCIL.
G.Sundarrajan, the main petitioner in the case, has questioned the AERB procedure in this context, saying "The NPCIL is the purchaser of the equipments and there will be a conflict of interest if it has to certify the component quality,"
D. Nagasaila, an advocate for one of the litigants in the case, said: "The KNPP is a learning exercise for everybody. Perhaps is the first time where a nuclear power project was taken to the court and other forums. Many of the documents pertaining to the project that were kept under wraps were made public because of the case and the people's struggle."
Clearly, there is still some work to be done by the Indians who are hopeful for an early commissioning of the plant. For its part, however, the Indian government has made it clear to all the stakeholders in the Kudankulam plant that they should not bother about deadlines and ensure that all safety parameters are rigorously adhered to before the plant is made operational.
The Bushehr Example
For Russia, Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India is as important as Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran has been for two decades. Both plants, built with Russian expertise and equipment, have taken much longer than usual for completing the construction, though for different reasons.
German companies had initiated work on the Bushehr plant way back in 1975 but the work came to a grinding halt in 1979 in view of the political upheavals in the country climaxing in the Islamic revolution. The new Iranian leadership approached the Russians and a contract for finishing the plant was signed between Iran and the Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy in 1995, with Russia's Atomstroyexport named as the main contractor. After fits and starts, the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant was officially opened in a ceremony on 12 September 2011, attended by Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and head of the Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko.
Russian Stakes
The Russians have immense stakes over the Kudankulam project. New Delhi has recently okayed a plan to go ahead with the 3rd and 4th units of KNPP of 1000 MWe each, at a hefty price tag of $ 3.69 billion each.
The Indians want to award the project to the Russians. The negotiations are already taking place. A major deterrent factor for the Russians is the Indian nuclear liability laws.
All said and done, it is a lucrative opportunity for the Russians which they cannot afford to squander away.

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