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Indian nuclear regulator blames procedural error for injuries at Kudankulam NPP

03 June 2014

On May 14, six people were hospitalised with burns after an incident in Unit 1 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, southern India. Three of the injured were from plant owner Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and three were contractors. The workers were injured when hot water spilled from a valve as they carried out maintenance work in a turbine building. There was no leak of radiation.

Kudankulam NPP, Tamil Nadu
Kudankulam NPP, Tamil Nadu

According to the Press Trust of India, the country’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has ruled out any deficiency in the construction of a valve. It blamed 'inadequate draining of hot water' before the valve was opened.

Sources at ROSATOM, the Russian state atomic agency which built the reactor, said that when the plant is closed for maintenance, water should be not released earlier than 24 hours after shutdown. PTI says the accident occurred when the water was drained before the 24-hour cutoff period had elapsed.

India had earlier sought “enhanced safety measures” for KNPP after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, which ROSATOM is now considering.

Kudankulam 1 is one of two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors built as part of a bilateral agreement between India and Russia signed in 1988. Construction began in 2002 and the unit was completed in March 2011. However, its commissioning was delayed by over two years due to protests and legal action following the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The unit was finally connected to the grid in October 2013. Power output of the reactor has gradually increased and it has been running at 75% power since late January. Earlier this month, the AERB gave approval for Kudankulam 1 to be temporarily operated at 100% power during commissioning tests. NPCIL says it expects the unit to enter commercial operation next month.

The start of commercial operation of the second Kudankulam unit, which has entered the commissioning phase, is now expected in March 2015.

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