India's nuclear regulator has given its nod to repeat the full systems test at the first unit of Kudankulam atomic power project in Tamil Nadu ahead of commissioning of the plant expected next month.
"We have given permission to repeat the hydro-tests at Kundankulam Unit 1 yesterday," Satinder Singh Bajaj, Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), told PTI.
He said the permission, granted after the review of reports of earlier tests, would give engineers of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and their Russian collaborators an opportunity to conduct some final checks and tests ahead of the approach to first criticality.
These include some examinations related to preparedness in case of an off-site power failure, officials said.
The full systems test, also known as the hydro tests, would be carried out over the next fortnight.
During the hydro tests, the systems will be heated up and during that process a number of tests will be carried out by NPCIL engineers.
"We will review the report and if everything is within the laid parameters, a go ahead will be given for the next step," Bajaj said.
Earlier, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Ratan Kumar Sinha had said that during the initial tests, there was some need felt for some maintenance operations that were well identified.
"Essentially there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values," he said.
Sinha said since the Kudankulam reactor was the first of its kind to be built in the country it was felt that it was better to exactly adhere to specifications.
"It was decided not deviate even a little bit from whatever the prescribed parameters are and it is better to do it now than later," he said, giving reasons for the delay in commissioning the plant.
"So, they have opened up a few of the valves and such components for maintenance and that's taking a little more time than what was expected. It is more rigorous than what would normally be done," Sinha had said last week.
NPCIL, in collaboration with Russia, is building two 1,000 MW VVER-type nuclear power plants under the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.
AERB had given permission to load fuel in the reactor on August 10, last year. The loading of 163 enriched uranium fuel bundles began on September 18, 2012 and completed on October two.
The first unit of KNPP is now expected to be commissioned next month. The first unit has achieved 99.7 per cent physical progress as on December last.
Similarly, the second unit designed to produce another 1000 MW has been pushed to September this year.
The plant has already missed several deadlines since it was originally scheduled for December 2011.
The over 500 days of protests by anti-nuclear activists, spearheaded by People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, citing safety concerns, has largely contributed to the delay in the commissioning of the plant.
The original cost of the project, for Unit 1 and 2 was Rs13,171 crore and now the expected completion cost is around Rs17,270 crore.