The first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project attained its maximum rated generation capacity of 1,000 MWe on Saturday afternoon, marking a final technical milestone in the tumultuous history of the atomic project coming up on the Tamil Nadu coast.
This wraps up a gradual three-stage ramping up of power levels in the first reactor of the project that was initiated by NPCIL — the state-owned operator of the project — last year. It signifies that the reactor is almost ready for commercial power generation, 11 months after it attained criticality in July 2013 and over 14 years after the “first pour of concrete” way back in March 2002.
At 1,000 MWe, Kudankulam-I is now also the single largest power generating unit in the country, higher than the 800 MW thermal sets deployed at the Tata Mundra project in Gujarat that had the distinction of being the largest single generation units in operation. The largest nuclear reactor units currently in operation have a capacity of 540 MWe while projects based on a range of 700 MWe indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors are currently under construction at two sites.
“At 13.20 hours today, Unit I of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant started generating its full capacity of 1,000 MWe of power,” said R S Sundar, site director, of the project. NPCIL is expected to run the unit for some more time before it stops it for conducting some tests as mandated by the nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, NPCIL officials indicated.
After attaining criticality on July 13 last year, the Kudankulam project’s first reactor had to undergo a series of tests stipulated by the AERB and also by the Russian technology provider Atomstroyexport CJSC, and had to be shut down manually on a couple of occasions. Though the commissioning of the first of the 2X1,000 MWe reactors was originally planned in five years from the date of the “first pour of concrete”, the adoption of the new Light Water Reactor technology for the NPCIL engineers, delays in the supply of components, the task of building in additional safety measures after the Fukushima incident, anti-Kudankulam protests, contributed to delays.
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Since achieving criticality, power generation has been gradually raised by state-owned NPCIL, the operator, to 500 MWe, 750 MWe and finally to 1,000 MWe in stages. At every stage, various tests were conducted and the technical parameters verified. Based on the results of the tests at each of the stages and with AERB clearances, the subsequent stages were attained.