The impasse over the Koodankulam nuclear power project is costing the nation dear. With the near-complete project being blocked by activists and protestors,latest estimates show an escalation of Rs 2,653 crore in the cost of completion.
Amid continuing protests at the site,the commercial operation date of the first of the two units of the 2,000 MWe (mega watt electrical) atomic power project in Tamil Nadu,which was to be originally commissioned in December 2011,has now been put off indefinitely. Earlier,the commercial operation date was pushed back by three months to March 2012,and then to May 2012 by state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL),which is executing the project with Russian assistance. The NPCIL website now records a blank in front of the scheduled commercial operation date for the project.
The approved cost of completion of the project was originally pegged at Rs 13,171 crore. The cost is now expected to be Rs 15,824 crore. The project is expected to be completed in the course of the next fiscal,though the dates are still uncertain, said an official involved in the exercise.
Experts point out that while the commissioning of the project is being thwarted amid escalating costs,a bankrupt Tamil Nadu Electricity Board,the biggest potential gainer from the project,is struggling to buy costly power from the spot market to meet the current demand.
The first Koodankulam unit,which deploys a Russian VVER-1000 series reactor,is 99.2 per cent complete,while the second unit is 94.6 per cent complete.
With both the units at advanced stages of commissioning,several reactor and auxiliary systems have been made functional. These systems require certain minimum maintenance to keep them in a healthy state. Efforts are underway,in consultation with the district authorities,to ensure that personnel required for carrying out the minimum maintenance are able to go to the plant.
While the design and supply of major equipment fall in the Russian domain,the construction,installation of equipment,commissioning and some of the supplies and equipment are being undertaken by the Indian side. Atomstroyexport JSC,a state-owned Russian nuclear engineering company,is supplying components,equipment and services,at a cost of $1,812 million.