Four valves in the Kudankulam nuclear reactor have been found to be faulty and are being replaced,the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board said on Friday in the first admission of technical snags in the reactor whose operationalisation has been delayed by almost a year and half.
…during testing of thousands of valves installed in the plant,the performance of four valves of a particular type were found deficient. As corrective measures,the valve components are being replaced by NPCIL and their performance is further being subjected to regulatory review, the AERB said in a rare statement on the condition of the Kudankulam reactor.
It said subsequent clearances,for taking the next steps toward making the reactor critical and then getting it operational,will be granted only after a satisfactory review of the performance of the replaced valves.
This is the first time that any organisation in the atomic energy establishment has admitted to a technical deficiency in the two 1000-MW reactors being built with Russian help. Despite the inordinate delays in making the first reactor functional,originally scheduled in December 2011,the Department of Atomic Energy and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India,which operates all the nuclear power plants,have been maintaining that there was nothing wrong with the reactor.
News about problem in a set of valves and replacements having been ordered from Russia had come out earlier this year though it was never confirmed by the atomic energy establishment. Though the AERB statement is silent on whether the reference is to the same set of valves,AERB officials said this was indeed so.
During the tests sometime during December and January,these valves were found to be deficient. Some components of these valves,which are used in the emergency core cooling system,were not working as expected. Replacements were ordered and have been delivered. They are in the process of being installed. Once that is done,fresh set of tests would have to be carried out, AERB Secretary R Bhattacharya told The Indian Express.
S S Bajaj,chairman of AERB,said the fault with the valves was not a very serious issue. The purpose of carrying out all the tests is to detect every such problem. The tests are a continuous exercise of fine-tuning and improving the safety features. Some times it takes several attempts to get a thing absolutely right. I would say that these particular set of valves have required a larger effort to get right, he said.
Officials refused to say how much further delay was being envisaged in getting the reactor functional. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said last month that the reactor would start operating by the end of April. That deadline,like several other publicly-announced target dates,was unlikely to be met,atomic energy officials have indicated.