Commissioning work has been delayed at unit 1 of India’s new Kudankulam nuclear power plant with the replacement of four valves.

The first of two new reactors is now about six months into commissioning. One technical issue highlighted by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) concerned the replacement of four valves in the passive core cooling system.

NPCIL explained that these operate without power and are tested after installation in the power plant under operating conditions of heat and pressure. However, the four identical units “showed variation from expected performance” and have since been replaced. The matter has been reported to the AERB, which said it was reviewing the performance data.

The two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors at Kudankulam will supply 950 MWe each to the state of Tamil Nadu, including the major port of Tuticorin and associated industrial complex 100 kilometers away. Local people in the area staged several major demonstrations during construction, which prime minister Manmohan Singh blamed on foreign activist groups. These even halted work on the site for a period and contributed to the plant’s schedule sliding by over a year.

Russian state firm Rosatom is building the reactors as part of an intergovernmental agreement dating back to 1988. Two more units have been agreed upon and these will come with $3.5 billion in export finance from Moscow, covering about 85% of the project. A total of eight reactors could one day operate at Kudankulam.

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