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Dangerous Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) Fraud at Koodankulam
Narendra Ch | 12 Jun 2012

If the reactor is hot-commissioned, it will be virtually impossible to subject the vessel to a detailed inspection. This will lead to destruction of evidences of the crimes. From a safety perspective, the IAEA-mandated study of pressurized thermal shock (PTS) has to be done before commissioning the reactors at Kudankulam.

THE VVER reactor under commissioning at Koodankulam nuclear power project differs from the one featured in the inter-governmental agreement between Russia and India.  According to documents published in 2006, there was no weld on the beltline (middle portion) of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Now, AERB says that there are two welds on the beltline of the RPV installed at KKNPP.
 
VVER beltline welds are one of main causes of accelerated ageing of RPV, known as neutron embrittlement, which may damage the vessel and lead to a major accident. Other known cause of accelerated RPV ageing is the impurities and alloying elements in the base metal and weld metal. Beltline welds have been eliminated in the recent versions and the newest RPVs have lower concentration of ageing-elements. This is a breach of the contract by the supplier in Russia. 

NPCIL officers who have known this are guilty of installing an unsafe machine with high risk of RPV failure leading to offsite radiological contamination besides causing  financial loss to the company in case of premature retirement of the reactors. By consenting to its erection, AERB has also reneged on its responsibilities. Incidentally, according to the existing compensation regime, the supplier has no liability. These legal issues will have to be investigated and decided upon by appropriate national and international agencies.
 
If the reactor is hot-commissioned, it will be virtually impossible to subject the vessel to a detailed inspection. This will lead to destruction of evidences of the crimes. From a safety perspective, the IAEA-mandated study of pressurized thermal shock (PTS) has to be done before commissioning the reactors at Kudankulam.
 
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) asked  the Government of India, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) to halt all the work at KKNPP immediately and order an enquiry into the RPV scam. It demanded that they should also explain if the RPV installed at Koodankulam have come from Croatia and that is why Croatian technicians are here at Koodankulam right now. The Government of Tamil Nadu should ask the central government about the RPV fiasco and start supporting the people of Tamil Nadu in their struggle for life and livelihood, it added.