Veil of Nuclear Secrecy
Sankara Narayanan | 03 Nov 2014

A Russian Roulette at Tamil Nadu south coast

Veil of nuclear secrecy - A Russian Roulette at Tamil Nadu south coast

Turbine of the first unit at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is said to have developed some major problem. "The turbine of the first unit has developed some problem. It seems some component inside the turbine turned loose and damaged the turbine blades," a source told IANS preferring anonymity on Monday. According to him, ''discussions are on with the experts.'' It clearly shows up that even after a month of commencement of the shutdown nobody as yet knows what is to be done; whether to replace the faulty equipment from the turbine of the second unit so
that the first unit could be run at the earliest. However, senior officials of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) were not available for clarifications. That means no one is ready to go on record.Why?

Although the first unit attained criticality in July 2013, it has not begun commercial operation yet even after 15 months of its erratic functioning. Even before starting its commercial operations "the world class third generation plant" is on the blink. It is ironic that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB),  NPCIL, KKNPP and scores of pro-government scientists have been issuing "the best and the safest" certification to this project for the past three years. Missile scientist Dr Abdul Kalam made a whirlwind tour to KKNPP for a few hours and issued a super-safe certificate a few years ago when the nation was about to elect a new President. Guess why Dr. Kalam turned a Nuclear Tourist?

It is reliably learnt now that the faulty equipment in the turbine is being replaced and it may take a considerable amount of time to do that. It is quite pertinent to note here that there was a valve burst at the first unit a few months back and six workers were badly injured. All this attests that shoddy and substandard parts have been used at the KKNPP.

The AERB tested all the equipment and their functioning so carefully and methodically and issued certificates for each step. How come they did not detect any problems with the turbine then? What kind of tests did they do? How did they give "all clear" certification? If this is the efficiency and efficacy of the AERB, we have to be really worried about the safety and security of people in the southern tip of India. Let us not forget AERB is under the administrative and financial control of the Secretary, DAE.

But the KKNPP authorities remain tight-lipped about the excessive diesel purchase, recurrent accidents, and equipment malfunctioning that keeps happening at the KKNPP. It made itself a bafoon while refusing to furnish reply to an RTI query on the quantity of diesel purchased. It claimed that revealing the information would offend the proprietary rights of the technology supplier!

R. S. Sundar, the Site Director of the KKNPP has been refusing to tell the truth to the people of this country and the media. This is a major dereliction of duty. He would do the same mistake even if a major accident were to happen here at Koodankulam. It is not clear who he is trying to protect. It is also not clear if he does care about the safety and security of the people of this area. People in this region cannot sleep peacefully with their children with officers like Mr. Sundar in charge of a mega nuclear power park. So he must resign from his job.

Interestingly, the Russian Ambassador to India, His Excellency Alexander Kadakin, has spoken recently that the KKNPP is the best and the safest in the world and that his country would sell some 22 more plants to India. But today we hear that the turbine is not working at KKNPP. The turbines the Russians had supplied to China (Tianwan) and to Iran (Busher) had serious problems too and those turbines were changed. We have strong reasons to believe that there are problems not only in the turbine of the KKNPP but also in the reactor core and other crucial areas.

Should Comrade Ambassador Kadakin not tell us all the truth he knowsabout what is going on here at Koodankulam? Why are Kadakin's friends at the KKNPP buying and burning so much oil? Why is thecommercial operation of KKNPP-1 delayed for more than a year? Comrade Ambassador, the world in general and Indians in particular cannot afford anymore Chernobyl and Fukushima.

When the first two reactors at Koodankulam are limping and tumbling, it would be a reckless move to erect two more reactors at the Koodankulam site. It is all too clear that the KKNPP project is a complete and total failure and it must be shut down permanently to safeguard the safety and security of the people of the southern tip of India and also in Sri Lanka.