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Despite the hype, India’s Kudankulam nuclear plant isn’t working out too well

2 years on, Kudankulam isn’t working. Where are its cheerleaders now?Catch News,  KUMAR SUNDARAM

@pksundaram |22 October 2015

The promises

  • Kudankulam nuclear power plant was built despite opposition from locals, scientists
  • It was projected as the answer to Tamil Nadu’s power woes

The reality

  • Tamil Nadu continues to be short of electricity
  • The Kudankulam plant has worked in first and starts and remains shut for 3 months now

More in the story

  • How the project is proving to be ineffective – a white elephant
  • Who is responsible for this mess
…..Three and a half years ago, the backers of the project had scrambled to prove that nothing was more important and urgent than N-power project to solve the power crisis in Tamil Nadu and other southern states. Protests were eventually scuttled and Unit 1 of the project was commissioned on 22 October, 2013.

After all the brouhaha, however, the reality is that the plant has not been working for the last three months: Reactor No. 1 of the plant was shut down for “annual maintenance” on 26 June this year. It was to restart on 22 August, but the date was initially pushed back to 23 September.

Then the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, which operates the project, postponed the reopening to 7 October and then again to 15 October. The plant is yet to start, despite a public assurance from MR Srinivasan, former chariman of Department of Atomic Energy.

In fact, after a much-celebrated start, the power plant near Idinthakarai – a hamlet by the Bay of Bengal – has been under “routine maintenance” or has tripped and shut down, leaving the authorities red-faced.

Kudankulam has abnormally high ‘trip rate’. Basically, it fails much more than other N-power plants

After being commissioned, the plant took a long time to function at full capacity and was declared commercially operational only in 31 December, 2014. In these 14 months, the reactor shut down 19 times due to tripping and there were three maintenance outages.

Soon after the outset, the rotor of the power went into ‘reverse power’ mode and tripped. Instead of adding power to the grid, it started sucking power back. In reality, the NPCIL had declared the project to be commercially open in a hurry as the unending tests became an embarrassment………

Manmohan Singh govt made it an ego issue. But Kudankulam is now proving to be a non-starter

The issue can earn the BJP some brownie points against the Congress. But it also seems to be avoiding the issue as it supports nuclear energy in principle and as it may also expose Modi’s global nuclear shopping spree to uncomfortable questions……..

Can we rethink?

The world is moving towards sustainable and renewable energy sources which have become increasingly more efficient and viable.

After all the heavy investment in Kudankulam, deliberate neglect of environmental and safety concerns and the bulldozing of local people’s dissent, India has got a nuclear reactor that’s not working. Will policy-makers and their cheerleaders now stop and re-think?

It’s too dangerous to allow Kudankulam to fade away as it doesn’t suit the dominant interests that underpin the public gaze in India. The issue may have become unattractive for them or have simply outlived its shelf-life as a headline, but it concerns safety of Indian citizens, larger public policy on an issue of national importance and the emptiness of promises made to people to sell the expensive and dangerous project to them.

December 6, 2015 - Posted by | business and costs, India

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