Concerns raised about pressure vessel standards

19 June 2012

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

Ahead of fuel rods being inserted into a reactor pressure vessel at a nuclear plant in India, concerns have been raised about standards at the site.

According to the Peoples' Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the quality of the vessels used to secure fuel and cooling systems at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project may not be sufficient.

The Hindu reports the claim has come just days before fuel rods are due to be inserted into the reactor pressure vessel of the development's first two units.

Representatives of PMANE have held a conference claiming the 19m-high pressure vessels approved by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board are not as safe as other options, as they have two welds in the core area.

The organization insists original plans were for vessels without welds in the area around the core and could represent a breach of an agreement between India and Russia regarding the project.

Concerns about safety and pressure vessel standards increased following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the north of Japan on March 11th 2011, damaging reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and leading to a meltdown that contaminated the surrounding area.

PMANE expert committee member VT Padmanabhan declared: "Tremendous care must be taken to ensure that the steel casing used for reactor pressure vessels does not become brittle with time after it is bombarded by neutrons."

According to the same news source, water will not be taken for the Kudankulam nuclear plant from the Pechipaarai dam or the Tamirabharani, with PMCIL keen to emphasize that fears that major water supplies in the region could be affected are misplaced.

M Kasinath Balaji of NPCIL told the Hindu that tests are being carried out to ensure pressure vessels and reactors are safe for fuel cores to be introduced.

"Robotic inspection will also be conducted along with manual examination to check all welding joints since it is a mandatory exercise to be conducted after the 'hot run'," he explained.

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