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Dusting, housekeeping major initial job at Kundankulam

Chennai, March 21 - Dusting... that is the immediate task facing Nuclear Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) officials at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) as they set to work round-the-clock to ready the reactor for loading fuel in two months.

"The immediate task is housekeeping and cleaning the place, which has been closed for the past six months. The dust levels are high and this needs to be cleaned," the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

He said there are around 800 people now working at the project site in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, where the NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW reactors.

Work at the project had come to a standstill after villagers in the area, fearing for lives in case of nuclear accident, mounted an intensive protest. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa finally gave the go-ahead to the project earlier this week.

"Slowly, we will augment our manpower. People from other atomic power stations are expected to reach here in a day or two. It will take at least one week for the contractors to mobilise their work force and reach here," the official said Wednesday.

According to him, specialist workers like welders were not available at NPCIL's other work sites as only civil construction was going on there.

"On the other hand contracting companies like L&T (Larsen and Toubro) have skilled manpower and it will be easy for them to mobilise the needed number of people," he said.

"There are subsisting contracts with companies like L&T. All they have to do is to mobilise work force. The issue of revision in contract price has not come up till now," he added.

According to the NPCIL official, preliminary inspection of the reactor and other systems showed there is nothing to worry about as all the systems are working fine.

As the water in the reactor and the pipelines was circulating, there is no corrosion. The turbine is also running. Only the auxiliary boiler was not operated, the official said.

NPCIL is planning on discussions with the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on getting the necessary clearances so that the fuel could be loaded.

"We have given several reports to AERB. The water chemistry report has also been filed with AERB," the official said.

"AERB's various committees would study our reports and if satisfied would give the signal to open up the reactor vessel and unload the dummy fuel. The dummy fuel will be studied and then AERB would give its nod to load the real fuel," the official said.

NPCIL chief S.K. Jain told IANS that the plant will be ready in two months to approach AERB for permission to load the real fuel.

Even though there is a huge posse of policemen stationed outside the KNPP to provide security, NPCIL employees feel some uneasiness over the long-term relationship with the locals in Kudankulam and neighbouring villages.

According to the NPCIL official, going to office for the past six months was humiliating as anti-KNPP protestors would board their buses and abuse them.

"We feel the people of Kudankulam would turn friendly soon but we don't know about the people of Idinthakarai. The women there are very staunch in their opposition to the plant," he said.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)


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