A team of senior scientists has submitted a report on safety measures in place at the 20 nuclear power plants in the country; the ones at Kalpakkam and Tarapur need upgrades
A team of senior nuclear scientists has submitted the results of their study to evaluate whether the nuclear power plants (NPP) in the country are equipped to withstand the impact of natural calamities like cyclones and Tsunamis.
The project, which culminated with the submission of the report on August 31, was undertaken in a bid to ensure that NPPs in India do not pose a threat to humanity, like they did to the Japanese populace in the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
R Bhattacharya, secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board said, "Two of the 20 NPPs need to upgrade some of their systems to be fighting fit for any catastrophic events. These are the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam, and Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant 1 and 2.
Both of these are operated with the help of Boiling Water Reactors (BWR), similar to the ones used in the Fukushima plant. The remaining 18 NPPs are equipped to withstand the impact of any calamity."
Bhattacharya clarified that the high level committee had not recommended any upgradation of existing structures at Kalpakkam and Tarapur, but had suggested that certain emergency provisions be installed, to ensure continuous cooling of the reactor during prolonged station black-outs.
It also advised the plants to use nitrogen as an inert gas to avoid a hydrogen explosion.
The committee, which was chaired by SK Sharma, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, made several observations, conclusions and recommendations.
The first among these was that key reaction operation personnel in India be Engineering graduates who are granted licenses only after undergoing rigorous qualifying tests and interviews, and have the adequate training to handle abnormal or crisis situations.
The committee also suggested that all the NPPs in India undergo periodic safety reviews, with the older plants undergoing special safety reviews.
The experts also noted that the faults which could generate tsunamis are located at great distances of over 800 km and 1,300 km from the western and eastern coasts respectively, as a result of which there are slim chances of a strong earthquake and tsunami occurring simultaneously, triggering off accidents at the NPPs.
The committee observed that it could be prudent to make additional design provisions, which could buffer the impact of calamities of unprecedented magnitude.
Taking note of the fact that the Fukushima disaster had been caused by the inability of the irradiated fuel in the reactor to cool down, a reliable backup provision should be installed for addition of water to the primary heat transport system.