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Our nuclear power programme is not vulnerable: Kakodkar

By T.S. Subramanian

CHENNAI, DEC. 6. ``We are not vulnerable in our nuclear power programme. Our domestic programme based on self-reliance is robust,'' Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, has said. He made this observation when his reaction was sought on Russia expressing its inability to extend the supply of low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel to the first two nuclear power reactors at Tarapur.

Russia has also said that it would not provide two more reactors for Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Answering a question on whether Tarapur 1 and 2 depended only on the low enriched uranium as fuel and whether they could not be run on the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel which India has already developed, Dr. Kakodkar said: ``If we get low enriched uranium, it is the preferred option. If you don't get it, you have to find alternative solutions. We have kept an open approach. Let us see how things move.''

Asked what was the problem in running Tarapur 1 and 2 on the MOX fuel, he said: ``We have already proved the MOX fuel. We have made MOX fuel bundles and we have sort of used them in Tarapur. But we have to check out the technology. We have to reengineer the reactor core to make use of the MOX. Of course, we can do that.''

The AEC Chairman said that ``we have plans at this moment'' to use the MOX fuel for the series of fast breeder reactors that India wanted to build. ``So, we can take Tarapur in our stride.''

Asked if India would build its own reactors at Koodankulam since Russia had decided not to supply more for the site, he said that ``it is good to have similar reactors at the same site. We can build our Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors at Koodankulam and also somewhere else.'' The PHWRs that India would build at Koodankulam or elsewhere would generate 700 MWe.

``The point is that we have always looked upon external inputs to our nuclear power programme as additionalities. But our domestic programme is based on self-reliance. These two are separate things. We have a policy and we will stick to that policy,'' he said.

Tarapur 1 and 2 in Maharashtra run on low enriched uranium. Russia provided 50 tonnes of LEU in 2001 to keep them running. At Koodankulam, two reactors called VVER-1000 from Russia, each with a capacity of 1,000 MWe, are under construction. Russia had earlier lobbied hard for selling two more reactors for Koodankulam.

In an interview to The Hindu in New Delhi on Sunday, Alexander Rumyantsev, Director of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy, expressed Russia's inability to resume the supply of LEU for Tarapur 1 and 2. He also scotched speculation that Russia would provide two more reactors for Koodankulam.

Mr. Rumyantsev said that the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group stood in the way of Russia continuing to supply enriched uranium to Tarapur and selling more reactors for Koodankulam. Russia is a member of the NSG.

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