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First reactor at Koodankulam to go critical by year-end: AEC Chairman

Special Correspondent

“No nation can bypass liability clause in the eventuality of mishap”

— Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Cutting-edge:AEC Chairman S. Banerjee (left) after inaugurating the High Performance Computation cluster ‘Annapurna' at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai. Also seen are Gautam Menon, IMSc scientist, and IMSc Director R. Balasubramanian.

CHENNAI: The first reactor of the Koodankulam nuclear power project is expected to go critical by the year-end, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee said on Friday.

Addressing reporters after launching the latest High Performance Computation (HPC) cluster ‘Annapurna' at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), the second reactor unit was on track to attain criticality about eight months after that, he said.

The AEC Chairman said there had been no undue delay in the commissioning of the Koodankulam plant which had initially been hit by problems getting fuel supplies. The construction work on the second reactor is nearing completion and “we're expecting to begin fuel loading soon,” he said.

According to Mr. Banerjee, indigenous uranium production in the country was expected to increase and this would help AEC achieve higher capacity utilisation in plants and add more reactors.

A positive development had been the estimation of uranium deposits in Tummalapalle, Andhra Pradesh, that would provide an alternative to sourcing from Jharkhand, Mr. Banerjee said. The AEC's Atomic Minerals Directorate had revised its initial estimate of 15,000 tonnes of uranium deposits in Tummalapalle to about 45,000 tonnes now, he said.

The Tummalapalle mine, which was the first in the country to adopt alkali leaching processing in place of the conventional acid leaching method, would go on stream in 18 to 20 months, he said.

On the reservations expressed by some countries over Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, 2010, Mr. Banerjee said no nation could bypass the liability clause in the eventuality of a mishap.

Noting that there were no liability clauses earlier, Mr. Banerjee said the basic objective of the Nuclear Liability Bill was to ensure “prompt and absolute responsibility” and also provide a scope for payment of compensation.

“If it is not prompt, then it goes to litigation and the whole purpose gets lost,” he said. The nuclear liability issues are currently being examined by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Mr. Banerjee said.

Earlier, Mr. Banerjee lauded the efforts of scientists in putting together the ‘Annapurna,' the new wonder in the IMSc's high performance super computer legacy that has produced the ‘Kabru,' ‘Vindhya' and ‘Aravalli' clusters.

‘Annapurna' is a factory-integrated cluster in the non-commercial domain with 1.5 Tera Bytes memory and 30 TB storage stack. Its peak speed of 12 Tera Flops (TF) makes it the seventh fastest HPC machine in the country. Among broad-based scientific institutions, the ‘Annapurna' cluster is the third fastest.

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