Table of Contents
A milestone in Koodankulam
THE final hurdle to the Koodankulam Atomic Power Project (KAPP) becoming a reality was cleared on November 6 when a general framework agreement was signed in Moscow by V.K. Chaturvedi, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India
Limited (NPC), and Viktor Kozlov, General Director, Atomstroiexport of Russia. Under the agreement, which was signed during Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's visit to Moscow, Russia will provide financial and technical assistance to the NPC for
constructing two reactors of 1,000 MWe capacity each at Koodankulam, a coastal site in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, who was present at the signing
ceremony, called the agreement a milestone in Indo-Russian nuclear electricity cooperation.
Chaturvedi told Frontline that the two reactors were of the VVER-1000 type. They will use enriched uranium as fuel and light water as coolant and moderator. Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the entire life of the plant, provide the
design of the reactors and bring equipment, systems, sub-systems and components. The NPC will build the project. Plants will be built at Koodankulam for reprocessing plutonium from the spent fuel. The two reactors will come under International Atomic
Energy Agency safeguards (Frontline, July 17, 1998 and October 27, 2000).
According to Chaturvedi, VVER-1000 reactors are advanced versions of Pressurised Water Reactors, and about 50 reactors of this type are operating in Russia, Ukraine and some East European countries. The Koodankulam reactors will incorporate additional
safety systems that will take care of severe accident conditions going beyond the design basis.
Civil works are under way at Koodankulam. About 35 per cent of the residential quarters for the project staff have been built. About 70 per cent of the construction of a desalination plant to produce potable water has been completed. About 40 per cent
of the earth excavation work for the turbine plant of the first unit is over. The first pour of concrete will take place on March 31, 2002. The first unit is expected to reach criticality towards the end of 2007 and the second unit a year later. About
10,000 people will work at the peak of the construction activity. Preference will be given to local people in the recruitment for class III and IV jobs.
Chaturvedi claimed that KAPP would produce power at Rs.3.10 paise a unit. "The cost is low because the fuel is enriched uranium. Expensive heavy water is not used. The capital cost is competitive. On completion of the project, it will be Rs.6.7 crores
for an MWe." Factors such as the adverse effect of foreign exchange rates had been taken into account, he said.
India will finance 46 per cent of the construction cost, which is estimated at about $3 billion. The balance will be raised on credit from Russia.
The project's history is full of vicissitudes. After the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) was signed on November 20, 1988 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the project became a non-starter because of the
disintegration of the Soviet Union and differences over the rouble-rupee ratio. The project was revived when a supplementary agreement was signed on June 21, 1998 in New Delhi by Russian Minister for Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov and Atomic Energy
Commission Chairman Dr. R. Chidambaram.