India’s nuclear operator has started loading enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project after getting the final clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Tuesday.

“The fuel loading has started on Wednesday,” a senior official in the nuclear establishment said.

The Kudankulam nuclear plant had run into a rash of protests following concern in the local communities on safety issues in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in March last year.

The official said the AERB had granted its final clearance to start loading of 163 fuel bundles late evening on Tuesday after the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) fulfilled the conditions set by the regulator.

The loading of fuel is expected to take about 10 days, officials said.

The NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam with Russian collaboration.

After the fuel loading is completed, the NPCIL will take up the process to start the fission reaction for the first time in the nuclear reactor.

At every stage, it would have to seek clearance from the AERB officials before proceeding to the next step.

After reaching first criticality, the power generation would begin and it would be scaled up to the maximum level in a gradual manner under the watchful guard of the nuclear regulator.

The nuclear reactor will have to operate to the 100 per cent satisfaction of the regulator before the NPCIL is granted the operating licence for the first unit.

(This article was published on September 21, 2012)
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