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A brief report on

INDUSTRIAL VISIT TO
KUDANKULAM NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
KUDANKULAM, TIRUNELVELI DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU

arranged by
INSTITUTE OF LOSS ADJUSTERS

on
01.12.2012
PRELUDE

NUCLEAR POWER CORPORATION OF INDIA LIMITED (NPCIL),

a public sector undertaking of the Government of India, is

the key driving force for a comprehensive development of

the nuclear power programme in India. It is responsible for

the design, construction, commissioning and operation of

the 17 reactors in operation and 5 under construction, which dot the map of India. The core business

at NPCIL is power generation. The Company generates about 3% of the total electricity generated in

our country.

INSTITUTE OF LOSS ADJUSTERS, Chennai (ILA) had arranged for an Industrial Visit to the surveyors

and loss assessors for visiting the KUDANKULAM NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT (KKNPP) which is under

construction by the NPCIL. KKNPP is located in Tirunelveli District but is very near to Kanyakumari.

The most advanced VVER-1000 reactors in the plant are designed by Russian Engineers & Scientists

that would generate 1000 Mega Watts each. Out of the two reactors, one unit is almost completed

and is expected to commence commercial production by December, 2012. The other one is under

construction. Four more units of similar capacities are also proposed in Kudankulam.

The number of visitors was limited to 50 by the KKNPP. All the participants were required to submit

their names, SLA No., age, address in advance of the visit for registration with KKNPP and were also

asked to bring in person their original photo identity card at the time of visit. As required in any

industrial visits, the participants were asked to come in formal dress code and wearing shoes. The

visit was scheduled on the 1st of December, 2012 at 10 AM to 5 PM.


THE TRIP

ILA started registering the participants and upon reaching the maximum number of participants by

28.11.2012, the registrations were closed. In order to maintain the first-come-first-served policy

without any deviation, the registrations were made over cloud computing system with volunteers at

three different locations but working on a single platform on the cloud. The details of the

participants were mailed to the KKNPP authorities on the same day and their approval was obtained

for the registered participants.

Thereafter each of the participants were individually called over phone by the organizers and certain

formal data and confirmation were sought from the participants. Participants were also informed of

the maxicabs arranged for the travel to KKNPP from Tirunelveli and Nagerkovil and were asked to

arrive at the scheduled locations at the scheduled timings for pickup like Railway Station, Bus Stand,

etc. Some of the participants preferred to come by their own cars.

While the maxicab from Tirunelveli moved towards KKNPP at around 7:30 AM, the other one from

Nagerkovil started at 8:30 AM and headed towards KKNPP. Both reached along with the other cars

atleast half-an-hour ahead of the time schedule fixed for the visit at 10 AM. The whole locality was

like a curfew area with a lot of armed police personnel, reserve police and CISF police personnel

keeping a vigil. Barricades, heaps of sand bags, shelters, bunkers, etc. provided on the approach

road from the main road till the main gate of the plant added terror to the visitors. From the

outside, we could see the administrative block, power plant block and a lot of wind mills inside the

campus. After a formal identity verification by CISF personnel, all the 47 participants (three were

absent) were boarded on to a bus inside the plant compound and the journey inside the plant

commenced.
BRIEFING AND LECTURE ON KKNPP

Sharply at 10:30 AM, we were all guided into a neatly furnished and air-conditioned auditorium

where an animation film about the necessity of a nuclear power plant and basic safety features was

shown. The short film of about 20 minute duration added more curiosity of visiting the plant.

Mr. Pandaram, Deputy Chief Engineer who had served in the National Power Corporation of India

Limited in various atomic power stations and now deputed to KKNPP was kind enough to give a brief

lecture on the conventional sources of electrical power generation like hydel power projects,

thermal power projects, wind mill projects, solar power projects and outlined as to how nuclear

energy is superior and cheaper and at the same time a safer system.

After a break for tea, we were taken to the full scope training simulator where the training

programmes at different levels are conducted for qualifying and licensing of operating personnel, as

per the regulatory requirements. Training simulators are used to provide training in all aspects of

operation, including handling of unusual incidents. Key operations personnel are also imparted

rigorous training in various systems of the plant on training simulators before being actually deputed

to man the control systems. It consisted of a lot of large format display units showing the outputs

from various sensors and sources such as temperature, pressure, quantity of flow and various such

other parameters.
Thereafter we were guided to a hall where a model of the whole plant was available. We were

explained about the various blocks forming the plant, where the containments where the nuclear

reaction take place, the location of generators, location of diesel generators for safe shutdown and

cooling of the reactors, fish protection tank, etc.

The locational advantage and geographical safety of the plant was enumerated by explaining about

the seismological facts and figures comparing to that of the Fukushima NPP in Japan.
The technical details of the raw material used in the nuclear reactor, viz., Uranium and the

comparison of a nuclear power plant to that of a thermal power plant was elaborated. The basic

operation of a nuclear power plant is no different from that of a conventional thermal power plant

that burns coal or oil or gas. Both heat water to convert it into pressurised steam, which drives a

turbine to generate electricity. The key difference between the two plants lies in the method of

heating the water. While the conventional power plants burn fossil fuels to heat the water, in the

nuclear power plant, this heat is produced by a nuclear fission reaction, wherein energy in the

nucleus of an atom is released by splitting the atom.

In this plant, the main fuel used is Uranium 235 which is presently imported. But Uranium deposits

are found in plenty in India in the Western coasts, particularly in Kerala. The fuel assembly has 311

fuel rods of each 3.5 metres long. Each fuel rod contains about 350 fuel pellets which are of the size

of an eraser at the other end of a pencil. Therefore one fuel assembly contains about 1,08,850

pellets. The fuel assemblies are loaded into the reactor in a particular geometrical fashion along

with other monitoring and controlling equipments. This part of the reactor vessel is known as

reactor core, which is the source of heat energy for production of steam in the reactor. The reactor

power is controlled by means of control rods that reduce the fission reaction when inserted into the

core. In case of an emergency, all the control rods will fall into the core by gravity and the time

taken or this is only 4 seconds, i.e., to stop the nuclear fission reaction. Thereafter the core has to

be cooled by various methods.


We were also explained about how the nuclear fission (reaction) takes place inside the reactor and

how the heat energy developed is utilized to generate steam and thence the steam turns the turbine

coupled to the generator, in order to generate electrical power. The power thus generated is fed to

the grid for further transmission. Due explanations were also made about the safety of the plant in

terms of impacts such as impact by missiles, air-planes and the like, by tsunami, by earthquake and

such other natural calamities. The primary containment (dome) has a wall thickness of 4 feet which

is of reinforced pre-stressed concrete. The inner containment or the secondary containment is also

of reinforced concrete with a wall thickness of 2 feet. The gap in-between the layers is nearly 6 feet.

The whole structure ensures that no leakage of any radioactivity takes place to the environment.

We were also enlightened about the Passive Heat Removal System (PHRS) which is a unique design

incorporated in both the reactor containments at the insistence of India.

Here a comparison was made with the KKNPP reactors to that of Fukushima reactor. The Fukushima

reactor breakdown was triggered by a very rare natural event — the occurrence together of an

earthquake of magnitude 9 on the Richter scale and a 15-metre tsunami which completely

overwhelmed the plant and its safety systems. Although the physical structure of the Fukushima
plant withstood the earthquake, together with the tsunami, the earthquake led to the loss of offsite

and onsite power leaving the plant completely dependent on diesel generators and batteries of

emergency cooling system for reactors. But adequate emergency power was not available at

Fukushima. The consequential build-up of temperature resulted in production of steam and

hydrogen that exploded rupturing the containment structure within a matter of hours and

eventually led to a partial core meltdown.

But in the case of KKNPP's reactors, we were informed that the PHRS is a passive system where the

containment is cooled by natural means independently without the intervention of any power

related safety systems. This is in addition to the various in-built safety systems such as insertion of

control rods by gravity to stop the fission in case of any emergency/disaster. To cool the reactor,

water accumulators are kept inside the reactor building itself in order to pour water with boron into

the reactor. Apart from that four diesel generators that pump out the coolant to cool the reactors

are also provided. In a hypothetical event if all the safety system fails and the reactor core starts

melting due to the enormous heat, the molten core would be confined to a core catcher within the

containment boundaries.

About the spent fuel storage, which is a prime concern of environmentalists and public, the officials

explained that one-third of the fuel rods would require to be removed (by robots - as no human can

enter into the containment) and the fuel rods need to be cooled in a pool of water for six to seven

years as they are highly radio-active.

It was by then time for lunch and we were guided to the very spacious industrial canteen where

sumptuous food was served to all on buffet system.


VISIT TO THE REACTOR CONTAINMENT

After lunch, we were taken in a bus to one of the reactor containment. As the other one is ready for

power generation, it has been sealed with tight security round the clock and no outsiders are

allowed.

The civil works were all complete and the fixing of the pressure vessels and core works were being

done. It was a great opportunity for all the 47 people to enter into the place where the actual

nuclear reaction would take place. The feelings cannot be expressed just in words. It has to be

actually felt.

As the fabrication works were under progress and massive structures being moved by means of jig

cranes, it was worth a sight for all. We were on a metal platform inside the containment at

27 metres high from the ground level. From the containment, viewing the sea on the other side was

a wonderful sight.

Inside the containment, we were explained by Mr. Selvaraj and Mr. Vinayagamoorthy, personnel of

KKNPP about the various equipments and their functions. After about an hour, we came out of the

containment and moved on to the turbine and

generator section. The large steam turbines, the

huge ducts, the mega sized generator and the

platform were all worth seeing. The electrical

engineer there explained how the pressurized

steam from the reactor would make the turbine

turn in low pressure and high pressure for getting a uniform revolution of the turbine and thus the

generator.
After this, we were taken in a bus to the fish protection facility, which is a big pond built inside the

sea to draw sea water for cooling the reactor, steam pipes and turbines. Sea water is drawn from a

large pond built inside the sea, called the

Caisson, to save the fishes and marine

species from coming into the fore bay /

pump house area and getting trapped.

The fishes which are coming into the

intake will be separated or lifted by

means of a unique air curtain where

forced air bubbles up the sea water diverting the fishes upwards and water is drawn at a depth of 13

meters below the sea level.

Since photography by visitors are prohibited being a high security place, photographs are certain

locations were taken by Mr. Vinayagamoorthy. They have assured to send the photographs to the

organizers.

On our return to the administrative block, we had hi-tea. We again had

the opportunity of interacting with Mr. Pandaram who again took us to the

radio-active testing lab and other such facilities available. He also took us

to the library where he distributed several books about the plant, nuclear

energy, safety aspects, a wonderful book written by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,

former President of India and nuclear scientist to all the participants.


With a load of memories and enriched knowledge on nuclear energy, we returned in their bus upto

the gate. After the formal security inspection, individually, we came out of the plant, went to our

respective vehicles, took our own cameras and mobiles, which were safely kept under specially

arranged watch and ward system in individual named packs (Thanks to Mr. P.L. Sivakumar for the

nice arrangement) and started taking pictures outside the plant and the picturesque surroundings

and the lovely sunset.

The maxicabs and the cars started their return journey by around 6 PM to their respective

destinations.

We are grateful to the core organizer of the whole episode, Mr. T.M. Renganathan, Surveyor from

Nagerkovil (Kanyakumari District), without whose efforts, the permission for the visit could not have

been obtained.

Thanks a lot to him, and a lot of thanks to KKNPP management for giving us the permission to the

visit and our heartfelt thanks to all the officials of KKNPP who were so kind enough to explain us

every minute detail about the plant and the high level of hospitality shown to us from the time of

seeking appointment for the visit till completing the visit. THANKS, THANKS and THANKS TO ALL THE

PARTICIPANTS who showed their dignity and professionalism throughout the visit. Thanks to each

and everyone who made this visit a very useful one, a knowledgeable one and a most memorable

one and an opportunity that one may rarely get another time.

Issued by:
INSTITUTE OF LOSS ADJUSTERS
Admn. Office, 18, Arthi Chambers,
189, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 006.
E-mail: ila.group@gmail.com