In 1998, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed an agreement with the Russian Federation to establish two units of VVER reactors at the Kudankulam site (KKNPP) in India.
The reactors provided by the Russian Federation belong to Generation 3+, with the latest safety features including multiple safety system trains, core catcher and passive heat removal systems capable of maintaining reactors in a safe shutdown state even in the case of beyond-design-basis events.
In addition, following the Fukushima event, facilities such as mobile diesel generators, additional water storage and external source of make-up water to steam generators and fuel pool, were provided to cope with unlikely long-term power unavailability events.
The first concrete was poured at KKNPP on March 2002, and in July 2013 Unit 1 attained first criticality. Electricity generation and connection to the grid took place on 23 October 2013.
A group of personnel with 10-15 years reactor operation experience from NPCIL nuclear plants were chosen for plant commissioning and operation. They were trained in VVER operation at Novovoronezh, Russian Federation.
The training centre was established at KKNPP in 2004, in the early phase of construction, ensuring that operation personnel were trained long before actual equipment and systems were put in operation.
NPCIL is one of WANO's founding members. Affiliated to WANO Tokyo Centre, its operating stations actively participate in WANO activities and its personnel at KKNPP and all other NPPs are committed to WANO's mission.
NPCIL wished to get KKNPP involved in WANO activities prior to becoming operational, to receive the benefit of experience from other countries operating VVER reactors; therefore, KKNPP became a member of WANO Moscow Centre in 2008.
Prior to the fuel loading, KKNPP Unit 1 invited and hosted a pre-startup review in 2011 and follow-up review in 2012. KKNPP hosted two TSMs conducted by WANO experts from Moscow Centre and from Atlanta Centre in December 2013 and January 2014. KKNPP also hosted a benchmarking mission conducted by experts from Temelin NPP, Czech Republic, in March 2014.
As Unit 2 is getting ready for hot run and subsequent commissioning, it will host a pre-startup peer review later this year.
The experience of commissioning and operating the latest Russian VVER reactor at KKNPP in India has given immense confidence that selection of the right operation and maintenance personnel, and using WANO to enhance their development through adequate exposure to similar industry practices, would meet the shared WANO goal of safe and successful commissioning and operation of nuclear power reactors worldwide.
At time of publication, Mr Balaji had retired from KKNPP.