What’s holding up the commissioning? Is it a problem with the valves and cables? Or something more?
The Site Director at the Kudankulam nuclear power project, R.S. Sundar, is a man apparently wizened by experience.
When Business Line asked him if the project would really start producing power in July (the latest revised deadline), his response was as honest as it was terse: “We hope.”
One cannot fault Sundar for his lack of conviction. A man no less than the Prime Minister of the country assured his Russian counterpart in December 2011 that the project would be commissioned in “two weeks” and said exactly the same thing again to the same individual three months ago.
But more frustrating than the five-and-half-year delay in the Kudankulam project is the lack of transparency in matters around the project.
In this information vacuum, the most contextually credible perspective provided by down-the-line engineering staff and technically knowledgeable observers is that the delay is due to the valves scare.
It goes like this: some valves supplied by the Russian company Zio Podolsk have been found to be sub-standard and who knows how many other valves are defective?
Some of these other valves are inside the sealed reactor and cannot be easily removed. They are probably safe enough, but the shrillness of the anti-nuclear, anti-Kudankulam protests has reached such a crescendo that even a minor safety incident would inevitably result in a flare-up.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) would not want to end up with egg on its face by giving clearance for the commissioning.