Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors are novice to Indian nuclear scientists, say former official of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 15: The Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors, which India plans to build at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, are a novice to Indian nuclear scientists and engineers and the potential hazards they pose are not known.
The Central government plans to import as many as 21 nuclear reactors in a bid to boost the nuclear power generation. But in the process it seems to have compromised on the safety aspects, as these reactors are totally new to the Indian scenario.
Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, told this correspondent that "the Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors to be built in Jaitapur, having not been commissioned anywhere in the world, is a non-existent reactor, whose potential problems are totally unknown even to Areva, its developer, let alone India’s Nuclear Power Corporation".
He said the government is "scattering our energies and talent in getting imported reactors like the French EPRs in Jaitapur, of which neither Indians nor the French know much about."
Stating that Indian engineers and scientists are totally familiar with the details of indigenously developed pressurised heavy water reactors to deal with any major accident, Dr Gopalakrishnan said "for Indian engineering teams to react in a similar timely and effective manner against an accident in one of the planned imported reactors will be next to impossible for at least few decades to come."
He urged the Central government to place all actions related to the import of reactors on hold and proceed gradually forward with building just the PHWRs. "India has built 18 PHWRs on own. We have mastered the design through carefully learning from the mistakes of the past, and are currently moving on to build 700 MWe units of this type. We have three generations of Indian engineers, who are familiar with the PHWR. If we need more nuclear power, the safest route is to consolidate and expand on our PHWR experience, import natural uranium and build more PHWRs," he said.
Pointing out that a reactor has to be physically built and then only it can be tested, Dr Gopalakrishnan said the EPR is a totally untested reactor, even if Areva claims it has combined various best design features on paper in conceiving the reactor.
The reliability and safety of EPR will be extremely low and unknown until, through different stages of operation and testing over years, all indicated problems are rectified.
"The promoters (NPCIL and Areva) are totally silent about the serious problems which India, and especially the local community, has to face after operations start and the spent-fuel starts accumulating at site. The especially higher burn-up spent fuel from EPRs has its own unique hazards at the storage and transportation stages, unlike in the case of current LWRs, which use lower burn-ups," he observed.
Dr Gopalakrishnan suggested that a high-level national review commission on nuclear power should be appointed to review India’s nuclear power policies at the earliest. "The members of this commission must be people of high ethical standards with expertise in matters of nuclear power, safety and economics, and preferably non-officials of the government and not connected with business houses or federations," he pointed out.

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