Safety of nuclear power plants: India takes up seismic qualification programme
By Syed Akbar Hyderabad, April 22: The Department of Atomic Energy has finally taken up "seismicqualification" programme to find out in real scenario whether nuclear power plants in thecountry are capable of withstanding earthquakes of greater magnitude. Though the technology has been in existence for almost 20 years, this is the first timethat India is testing whether the nuclear power plants are of earthquake or seismicgrade. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has been claiming that its power plantshave withstood earthquakes in the neighbourhood. But seismic qualification programme willenable the NPCIL to know whether its claim is true. In seismic qualification, a prototype nuclear power plant is subjected to earthquakeloading through artificial means i.e. put on an "earthquake shaking table" to find out ifthe nuclear safety parameters are under control. If the nuclear power plants pass theseismic qualification, they are safe from the point of earthquakes. Other methods adoptedfor seismic qualification are "numerical analysis" or reference to databases of previously qualified nuclear plants. The DAE presented the safety status of its nuclear power plants, and its regulatory andsafety review system at the Convention of Nuclear Safety (CNS) held recently in Vienna.Releasing the details of the presentation, the DAE points out that "the CNS was informedthat India is developing a seismic qualification program by experience data base which isnearing completion. Contracting parties appreciated the work as a pioneering effort by India". An official statement by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board said India also informed the CNSabout the initiatives taken to ensure safety in nuclear power plants in the wake of Fukushima accident. The measures include theformation of a high level committee by AERB to re-examine the capability of nuclear power plants to withstand external events and adequacy ofprovisions available to ensure safety in such events. Once a nuclear power plant is seismically qualified, the reactor shut down safely in theevent of earthquake, and the residual heat is safely removed, thus preventing release ofradioactive substances into the atmosphere. The historical data on earthquakes within aradius of 200 km is taken into account for seismic qualification studies.