Friday, April 22, 2011

Seismic qualification programme for all nuclear power plants in India

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 22: The Department of Atomic Energy has finally taken
up "seismic qualification" programme to find out in real scenario
whether nuclear power plants in the country are capable of
withstanding earthquakes of greater magnitude.

Though the technology has been in existence for almost 20 years, this
is the first time that India is testing whether the nuclear power
plants are of earthquake or seismic grade. The Nuclear Power
Corporation of India has been claiming that its power plants have
withstood earthquakes in the neighbourhood. But seismic qualification
programme will enable the NPCIL to know whether its claim is true.

In seismic qualification, a prototype nuclear power plant is subjected
to earthquake loading through artificial means i.e. put on an
"earthquake shaking table" to find out if the nuclear safety
parameters are under control. If the nuclear power plants pass the
seismic qualification, they are safe from the point of earthquakes.
Other methods adopted for seismic qualification are "numerical
analysis" or reference to databases of previously qualified nuclear

The DAE presented the safety status of its nuclear power plants, and
its regulatory and safety 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 informed that India
is developing a seismic qualification program by experience data base
which is nearing
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 CNS about the initiatives taken to ensure safety in
nuclear power plants in the wake of Fukushima accident. The measures
include the formation of a high level committee by AERB to re-examine
capability of nuclear power plants to withstand external events and
adequacy of provisions available to ensure safety in such events.

Once a nuclear power plant is seismically qualified, the reactor shut
down safely in the event of earthquake, and the residual heat is
safely removed, thus preventing release of radioactive substances into
the atmosphere. The historical data on earthquakes within a radius of
200 km is taken into account for seismic qualification studies.

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