Koodankulam Reactor Vessel: Faulty, Illegal and Dangerous

V T Padmanabhan

VT Padmanabhan is an eminent scientist and researcher in health effects of radiation.

His papers have been published in International Journal of Health Services, Journal of American Medical Association, International Perspectives in Public Health, the Lancet and Economic and Political Weekly. He is a member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk, an independent body of experts appointed by the Green MEPs in Europe.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

A month ago, when our first report was written, we had no information about the quality of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) installed at KKNPP I during the month of Aug 2006. After scanning a couple documents from the Russia, Europe and IAEA, we are now fairly confident that the vessel was constructed during the mid-eighties for one of the six reactors under construction since the early eighties and cancelled post-Chernobyl and the Berlin wall. Vessels of that vintage would not have been allowed in Russia after 1988 updating of pressure vessel standards in the Soviet Union. It seems that Russia had inherited several such sub-standard pressure vessels, which are not permissible in the major markets.

The reactor commissioned in Czech Republic in 2001 was fabricated in Japan. Russian and Czech vessel vessel factories will not be making any VVER1000 vessel as a new version AES2006 is bring offered to China and other European nations. At the same time, talks for building four more reactors of the same vintage at Kudankulam is on. The business is about Rs 80,000 to 100,000 crores in foreign exchange..

The obsolete RPV is illegal because:

(a) It may cause premature ageing of the reactor- leading to earlier retirement and the financial loss to the company. When the vessel dies, the reactor also dies.

(b) It can cause release of the core material- fission products, plutonium and uranium leading to offsite contamination as in a level 7 nuclear event.

Beyond the above, there is not much nuclear physics or radiation
biology involved in KKNPP pressure vessel saga.

It is simply a violation of a trade treaty and collusion by NPCIL and AERB. In this case, if the reactor is started, it will be next to impossible to inspect it. Hence the emergency. The only option we
feel is to approach the supreme court with this single point.

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