The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) is being undertaken in cooperation with Russia, which is supplying 1,000 MW VVER type nuclear reactors
Russia’s war against Ukraine is having reverberating effects across the world and India’s Kudankulam nuclear power has also fallen victim to it.
On Thursday, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the construction of the upcoming units of the nuclear power plant situated in Kudankulam in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu would see delays owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has entered Day 36 today.
What role does Russia play in the construction of the power plant? How will the ongoing conflict affect the plant? Here’s all the answers and much, much more.
History of the Kudankulam nuclear power
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) was the outcome of an inter-governmental agreement between the erstwhile Soviet Union and India in 1988. At the time, the two governments had agreed to the setting up of two nuclear reactors in Tirunelveli.
However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union pushed the project to the backburner. It was brought back to life in June 1998 when Russian minister for atomic energy Yevgeny Adamov and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman R Chidambaram signed a new agreement.
In 2002, construction work for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), which is being developed by Russian state-owned Rosatom, began in Tamil Nadu under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
Plans for the country’s the highest-capacity nuclear power plant entails constructing six units of 1,000 megawatts (MW) each, of which two units have already been completed.
Unit-1 started generation in 2013, while Unit-2 in 2016. The work on Unit-3 and Unit-4 is in the advanced stage and is scheduled to be completed by financial year 2027. In June last year, the construction work on Unit-5 and Unit-6 started with the first concrete pouring into the foundation plate of the reactor building.
Protests against the plant
The plant has been besieged by protests ever since its inception. In 1990, soon after the project was announced, the first protest against it was held by nearby residents, opposing the diversion of water for the reactors from the Pechiparai dam in Kanyakumari district. The fishing community too had apprehensions regarding threat to their livelihood from the project.
Officials were able assuage the locals doubts and fears and construction on the project continued.
However, right when India began testing equipments at the first nuclear power unit, the Fukushima Daichii nuclear disaster unfolded in Japan in 2011.
Shortly after the tragedy, protesters objected to the project, raising doubts about the safety of the plant.
Led by SP Udayakumar and his People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), thousands of people protested the project and many of them, including Udayakumar were charged under Section 121 (waging war against the government) and Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Work amid the war
Prior to the war in Ukraine, Russia and India continued its work on the plant, with construction on Unit 5 beginning as recently as June 2021.
Reacting to the moment, Russian ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev had said it was “one of the significant moments in the Russia-India energy cooperation”.
1st pour of concrete at the construction site of the 5th nuclear reactor of #Kudankulam NPP, happened today, is one of significant moments in the #RussiaIndia nuclear energy cooperation. It demonstrates our firm devotion to achieve success in all bilateral undertakings. pic.twitter.com/ijLTuS1FeF
— Denis Alipov 🇷🇺 (@AmbRus_India) June 29, 2021
However, doubts about the project began to swirl when Vladimir Putin announced his ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine on 24 February.
But, Rosatom officials insisted that there would be no interruptions. “No disruption is foreseen in any of the commitments and delivery schedules in the construction of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant,” Rosatom had said to Moneycontrol in a report published on 1 March.
The Rosatom’s stand on the issue has been contradicted by Jitendra Singh as declared by him in Rajya Sabha. He told the Upper House that logistical and freight problems arising out of the conflict would affect the project’s future.
“The project completion schedule is likely to be impacted. The exact extent and nature of the impact is difficult to assess as the situation is still evolving,” the minister said.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) officials also echoed similar sentiments.
A senior official of NPCIL told IANS that the shipping sector is affected because of the conflict and this would lead to inordinate delays. Also Western ships might not be available to lift the cargo from Russia to India.
Another aspect that could delay the project is the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia. The West — the US and its allies in the European Union — have imposed heavy sanctions on the Putin-led country, which would also cause deferrals.
With inputs from agencies
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