The stagnant coolant water in the reactor vessel and pipes in the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) is giving sleepless nights to scientists and engineers who say the risk of damage to the equipment is increasing each day.
“Water has to be circulating so that the components are not exposed to the risk of corrosion. However, the quality of stagnant water will deteriorate over a period of time, which in turn poses a risk to the reactor components like the primary pipes and the reactor vessel,” said a KNPP official preferring anonymity.
Project work since October has come to a standstill with intensifying protests by villagers on grounds of safety. Roads have been blocked and the local administration has advised the KNPP staff to sit tight inside their homes, fearing violence.
“It is the demineralised water – water in pure form – which is fed into the systems. However, to maintain its purity the water should be circulated as stagnant water will interact with the metal surface and quality will change,” said K S Parthasarathy, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Parthasarathy said there would be a water chemistry group to look at the quality of water used in reactors.
“Water is a hostile fluid. It is not desirable to have stagnant water inside a reactor. However, it is not a serious issue as the number of days that the water remains stagnant is comparatively low,” Parthasarathy added.
“Maintaining the purity of stagnant water is an issue that is facing us. We are not able to check the chemistry of the water that is inside the power plant,” said an NPCIL official.
The helpless officials confined to their homes for nearly a month are hoping that there is no major damage to the reactor components resulting in further delays to the project.
“The systems cannot be stopped and restarted. Decommissioning a reactor is different as one need not bother about the damages the systems would undergo after the plant is stopped,” said the official, who spoke demanding anonymity.
On September 22, the Tamil Nadu government passed a resolution urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Central government to halt work at Kudankulam till the fear of the people were allayed.