Once two engineers, representatives of Indian and Russian industries, stoodon the shore of the Indian Ocean in one of the most beautiful places on the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula. They looked and saw not only the lush greenery of tropical nature, powerful waves rolling on the beautiful sandy shore…They saw the potential of this place! It is here that one can build a source of electricity so needed in tropical latitudes. However, nature, as you know, is changeable, but the power supply must be constant … What source of energy to choose?
And so, based on an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of various technologies, a choice was made – a nuclear power plant. Of course, we don’t know exactly whether this particular scene actually took place, but we know for sure that the general framework agreement on the construction of the first stage of the Kudankulam NPP was signed on November 6, 2001, the second stage on April 10, 2014, and the third on June 01, 2017. The first power unitis already commissioned, it is working, providing electricity to consumers in Tamilnadu state. Unit 2 completed stages of warranty commissioning and operation. It also produces electricity for the needs of India, and the construction of the remainingpower units is in full swing.
The NPP has fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape and it looks like it has been here always! During construction, builders did their best to conserve the vegetation, and a warm and humid tropical climate ensured its rapid growth. And now the station is an organic part of the landscape. This is the solution to one of the areas of strategic partnership between the two countries – the implementation of joint projects aimed at productive, efficient and careful use of natural resources based on the most modern technologies, ensuring their affordable and environmentally friendly use. The goal of such projects is to promote energy security and independence of the Republic of India.
However, as all nuclear industry experts around the world know by heart, the external beauty for nuclear power plants is only a bonus, althougha pleasant one. Safety is key. Kudankulam NPP in this sense is also an outstanding example: it is here that for the first time on Russian projects a number of passive safety systems were implemented – an emergency cooling system for the second-stage active zone, as well as a passive heat removal system for the nuclear reactor, which can be used to cool the reactor without energy consumption from external sources.
The power units of Kudankulam NPP are equipped with the most modern devices for core localization, for example, a “core catcher” that collects and holds in a safe condition the products of the core meltdown in case of a severe (beyond design basis) accident associated with the destruction of the reactor vessel. This is a new generation device adapted to climatic and other conditions southern Indiaand possessing increased seismic resistance, hydrodynamic and impact strength, and protection against flooding. The “core catcher”is a cone-shaped body located under the reactor and filled with special materials. In the event of a severe accident, it is capable of retaining liquid and solid fragments of the reactor core and structural materials of the reactor, excluding the release of radioactivity beyond the boundaries of the localization zone. Localization and cooling are carried out indefinitely. From the moment the technology was used for the first time, the “core catcher”, being an exceptionally effective protection system, is installed as standard equipment at all nuclear power plants being constructed under Russian projects.
The pace of construction is increasing. And this is due not only to a significant increase in the competencies and experience of personnel involved in the construction of the NPP, but also due to the excellent mutual understanding that has developed among the representatives of the two countries. This friendship dates back to the Soviet times, and it has been tested over years of cooperation both at the highest government level, and on the working level. The specialists of the two countries not only work, but also live in the same town. We can say for sure that cooperation involves people of all ages – from children on holidays to experienced professionals in the construction and operation of the station. For example, it has already become a tradition for everyone to celebrate holidays together with relatives and children, and the end of December each year is a welcomed gala concert of representatives of the two countries.
We should also keep in mind the transfer of experience to the next generation of nuclear scientists – in summer for several years in a row a student teamis arriving at the station, consisting of young Russian specialists studying in specialized universities. Is not easy to join this team – you need not only to study well, but also to undergo practical training at Russian NPP construction sites before you can submit an application for the competition in order to get into the team after the most rigorous selection. It should be noted that constant interest in the construction of the Kudankulam NPP among young specialists has not waned from year to year. Of course, not only the excellent experience of participating in the construction of one of the most modern nuclear power plants, but the thousand-year history and the rich cultural heritage of India possess incredibly attractive power. In turn, local people are discovering with interest the riches of Russian music, literature, and art, with which Russian specialists introduce them.
Of course, due to the geographical location of the Kudankulam NPP, all Russian specialists receive unique experience of building anNPP located as close to the equator as possible under difficult conditions of the sub-equatorial (tropical monsoon) climate and the station’s cooling with sea water. Here, the knowledge and experience of Indian specialists is invaluable – for centuries, generations of Indians have been building and operating various facilities in these conditions. Moreover, the Republic of India is a country implementing most up-to-date nuclear technologies, and Russian experts highly appreciate the exchange of experience with Indian colleagues.
Of course, such a lengthy and large-scale project cannot live without hurdles. However, specialists overcome any difficulties together: working in mobile remote offices, deployed in the town of Anujivajaidue to recent conditions of a difficult epidemiological situation.We continue uninterrupted work on the project with the goal of successful and timely implementation for the benefit of both countries.
Such mutually beneficial and perspective projects that are, at the same time,science-intensive and practical, make a unique contribution to ensuring the rapid economic development and environmental sustainability of both countries, and experience in such projects is gained not only by Russian specialists. The construction and operation of the power units of the Kudankulam NPP provided stable work and decent working conditions for more than 10 thousand people of the Republic of India.
We cannot but mention the localization of production for the Kudankulam NPP itself. From power unit to power unit, the list and volume of components supplied from various states of the Republic of India is growing. To further expand the list, experts from both countries constantly consult and evaluate new industries. This, of course, not only contributes to the employment, and therefore to the economic growth and prosperity of India, but also reduces the cost and shortens the construction of nuclear power plants by reducing the supply chains and lowering the risks. This is very in line with the “Make in India” program announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
New and advanced technologieshelp to accelerate the construction of complex engineering facilities. Currently, experts from both countries are conducting extensive joint consultations on the use of an innovative method aimed at optimizing installation work – open top. This is a method of erecting reinforced concrete structures of the walls of a reactor building with simultaneous installation of a nuclear steam-producing system and, accordingly, performing welding work on the main circulation pipeline. According to preliminary estimates, the introduction of this new method can accelerate the construction of the NPPby five to six months, and, therefore, bring another source of uninterrupted power supply closerto consumers.
The priority of specialists of both countries is the operational start-up of the power units with signed contracts that are already under active construction or in the initial stages of construction. One can already say for sure that this is a single team, an alloy of like-minded people who see themselves and strive for one goal – the construction of the Kudankulam NPP! However, one cannot stop at the level already achieved, it is necessary to use all the experience of cooperation that has such a long history, as well as the highest level of mutual understanding and mutual trust developed further, at new sites for the joint construction of nuclear power plants. A joint technical group with the participation of specialists from Russia and Indiais actively working on the formation of technical specifications for a Russian-designed NPP on a new site.
The Kudankulam NPP construction project is and will remain an excellent example of a strategic partnership between Russia and India, a concrete reflection of the mature, multifaceted and rich nature of Russian-Indian relations, which are based on mutual respect and unity in the common desire for progress and prosperity of the peoples of the two countries subject to safety in the use of most advanced nuclear technologies.