- POSTED: 26 Sep 2013 20:57
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Twenty-five years after it was first commissioned, the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India's southern province of Tamil Nadu is expected to start generating electricity by October.
INDIA: Twenty-five years after it was first commissioned, the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India's southern province of Tamil Nadu is expected to start generating electricity by October.
Two units of the plant went critical in July, which is the final step before full power generation.
Villagers in southern India protested against the nuclear plant and protesters in the vicinity even filed a legal petition to shut it down, saying its technology was archaic and thus posed a risk to thousands of people living nearby.
Approval for construction of the plant was first given in 1988 in a pact signed between then Prime Minister Sanjiv Gandhi and then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
But the project was delayed for many years, especially by the political turmoil in the Soviet Union.
The United States also complained that the project did not meet Nuclear Suppliers Group agreement of 1992.
India is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but in 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 46-country cartel that includes America, agreed to allow exports of nuclear equipment and fuel to India in recognition of its history of non-proliferation.
Construction work of the Kudankulam nuclear plant began in 2001.
There was also agitation on the ground by villagers and fisherman who opposed to the idea of a nuclear plant in their back yard.
Two of the plant's units or reactors, capable of generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity each, had been ready since 2011, but the protests prevented them from operating.
When an earthquake and tsunami caused radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant to spew over large areas of northern Japan in March 2011, fears on the Indian shores were obvious.
Kudankulam falls in the area that was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.
RS Sunder, director of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant site, said: "There is an analysis that has been carried out -- if there is a tsunami, what will be the rise in the sea level, what will be the wave run-up, put together what will be the rise in the level.
"So how safe is it to build a plant structure? So our plant structures are all built 25 feet above the main sea level, so we are well protected against tsunami and there is no concern at all as far a tsunami is concerned."
In May 2013, India's apex court finally gave it the stamp of approval and the plant went critical two months later.
Nuclear power forms the fourth pillar of India's power needs after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources.
With 20 operational reactors in six nuclear power plants across the country, India is still unable to meet the full power supply of the country
Last year, demand exceeded supply by nine per cent.
Power outages are common, hurting the production at factories and farms.
If the Kudankulam nuclear power plant becomes a success, then India's plans to build 30 reactors by 2032 might prove less challenging.