Officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), India’s atomic power plant operator, worked tirelessly during the Covid-19 lockdown to ensure that indigenously designed 700 MW pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in Gujarat attained criticality, a top official of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) said.
Like the nuclear fission in an atomic reactor that goes on continuously, the officials of the Indian nuclear sector worked continuously to achieve the technological milestone on July 22, albeit by following the necessary health protocols, K.N. Vyas, Chairman, AEC, told IANS.
“A lot of credit should be given to local administration and the state government. Many protocols had to be followed during the Covid-19 lockdown period. There was good coordination between local administration, state government and NPCIL.”
According to him, during the final stages when the reactor was turning critical, the services of different expert teams were needed. Some of them had to travel from other places and follow quarantine norms.
“In the last two-three months there was a tremendous amount of work. It is an indigenous reactor and the credit also goes to the Indian industries. Finally, the happy occasion came on July 22 morning,” Vyas remarked.
According to him, Covid-19 pandemic brought up unique challenges for the nation and also the nuclear power sector.
“Despite the severity of the pandemic, the NPCIL ensured continued operation of all power stations. This has been made possible with the extensive help from the respective state governments and local authorities. Nuclear power stations have been operating well with a fleet availability factor of around 90 per cent,” Vyas said.
However, the work on the projects under construction, which involves large numbers of labour, was required to be suspended during the lockdown in view of the Covid-19 advisories of the government and local authorities.
“The work has since resumed at some of the sites based on the health guidelines issued by local authorities. All efforts are being made by NPCIL to commence and speed up the project works, in line with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines and permissions from the local authorities. The exact impact will be known later after the pace of work has reached a reasonable level,” Vyas said.