Process on to get environmental clearance for spent fuel storage at India’s Kudankulam NPP

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The process to obtain environmental clearance for setting up a storage facility for the Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) at India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) units 1 and 2 is currently in progress, the nation’s Parliament was informed last week.   

The first two 1,000 MW units at the KNPP, being built by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, have been connected to the grid in 2013 and 2016, respectively, while work is in progress to construct four more 1,000 MW reactors – units 3, 4, 5 and 6.    

Replying to a member’s query in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh said the spent nuclear fuel storage, also known as the Away from Reactor (AFR) facility, anywhere in the country are set up only after obtaining all statutory approvals, including environmental clearance from the Environment Ministry. 

Moreover, safety clearances are obtained from the regulator and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to ensure that the spent fuel does not pose any radiological hazard to people and the environment nearby.  

According to the Minister, the AERB is currently carrying out the design safety review of the proposed AFR facility.  

He said environment clearance for the KNPP units 3-6, including storage facilities for the SNF, was granted by the Environment Ministry after careful consideration, following the due process.  

Singh also informed Parliament that the AERB has given its consent to establish the spent fuel facility for KNPP units 3 and 4.  

The facilities for the storage of SNF in the premises of a nuclear power plant, until it is sent for reprocessing, are designed with a comprehensive approach to safety to withstand extreme natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis with provisions of large operational safety margins for safe, sound and reliable performance. 

“These are designed, constructed and operated as per regulatory requirements and subjected to regulatory reviews and audits, which ensure robustness in safety at all stages of the facility, ensuring that there is no adverse impact on plant personnel, general public or the environment”, the Minister said. 

Such facilities are already functioning at the Tarapur NPP in Maharashtra state and at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, which are operating safely without any impact on personnel, the public and the environment, he added.