Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant: Second Reactor Also Commissioned Illegally




Note:  On 29th August 2016, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) synchronized the generator of the second unit of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power  Plant (KKNPP) with the Southern grid.  The reactor was commercially commissioned on 31 March 2017.  During the 215 days of its commissioning phase, the reactor was under forced outage (known as trip or SCRAM) for 66 days (31%), under low power (less than 995 MW(e)) for 122 days (56%) and on Full Power for 27 days (13%).  During the 47 days of its commercial operation, the reactor was on full power for 1 day, on low power for 23 days and on trip for 24 days.   On 1st June 2017, the governments of India and Russia are likely to sign a Framework Agreement for setting up two more units from the same vendor at the same site.

Co-Written by V T Padmanabhan & Sankar Ray


The construction of two AES-92 version 1000 MWe VVER reactors started at Koodankulam, India in 2001.  Voda means water in Russian.  VVER is Water-Water-Energy-Reactor, which is the Russian Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR).  In 2006 , the European Utility Requirement (EUR) club certified AES-92 as Generation-III reactor. According to the original plan, both the units were to be commissioned in 2008, 65 months after the first pour of concrete.  However, the construction of the first and the second reactors was delayed by 5 and 8 years respectively due to “delay in receipt of equipment and drawings” from the Russian Federation and the design changes introduced in the final phase of construction.  The first unit (KKNPP-1) received its initial fuel loading (IFL) in October 2012, it was grid connected a year later and declared commercial on 31 Dec 2014.  KKNPP-2 was fuel-loaded in July 2016, grid connected on 29 August 2016 and declared commercial on 31 March 2017.

Source of generation and outage data in this report is the Southern Regional Load Dispatch Centre (SRLDC).  SRLDC uploads the data of all generating units in South India at 0630 hrs.


Commissioning  in violation of the Regulatory requirements and the  Directive of the Supreme Court of India

Commissioning is the most important milestone in the life of a nuclear reactor.  The Safety code of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) requires that “the commissioning programme shall assure that, after construction, the nuclear power plant (NPP) is made operational in a systematic, informative and safe manner, shall verify that the performance criteria, design intent and quality assurance (QA) requirements are satisfied and demonstrate that the plant can be operated in a safe manner through integrated testing of the plant system(s).”

The AERB safety guide for Commissioning of Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) lists the commissioning tests and the procedures to conduct them.[1]   Commissioning is conducted in three phases.  Initial fuel loading (IFL), which is considered as the commencement of operation of the nuclear plant,  is part of the B phase. After the synchronization with grid, the reactor power is gradually raised from 200 MW to its design output of 1000 MW.  It is performed in a systematic sequence so that the plant is ‘progressively subjected from less onerous to more onerous conditions’.

The AERB lists 45 different tests for the C-Phase  in three sub-phases – C- 1, C-2 and C-3.  In C-1 and C-2 sub-phases, reactor power is raised to 50 % and to 75% of Full Power (FP) respectively. The main tests of C-3 sub-phase are non-stop operation for 7 days at 90% FP and non-stop operation for 100 days at 100%FP. Non-stop operation means there should be no outage or decline of output during the period.

The Commissioning of the First Unit in 2014

The first unit (KKNPP-1) 2014 was commissioned on 31 Dec 2014 without clearing the final “non-stop 100 days on 100%FP” test, in spite of repeated   attempts during the 210 days of C-3 sub-phase. The reactor has not attained this milestone during 830 days of commercial  operation till 03 April 2017.  So far the reactor has been on full power for 281 days only in 15 instalments;  the maximum non-stop FP days attained so far is 48 days (19 Jul to 4 Sep 2016).  The politically dictated, illegal commissioning of the reactor, violating the AERB safety code and the orders of the Supreme Court of India, has been narrated in an earlier report.[2]

Dilution of the criteria for KKNPP-2  

After the bitter experience of KKNPP-1, the NPCIL decided to reduce the number of non-stop full power days from 100 to 30.  They informed the Southern Regional Power Committee (SRPC- the grid manager for South India) in December 2016 that  “KK-2 would be on non-stop FP during January 2017 before declaring commercial operation in Feb 2017.[3] The reactor was commissioned on 31 March 2017 without attaining even the diluted criterion of 30 days non-stop 100%FP.  During 262 days since the grid connection till today (20th May 2017), the reactor was on full power for 28 days in three instalments in January-February 2017 and April 2017.  Days under forced shutdown, low power (<990 MW) and full power (990 MW and above) was 30.4%, 57.1% and 12.4% respectively.

KKNPP-2 Performance Since Grid Connection in detail

Details of performance – trips, workdays and electricity generation – of KKNPP-2 are given in table-1.  Brief details of forced outages, also known as trips or SCRAM, which were the main events during the commissioning period are given below:

Trip No 1- 07 September 2016.  On the day of synchronization with the grid, the gross generation was 117 MWe (2.8 million units – MU).  Its average output was 260 MWe during the first week. On 7th September 2016, it dropped to 54 MWe and the reactor tripped on the same day.  According to a dispatch from the Press Trust of India (PTI), published in the Financial Express, there were problems in the turbine and the specialists from Russia’s Rosatom and the NPCIL were engaged in its repair.[4]  .

Trip No 2-  18 October 2016.  Turbine Test:   After 38 days of outage, the unit was revived on 14 Oct 16.   Four days later, the reactor tripped again on 18 Oct 2017.  The official reason for the trip is ‘turbine test’, which lasted for three days.

Trip No 3- 13 November 2016.   “Net Load Rejection Test”.  For this test, the generator will be off-grid for a few hours.  However, this test kept the machine idle for 5 days.

Trip No 4 – 23 February 2017.  During 22 Nov 16 to 20 Jan 17, the average and the maximum generations were 647 MW and 894 MW respectively.  On 21 Jan 17, the gross output crossed 900 MW and two days later it reached the Full Power (FP) of 990 MW.  From 23 Jan 17 to 20 Feb 17, the average generation was 990 MWe/day, except on two days -8 Feb and 14 Feb 2017-, when the output was 916 MW only.  As per the NPCIL’s plan, the reactor was to be commissioned after 30 non-stop full power days.  Unfortunately, on 23 Feb 17, the gross generation fell sharply to 660 MW and the reactor tripped for the fourth time due to ‘Steam Generation Level Low’.

Trip No 5-  12 March 2017.  The unit was revived on 26 Feb 17.  The average generation during the the next 14 days was 697 MWe/day with a maximum of 920 MWe on 11 March 2017.  On 12th March, the output dropped to 460 MWe and the reactor tripped again.  The reported reason for the trip was Dynamic Trip Test, which  lasted for 18 days.  Two days before the trip, NPCIL had informed the Southern Regional Power Committee (SRPC), Bengaluru that KK-2 will be shut down on 11th or 12th March 17 for 20-30 days  and commercial commissioning is expected by 31st March 2017.[5]

The unit was revived on 29 March 17. The gross generation on the next two days were 462 MW, and  910 MW.   As on 31 Mar 2017, the reactor had operated non-stop full-power for 15 days.  Nevertheless, the NPCIL declared the reactor’s commercial commissioning on 31 March 2017.

The reactor’s score card during 47 days of commercial operation is – on full power for one day, low power for 22 days and on forced outage for 24 days. (see table 1)


Nopower Lopower Fullpower Total
Commissioning period Days 66 122 27 215
Percent 30.7 56.7 12.6 100.0
Post Commissioning Days 24 22 1 47
Percent 51.1 46.8 2.1 100.0


Two Forced outages after commercial commissioning (in 47 days)

03 Aril 2017 – Condenser bypass valve problem.  Two  days after the commercial commissioning, the reactor tripped due to the defects in the condenser bypass valve, which kept it idle for 8 days. During the 23 days after its revival, the unit was on full power for 1 day and on low power for the remaining 22 days.

04 May 2017 –  SRLDC reported the reason for the second trip reported on 5th May  as ‘steam generator water level  (SG level) low’.  Senior officials of KKNPP had mentioned about a leak in the feedwater system as the cause of the outage.  SG level can drop due to a defect in the feed water system (located in the turbine building), malfunctioning of the reactor coolant pumps (located in the reactor building), leakage from the steam generator.  The reason of outage remained the same in the SRLDC report till 12 May 17.  On the next day, the reason was changed to  “PRIMARY COOLANT PUMP (RCP) PROBLEM”.   (The reason for the trip is intimated by the generating unit and SRLDC does not have any means to verify it. KKNPP has never been serious in assigning the reason for reactor trip.  For instance, in, the reason given for 88 days long trip of KKNPP-1 during November 2016- February 2017  was “routine generator inspection”!)

It is likely even after plugging the  leaks in the feedwater system, the SG level remained unchanged  as the primary coolant pump was also defective.   Why did they have to change the reason for this trip after a week?

RCP is a safety grade equipment and each unit has 4 RCPs.  Whenever the issue of counterfeit equipment was raised, NPCIL has been defending their Russian partners.  Since their grid connections, KK-1 and KK-2 has tripped for 37 times.  This is first time the operator is reporting the defect of safety grade equipment  as the reason for a forced outage.

The defects in RCPs were first reported by P Sudhakar in The Hindu in March 2012.  The pumps were damaged during the hydrotest in July 2011.  Engineer Dudkin and colleagues from Russia and NPCIL’s contract workers were repairing the pumps during 2012.   Since then KKNPP RCPs have been repaired and overhauled several times.  NPCIL had to purchase spares for RCP from Russia at least on two occasions, when the unit was under warranty period operation.   RCPs of KK 1 and KK 2 have been listed for overhaul in 2017 also.  RCPs, other pumps and equipment have been repaired several times and are likely to be repaired several times in the future.

Incidentally in the year RCPs of KNNPP-1 were damaged, Chinese quality assurance specialists found that the RCPs supplied by Westinghouse for their  AP-1000 reactor projects were defective.  They returned the pumps and the projects were delayed for more than five years.  According to Bloomberg, the China RCPs were partly responsible for the fall of the Westinghouse.

Nuclear deals like Koodankulam are decided at the highest political level.  Those who signed the first deal during the last century had models and drawings of the unique AES-92 reactor.  Koodankulam houses two AES-92 reactors ever built.  The experiences of 1500 reactor-days of these units are not at all reassuring.  There is enough information and analyses which prove that these are made of the Soviet era counterfeit equipment and spares. Signing the deal for units 5 and 6 is the least the nation expects from a mature leadership.

The KNNPP is a technological hoax, an abominable goof-up. The dogged determination to  have commissioned it shows that the authorities is mortgaged to alien corporate interests reminding us of  Andrew Undershaft in George Bernard Shaw, “Well, I am a millionaire and that is my religion”. Undershaft is an arms trader. The crucial question of energy security is subserviently surrendered to predatory interests abroad. When nuclear power is fast abandoned the world over, why nuclear lobby that has strong political connections is hell-bent on economically, environmentally and socially destructive ventures.

VT Padmanabhan, a member of the European Committee on Radiation Risks (ECRR) and the Nuclear Consultancy Group (NCG) has been writing on nuclear safety and health effects (genetic and somatic) of ionizing radiation. All his reports on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant have been published in the Countercurrents. He has also studied the genetic effects of children of Bhopal survivers and the Hibakushas in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His published works are available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Padmanabhan_VT.
Email : [email protected]

Sankar Ray is a veteran journalist, based in Kolkata, specialising in Left politics and history and environmental issues.


[1]     http://www.aerb.gov.in/AERBPortal/pages/English/t/publications/CODESGUIDES/SG-O- 4.pdf)

[2]     Padmanabhan VT,  Paul Dorfman,  Anisur Rahman,  2016,  Economic and political weekly L1(37):25- 28 · September 2016.   https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307991108_Kudankulam%27s_Untameable_Atomic_Reactor_Tickling_the_Dragon%27s_Tail_Again

[3]     SRPC, 2016, Minutes of 126th meeting of OCCM  http://www.srpc.kar.nic.in/website/2016/meetings/occ/a126occm.pdf

[4]     http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/power-generation-from-knpp-second-unit-suspended for-maintenance/371619/

[5]     Minutes of 129th OCC Meeting held on 10.03.2017 at Kochi, Kerala,  http://www.srpc.kar.nic.in/website/2016/meetings/occ/m129occm.pdf

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