Oct 05, 2012 at 07:53am IST

Fuel loaded in Koodankulam plant, criticality process begins

After loading fuel in all 163 fuel assemblies at Unit-I of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), scientists on Tuesday launched the criticality process — jargon for generating energy — which is its main activity.

Mark the symbolism in the choice of dates: while fuel loading began on Ganesh Chaturthi Day, the process of splitting ‘atoms for peace’ commenced on Gandhi Jayanti Day.

Confirming the completion of fuel loading, highly placed sources in the Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited said that the 163 fuel assemblies were filled with uranium-235 using an automatic reactor operational mechanism.

“We have loaded 75 tonnes of enriched uranium in the 163 fuel assemblies of the first reactor core. The criticality process commenced in the presence of a technical team of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) besides online live monitoring by scientists of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the sources said.

Scientists have also started the process of closing the reactor core and containment vessel of the first unit after fuel loading. A team comprising Indian and Russian scientists and engineers are monitoring the atomic fission — jargon for splitting of atoms, which emit neutrons and photons that trigger a chain reaction and produce energy, the sources said.

The criticality process consists of five stages, which include safety tests and measures to control radioactivity. Scientists will check the process using different methods and submit a report to the AERB. “After the AERB nod, we will commission the plant,” the scientists added.