Chennai: After several delays caused by technical snags and strident anti-nuclear protests, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu is set to start functioning in less than two days.
India's atomic regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), has cleared the first 1000 MW Russian-made reactor unit of the plant, which will generate much-needed electricity for Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry.
The chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Dr Ratan K Sinha, confirmed to NDTV that work on initiating the nuclear chain reaction, also called 'attaining criticality', has already begun at the plant.
The plant is expected to attain criticality for a sustained nuclear chain reaction in a couple of days.
A controlled nuclear fission process has begun for the first time in the plant - a step towards power production in a nuclear reactor.
If all goes well, experts say, the 15,000-crore reactor can achieve a sustained chain reaction in a week and start supplying power to the Southern Grid within weeks.
The plant had been delayed for months due to protests by anti-nuclear groups and local residents who alleged that the project was unsafe.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which spearheaded these protests, has sent a legal notice to the nuclear bodies who cleared the project. "The AERB clearance defies spirit of democracy. Our struggle against Kudankulam plant will continue unabated. The people of India will hold the Centre and all bodies responsible for any untoward incident," said the organization in a statement.
The Kudankulam plant is an outcome of a pact between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001. The project has also been delayed due to hurdles in the supply of components from Russian vendors.