Untrustworthy AERB and Its Sloppy Sarkari Reply for the Koodankulam Fiasco


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy – TRANSCEND Media Service

April 19, 2013

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has finally woken up, it seems. They have just acknowledged with great awkwardness: “…during testing of thousands of valves installed in the plant, the performances of four valves of a particular type were found deficient. As corrective measures, the valve components are being replaced by NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) and their performance is further being subjected to regulatory review. Subsequent clearances will be granted by AERB only after a satisfactory review.”

So, according to the AERB, it is a simple problem of just four valves malfunctioning in the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). What an irresponsible and disingenuous explanation to a very complex and dangerous problem that is deeply mired in corruption, theft, wastefulness, shoddiness and sheer inefficiency.

No one in India can have any kind of trust and confidence in the AERB anymore. We would bring the attention of the Indian citizens to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report No. 9/2012-13 on the “Activities of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board” published in August 2012. It pointed out so many flaws and problems in the regulatory mechanism of the atomic energy establishment in India.

This discredited agency’s sloppy sarkari reply begs many more important questions:

[1] Were the first and the second “hydro tests” at KKNPP complete failures then? Why doesn’t the AERB say anything about these tests?

[2] How did the AERB give clearance to the “initial fuel loading” (IFL) with all these four valves malfunctioning?

[3] The PMANE posed the following question to AERB on January 28, 2013:

“Zio-Podolsk, owned by the Russian company Rosatom, is under investigation in Russia for shoddy equipment it produced for several nuclear plants in that country and abroad since 2007. It is suspected that Zio-Podolsk used wrong type of steel (cheaper than the one originally required) to produce equipment for nuclear plants, such as steam generators. This company is said to have supplied several equipment and parts to the KKNPP. Please give a list of those equipment and parts that have been supplied by Zio-Podolsk to the KKNPP units.”

The AERB replied on February 12, 2013 (No. AERB/RSD/RTI/Appl. No. 329/2013/2421) very evasively: “Selection of a company for supplying any equipment to NPCIL, is not under the purview of AERB. However, with respect to Quality Assurance (QA) during design, construction, commissioning and operation, a set of well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides are published and they were followed during the safety review of KKNPP.”

If the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides … were followed during the safety review of KKNPP,” how did the AERB team fail to find out about these four valves earlier? Which AERB officials are responsible for this valve malfunctioning oversight? Why did the AERB have to wait until the former AERB chief, Dr. Gopalakrishnan, spoke about the Koodankaulam project?

[4] Mr. R. S. Sundar, the site director of the KKNPP, has claimed that “the NPCIL had placed orders for obtaining a range of components for KKNPP from LG Electronics, South Korea, Alstom and VA Tech, France and Siemens, Germany, apart from getting components from Russia” (P. Sudhakar, “Kudankulam plant Director denies allegation,” The Hindu, April 4, 2013). Although he lists all these foreign companies and their host countries, Mr. Sundar carefully avoids the names of Zio-Podolsk and Informteck from Russia. Does the AERB consider the KKNPP as a Russian project or an international collaboration project? Does the AERB have the complete list of all these various parts and equipment? How were the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides” followed during the safety review of all these various parts and equipment from all different sources?

[5] Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, the former chief of the Atomic Energy Commission, has publicly acknowledged now: “We sought an additional safety mechanism well before the Fukushima disaster. The safety mechanism consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be altered and I feel this is the basic cause for delay.” According to him, the valves were designed partially in India and Russia and compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups (http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1517314.ece). Did the AERB authorize the alteration of the “original reactor design”? If so, when did the AERB authorize it? What authorization procedure was followed? And who in the AERB authorized the later “refit” in the reactor? What was this “refit” all about?

[6] Izhorskiye Zavody, which is part of United Machinery Plants (OMZ) holding, signed a contract with India for the construction of two nuclear reactor bodies for Kudankulam’s station in 2002. They shipped a new nuclear reactor body that would be the first power unit of India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant to the city’s sea port. Yevgeny Sergeyev, general director of Izhorskiye Zavody, said at a ceremony sending off the reactor: “We were so sure of our partners that we started to produce the first reactor bodies four months before the official contract was signed.” Sergeyev said the reactor was completed six months before deadline (The St Petersburg Times, 19 November 2004, http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=2135). How were the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides” followed during the safety review of the reactor bodies? Is that why we found belt-line welds much later in the RPVs in sharp contrast to the original design?

The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision, Rostekhnadzor, claimed in 2009: “The main causes of violations in the NPP construction works are insufficient qualifications, and the personnel’s meagre knowledge of federal norms and rules, design documentation, and of the technological processes of equipment manufacturing. In particular, the top management of Izhorskiye Zavody [supplier of RPV] have been advised of the low quality of the enterprise’s products and have been warned that sanctions might be enforced, up to suspending the enterprise’s equipment production licence” (http://www.gosnadzor.ru/osnovnaya_deyatelnost_slujby/otcheti-o-deyatelnosti-sluzhbi-godovie/).

As Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan has pointed out in response to the AERB’s sloppy sarkari reply, “the AERB comes up with a very minimal and partial admission. Their clarification has left out many other flaws, including potential corrupt practices, lack of adequate quality assurance, and total & unnecessary secrecy in safety regulation of civilian nuclear plants.”

To sum up tersely, the AERB has no integrity or credibility and should call off the Koodankulam project completely instead of explaining away the dangerous issues involved in the project and making us all guinea pigs to test the Indian nuclear establishment’s corruption, inefficiency and black market procurement practices.

The Struggle Committee
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Apr 2013.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Untrustworthy AERB and Its Sloppy Sarkari Reply for the Koodankulam Fiasco, is included. Thank you.

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