The NPCIL had already revisited the nuclear power reactors in India after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents in 1979 and 1986 and took a number of steps to upgrade their safety. Several safety measures were implemented after a tsunami struck the Indian coast in December 2004, including the Kalpakkam coast in Tamil Nadu, he said.
Mr. Jain, who addressed a press conference at Kalpakkam, where there are two operating reactors and another is under construction, repeatedly emphasised that "We will revisit all our plants and if huge modifications are required, even if it pinches our pocket [we will carry out the modifications]." If there was any need for augmentation of safety, it would be done. Today, the biggest "guru mantra" for the Indian nuclear industry was that "there is no room for complacency," he said.
Baldev Raj, Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, said, "the kind of decisions we have taken and the amount of money we have spent to safeguard our nuclear power plants is unparalleled." For instance, a huge protection wall was built on the shore at Kalpakkam. So "even if a tsunami of five metres height were to come, I will not be concerned." The protection wall was built, after a lot of modelling was done, at a cost of Rs. 40 crore.
In 2004, when the word "tsunami" had not got into the public jargon, the NPCIL and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board were fully aware of what effect a tsunami would have on nuclear power plants situated on the coast. "That is how the two reactors at Kalpakkam were shut down safely. They were brought back on line in three days," said Dr. Baldev Raj.
"Whatever we learn from Japan" with regard to safety would be factored into the Indian plants and projects, he said. If the Japanese had installed their back-up diesel generating sets some distance away to provide alternative power supply to the Fukushima-Daiichi reactors, their experience would have been different, he said.
When the tsunami with a height of 10.2 metres reached the Kalpakkam coast on December 26, 2004, it did not reach the floor-level of the turbine buildings of the two Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) there because their floor level was at a height of 10.668 metres, said K. Ramamurthy, Station Director, Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS), Kalpakkam.
But seawater entered the pump house which was connected to the sea by a tunnel.
The Indian PHWRs, built from those at Narora after early 1990s, were enclosed in a calandria vault, which was surrounded by a pool of water of 260 tonnes, Mr. Jain said. There were multiple barriers to prevent radioactivity from being released into the environment. They were designed to withstand earthquakes. Enough thought had gone into the site selection for such plants and passive safety features were built into them.
Prabhat Kumar, Project Director, Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), which is under construction at Kalpakkam, said that while the mean sea level near the PFBR site was 6.7 metres, the PFBR plant's grade-level was more than 15 metres. A tsunami bund, with 5.5 lakh tonnes of stones, had been built on the shore near the PFBR. There were four diesel-generator sets to provide alternative electricity in case of station black-out and they were located in different places where sea water could not reach, he said.
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project was safe tsunami-wise and earthquake wise, Mr. Jain said. He was confident that the design features of the two Kudankulam reactors were so good that "even if the entire crew walks out, the reactors will remain safe."