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Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project
News: Recently, the Kudankulam Village Panchayat has passed a resolution against the construction of the ‘Away From Reactor (AFR) facility at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site for storing nuclear waste.Earlier, the state government (Tamil Nadu) had also opposed such construction.The village panchayat is of the view that the AFR site would lead to radioactive pollution (spread of radioactivity) and spoil the groundwater, which is used for drinking water and irrigation.
What is an AFR site?
• The scheme for the storage of spent fuel in a nuclear power plant is two-fold:
o One facility is located within the reactor building/service building, generally known as the spent fuel storage pool/bay.
o Another is located away from the reactor, called the Away From Reactor (AFR) Spent Fuel Storage Facility, but within the plant’s premises.
• The spent fuel storage pool inside the reactor building has a limited capacity and is used for immediate storage of the spent fuel removed from the reactor during refueling.The fuel remains in the pool initially for a few years for it to be cooled sufficiently before it is shifted to the facility.The AFR Spent Fuel Storage Facility is functionally similar to the ‘Spent Fuel Pool’ inside the reactor building, except in terms of capacity.
Arguments of the Government:
• The proposed AFR facility at KKNPP reactors 1 and 2 is for storage of spent fuel only and not for storage of nuclear waste, as perceived by a few.The design ensures that there would not be any adverse impact of the facility on the personnel, the public and the environment.
• The radiation dose on account of AFR to the public would be negligible, even [when] compared to the exposure from natural radiation background sources like soil, sun etc.This has been established at the Tarapur and Rawatbhata sites, where AFRs have been in operation for many years.
• Radioactivity is the phenomenon of spontaneous emission of particles or waves from the unstable nuclei of some elements.There are three types of radioactive emissions: Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
• Alpha particles are positively charged He (Helium) atoms, beta particles are negatively charged electrons and gamma rays are neutral electromagnetic radiations.
• Radioactive elements are naturally found in the earth’s crust.
• Uranium, thorium and actinium are three NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) series that contaminate water resources.
• A small amount of radiation is found in nature but the extended amount of radiation is harmful to human health.Radioactivity is measured in Becquerel (SI unit) or in Curie.The unit Sievert measures the quantity of radiation absorbed by human tissues.