Mumbai: Amid anti-nuclear protests by villagers, Atomic Energy Chairman R K Sinha on Tuesday said the first unit of 1,000 MW of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu is likely to become operational by next year.

"Though it will not be able to give the exact time for commissioning of the project mainly due to the directives of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the case pending in the Supreme Court, we expect the unit to go operational by the next calendar year," Sinha told reporters on the sidelines of India Nuclear Energy 2012 summit here.

He said the fuel loading at the unit is in process and is likely to be completed in the next few months.

Last week, the AERB gave its approval for loading of enriched uranium fuel into the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear plant built with Russian collaboration.

"With the launch of the Kudankulam next year, some of the power problems (of Tamil Nadu) will be solved," he said.

Sinha further said the second unit of the Kudankulam nuclear plant is expected to be ready as per the schedule, and added that land acquisition and public acceptance are two challenges that need to be addressed.

"Today, we are not worried about technology and raw material when it comes to setting up a plant. What is a challenge before us is that we are not prepared to address the challenge of public acceptance. There is a need to update knowledge base. We will also need to enhance efforts to spread awareness on effects of radiation on health," he said, adding that land acquisition also poses a challenge.

On the development on the 9,000 MW nuclear plant project at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Sinha said, "final technical- commercial offer is under negotiation. It is difficult to give any time-frame as it depends on the outcome of dialogues which are undergoing. Last week we had a discussion with a French delegation...all is under control and we think we will come to a conversion of position in a couple of months."

He further said construction of four 700 MW pressurized heavy water reactors (two each in Gujarat and Rajasthan) were under various stages of completion and power production will begin from these plants by 2017.

The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam, near Chennai, is also under construction, Sinha said. He expressed confidence in meeting the target of generating 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2021.


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