Impressed by the article posted by Sasi Kumar on December 22, 2011 titled “Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time” in truthdive.com, I have re-posted it here. An engineer by profession, Sasi Kumar holds double masters degree in Engineering from India and Business Administration from USA.
Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time
By Sasi Kumar
December 22, 2011
Honorable Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
Former President of India
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Scores of Indians have admired your contribution to the growth of India. Your tireless efforts in the past to raise the Indian security apparatus has earned an esteemed position in the hearts and minds of thousands of Keralites /Tamils /Indians who are proud to cite your name in all walks of their life from entertainment to education. Your dedication and work ethics are unparalleled and monumental for the next generation to energize and focus to expand their engineering acumen. Above all, many of our younger generations are your students and loyal followers who desire to replicate your success for developing stronger India.
Recently in the media conference on Koodunkulam Nuclear Power Plant, You have declared “Koodunkulam reactor will be shutdown in three minutes flat in case of natural disasters like Earthquakes or Tsunamis”. Though we are excited to hear such a strong soothing statement from you, yet as Engineers we are baffled. Many of us are raised from the school of thought “Even Einstein asked questions?” So some of us Engineers have questions too.
As Engineers know to kick start the shutdown procedure of nuclear reactor chain reaction a signal must be initiated as a first step. It is imperative to drill down the sequence of events that should be followed during those flat three minutes. The focus will be on how those signals will be created in case there is an Earthquake or Tsunami. Any Technocrat will agree to the fact that Earthquake severity can be measured in the Koodunkulam region and if and when those measurements are beyond the design basis, a signal can be created to activate the emergency shutdown system. However many are puzzled about how Koodunkulam plant will initiate a signal when there is a Tsunami?
According to plate tectonic theory, Earth’s surface is divided into various mosaic of moving plates. Boundaries between the plates are actively spreading submarine ridges in the middle of the oceans, sub-duction zones in ocean trenches in which the plates slide past one another. Though most of the world’s earth quake happens at plate boundaries there were some precedence that it had happened in other locations without plate boundaries like in the United States – New Madrid, Missouri, Charleston, South Carolina and elsewhere. Apart from the circum-Pacific seismic belt, the second important earthquake belt is Alpide that extends from Java and Sumatra via the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and extend into the Atlantic. The attached image show the plate boundaries.
Classically Tsunami is generated due to large earthquakes in the ocean bed or due to the movement of the Earth plates under the ocean. Geographical location of Koodunkulam power plant makes it open to the vast stretch of water – the large Indian Ocean that stretches all the way to Australia.
Earthquake can happen in any place in the wide Indian Ocean bed. Interestingly all the Earthquakes are not generating Tsunami. Thus based on Earthquake occurring in a remote location one can’t initiate the shutdown procedure of nuclear power plant. Koodunkulam needs to have the foolproof Tsunami measurement system that will accurately measure the intensity of the Tsunami and feed signals to the Reactor control system to initiate the Emergency shutdown of nuclear chain reaction. This system should work every time when there is a possibility of Tsunami in Koodunkulam region. As location of the Koodunkulam plant is at intersection of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal one has to handle complex scenario of protocol and broad area of Tsunami measurement and monitoring system. The feedback mechanism must be designed to intercept such a way that plant should undergo safe shutdown before waves reaches the plant premises.
In recent times, in 2004 Southern India was swept with the huge Tsunami triggered due to underwater earthquake which happened near Indonesia (more than 1000 miles away). Several observers are wondering why no warning system had been issued to alert the public during that Tsunami?
In Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster, again no such Tsunami detection signal has been generated to start the reactor shutdown? Sadly there were some reports that claim reactor fuel rods have been melted within few hours of the impact of Tsunami waves and uncontrolled chain reaction has been unleashed in one of the reactor.
It is nevertheless to say Japan is one of the top technology country in the world with abundant men, materials and superior army in its disposal. Yet they were not able to alter the path of destruction and radiation exposure of its citizen.
Some of the questions in the minds of Engineers are; Dr. Kalam,
- What made you to believe Koodunkulam plant posses superior Technology and Techniques to mitigate the risks associated with the Tsunami? If so what are they?
- In Koodunkulam plant is there any backup system in case Tsunami monitoring signal fails to kick in?
- How Koodunkulam plant will maintain the quality of Tsunami measurement system over the years?
- Lastly have you “watched and verified” the successful Tsunami warning measurement and shutdown process demonstrations yourself?
When you reiterate during the press conference, “the reactor will automatically shut down in three minutes flat in case of natural disasters like Earthquakes or Tsunamis” it is the expectation of general public that you have to certify only after verification of facts but alas did that happen?
We love India the same way you love it too. The people of Koodunkulam love their birthplace the same way you love yours. Dr. Kalam – Keralites and Tamils will continue to admire your talent, competence, sacrifice and will groom next generation by quoting you as a role model.
Engineers will not believe the words rather will convince themselves through experiment and demonstrations of actual performance. We are pleased to hear from you specifics regarding the three minutes flat shutdown time to Tsunami.