Controversy-embroiled Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project will once again miss the target as the time frame of commissioning of the first unit has now been revised to the new year.

Commercial operation of the 1,000 MW first unit, where 99.65 per cent of the physical progress has been completed, is expected to take place in January next, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) said.

Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy, who has been monitoring the progress of the Indo-Russian project, hit by protests over safety concerns,had informed Lok Sabha last week that Unit-I was likely to be commissioned by this month end.

Similarly, commercial operation of the second unit has also been fixed for August next year.

“Preparatory works are going on. Each and every step of ours is being monitored by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. We are doing our best to commission it as soon as possible,” sources in the Plant said.

M Pushparayan, a leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, spearheading the over year-long stir demanding scrapping of the KNPP, said though it has been said the commissioning would take place some time this month “now, we heard that they have given a date on January 15”.

After resorting to a series of protests including “sea siege” of the plant, located in Tamil Nadu‘s Tirunelveli district, PMANE now wants a national debate on the Centre’s “ambitious and aggressive” nuclear power programme and intends to make it an issue in the Lok Sabha elections.

“If the Congress Party or BJP or any other party for that matter manages to convince the Indian voters about this full-scale nuclearisation of the country and obtains absolute majority in the next Parliament, we will call off the ongoing struggle against the Project immediately”, PMANE said.

The long-delayed project moved a step towards commissioning with AERB granting permission last week for the ‘second heat up’, under which all systems of the entire nuclear power plant will be put to test to demonstrate its operability and safety.

Following these tests, AERB would evaluate the reports of the tests and then give the go-ahead to the first approach to criticality.

After the reactor goes critical, power generation would be stepped up gradually and when it reaches a certain level, the plant would be connected to the grid.

AERB had granted permission to load fuel in the first unit on August 10 after NPCIL complied with all the conditions laid by it.

A specially-designed robotic arm then began loading 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel on September 18 and the process was completed on October 2.

A strong demand was made by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and a host of others to allocate the entire output of 1,000 MW from Unit-I for the power-starved state.

Narayanasamy said in Tirunelveli last week that Tamil Nadu was entitled to get 465 MW from Unit-1 and Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh about 235 MW, leaving the remaining 300 MW for the Central grid.

He had said it was upto Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take the final call on allocating the entire Central share of 300 MW to Tamil Nadu.

Commissioning of the first unit of the Indo-Russian project was originally scheduled for December last year but has been delayed due to protests.