Atomic energy regulator yet to file Kudankulum report in SC

The Indian atomic energy regulator has not yet filS.P. Udayakumar,ed with the Supreme Court its report on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP, an anti-KNPP activist said Wednesday.

“In response to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) in its reply dated July 1 said: ‘The report would be filed by AERB in he Hon’ble Court before granting next stage of clearance for commissioning of the plant.’,” M. Pushparayan of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) told IANS.

The RTI application was filed by PMANE’s co-ordinator S.P. Udayakumar June 4, asking the AERB of action taken so far to fulfill a Supreme Court direction while giving its clearance to the KNPP in May.

The AERB did not give any time frame for granting the next stage of clearance for the KNPP.

The apex court May 6 directed that the AERB, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to oversee each and every aspect of the project, including safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of components and systems in the plant before its commissioning.

The apex court had also directed the environment ministry to oversee and monitor whether the NPCIL is complying with the conditions laid down while granting clearance dated Sep 23, 2008, under the provisions of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Notification of 2006.

It was also to see that the conditions laid down in the environmental clearance granted by it Dec 31, 2009, were complied with.

“AERB and the ministry will see that all the conditions stipulated by them are duly complied with before the plant is made operational,” the apex court had held.

The MoEF had June 27 communicated to Udayakumar that the KNPP site visit is neither finalised nor submitted to any agency so far, and the decision is yet to be finalised.

A committee consisting of officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), NPCIL, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the TNPCB had inspected the KNPP May 5, 2013.

Only the state pollution control board has submitted its report to the apex court July 8, after issuing to the KNPP its consent to operate June 24.

In its consent order the TNPCB has stipulated that KNPP should connect its computer systems monitoring the ambient and plant effluent temperature to its network.

The pollution board has also asked KNPP to increase its green belt cover to 25 percent of its 1,050 hectares – 262.5 hectares – from the current six percent – 63.4 hectares.

The apex court had also directed the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw all the cases filed against the agitators so that peace and normalcy is restored.

In response to a public interest litigation filed by an advocate to know the action taken by the state government in complying with the supreme court’s direction in the Madras High Court, the Tamil Nadu government Tuesday had sought one week’s time to gather details of the cases filed against the protestors.

India’s atomic power plant operator NPCIL is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of 1,000 MW each.

The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001.

Fearing for their safety in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam plant, under the PMANE’s banner have been opposing the project.

City-based environmental activist G. Sundarrajan had filed a case in the apex court demanding the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for NPCIL, AERB, MoEF, Tamil Nadu government and TNPCB to follow.

The project, however, had been delayed mainly due to non-sequential supplies of components from Russian vendors.

(Source: IANS)

Kudankulam safety steps a matter of public interest, says SC

The Supreme Court Thursday told the government not to treat as an adversarial litigation the petition seeking implementation of all safety steps before the commissioning  of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) as it concerns public interest.

A bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra made the observation when Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman sought to counter counsel Prashant Bhushan while he was arguing the case against the loading of fuel rods in the reactor of the plant till all the 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee were put in place.

Asking the Solicitor General to be patient, Justice Radhakrishnan observed: “It concerns the rights of the people. It is a matter of public interest (matter). We understand it.”

It also told Nariman that issues being raised by Bhushan were not piecemeal as he had contended.

The court’s response came in the course of the hearing of a petition by an IT professional, P. Sundarrajan, seeking to restrain Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) from going ahead with the loading of the fuel rods in the reactor of KNPP’s unit one.

During the last hearing Sep 13, the court had declined to pass any immediate order to restrain the government and NPCIL from going ahead with the loading of nuclear fuel rods in the reactor of the plant.

Assailing the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) nod for the loading the fuel rods in KKNPP, Bhushan said that the regulatory board had made an unequivocal statement that the Tamil Nadu nuclear plant would not be commissioned without implementing the 17 recommendations of the expert committee that was set up in the wake of Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan.

Now the same regulatory board says that fuel roads could be loaded in the reactor and safety recommendations could be implemented in the due course of the time, he told the court.

Mocking at the AERB for allegedly backtracking from its position before the Madras High Court, Bhushan said: “If it (safety measures) is not required, then why they should be implemented even after two years? If they (safety steps) are required to be taken, then why not before the loading of the fuel rods?”

On the government’s submission that the 17 steps were by way of abundant caution and were not pre-requisite for commissioning of the plant, Bhushan said: “In nuclear plant you have to move with more than abundant caution because nuclear accident is catastrophic.”

Bhushan also contended that the KNPP had never received the environmental impact assessment and there was no nuclear emergency management plan as envisaged by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Questioning the way AERB was functioning – not as an independent regulatory authority but as an authority subservient to the atomic energy establishment – Bhushan referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General questioning whether the AERB was discharging the objective it was created for and should it stay on as regulatory authority.

At this, Justice Misra asked: “Can CAG comment on the constitution of an authority which legislatures empower the state to create. Can a body exist or not… can it come under the purview of the CAG.”

Responding to the observation, Bhushan said that AERB gave its nod for the loading of fuel rods under the government’s pressure. He also noted that the current AEB chief was earlier chief of the NPCIL.

Saying that it would like to hear what guarantees the government could provide on the safety steps, the court directed the listing of the PIL petition Sep 27 for further hearing.

SC poses searching queries to Centre on Kudankulam

The Supreme Court on Thursday wanted to know from the Centre as to what would be the guarantee that there would be no radio active substance in the spent fuel to be stored at the controversial Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu to prevent any accident.

Posing a host of searching queries to the Centre on the functional safety of the power plant, a bench of justices K S Radhakrishanan and Deepak Misra also asked if any environmental impact assessment was done on the project.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on next Thursday, saying that it would pass appropriate orders after examining the issue at length.

“It is not adversarial. We are concerned with the people’s rights and interests. It is in public interest. What will be the guarantee that there will be no radio active material in it?

“In 1984 there was the Bhopal gas tragedy. But the problem of waste is still there. If there is a problem, how to meet it?” the bench asked Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman and Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who appeared for the Centre.

The bench was dealing with the petition filed by social activist G Sundarrajan challenging the Madras high court’s decision not to impose any restraint against the plant, despite the alleged non-compliance of several safety measures recommended by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Appearing for the petitioner, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench that not only 11 out of the 17 recommendations made by the AERB were violated by the government but even minimum statutory norms like environmental assessment impact and disaster management study and measures have been overlooked for loading the fuel in the plant.

“Was any environmental impact assessment done?” the bench asked the Centre to which Parasarn nodded in the affirmative.

(Source : PTI)

Plea for stalling Kudankulam nuke project reaches SC

The row over setting up the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu reached the Supreme Court with a petition, which sought its directions to restrain the Union government and other authorities from commissioning the controversial project.

The Special Leave Petition (SLP) by social activist G Sundarrajan against the Madras High Court’s Aug 31 decision refusing to impose any restraint has claimed that non-implementation of various recommendations formulated by the Government’s Task Force “puts to grave risk the safety of millions of citizens.”

The petition, filed through counsel Prashant Bhushanand Pranav Sachdeva, said the high court had given a go ahead to the nuclear power plant without first ensuring that the 17 critical safety features recommended by the Central government’s expert task-force are put in place.

It complained that in complete violation of the absolute liability principle evolved by the apex court, the government has absolved the Russian company supplying the nuclear reactor of any liability in case of an accident.

“The government has also brutally cracked down on the local community peacefully protesting against the plant and has slapped sedition cases against thousands of protesters. “Thus it is absolutely clear that the government intends to push the project through without any consideration of the safety, costs, environmental impact and other concerns regarding the project,” the petition said.

The petitioner urged the court to pass an “ex-parte ad-interim injunction against the respondents from further proceeding with Initial Fuel Loading and/or Commissioning the Unit 1& 2 of the KudankulamNuclear Power Project till the recommendations of the task force regarding the said project are fully implemented.”

According to the petition, the government’s Task Force had made a detailed review of the safety measures of the project in the light of inadequacies of Fukushmia plant which suffered due to lack of alternative fresh water storage and want of back-up power system.

The Task Force had sought implementation of its 17 recommendations before commissioning units 1 and 2 of KKNPP, the petition said.

The important recommendations among other things related to the provision of alternative fresh water storage system and emergency pumping equipment, which are yet to be implemented even today, it added.

It said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) now states that implementation of these measures would take six months to 2 years.

“If, by chance, any natural disaster happens before the said measures are implemented, there is every chance of a meltdown and huge leakage of radiation that would make a large area uninhabitable for decades and would need evacuation of millions of people,” the petition said.

The petitioner said the AERB could not act independently in the matter because it is under the Atomic Energy Department and hence is unable to act firmly.

“India’s nuclear safety regulator AERBis a body under the control of the very department it is supposed to regulate and merely acts as a rubber-stamping authority, and thereby, it has put to grave risk the rights of the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the petition said.

The petitioner said with the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 coming into force from Sept 21, 2010, the liability of the nuclear plant operator and supplier has been pegged at a meagre Rs 1,500 crore “in complete violation of the absolute liability principle” propounded by the apex court in its earlier judgements on environmental issues.

“Russia claims that it is exempt from even this minimal liability since their contract with the Indian government states that they would not be liable,” the petition said.

(Source : PTI)

Madras HC seeks details of Kudankulam power project

The Madras High Court Tuesday ordered the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to file a fresh consent order for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) Thursday.

The court also ordered Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to file an affidavit Thursday detailing the implementation of the recommendations made by a task force set up by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

The court was hearing two petitions filed by G. Sundarrajan against KNPP challenging the consent given by TNPCB and AERB to NPCIL.

NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunvelveli district around 650 km from here.

“TNPCB submitted to the court that it would withdraw its consent order issued to KNPP. TNPCB submitted that a fresh consent order would be issued. The court also asked AERB to file an affidavit listing out the implementation of the safety measures recommended by a task force set up by NPCIL,” M. Radhakrishnan, the counsel representing G. Sundarrajan the petitioner, said.

The atomic energy regulator Aug 10 gave its nod to NPCIL to load the fuel in the first reactor.

According to the petition, AERB had earlier submitted to the court in another case that it would issue clearances only after completion of review and resolution of reactor commissioning reports and issues relating to the KNPP, including the implementation of safety measures.

Sundarrajan contends that NPCIL has not implemented the entire 23 safety measures recommended by the task force.

In his petition, Sundarrajan contends that the AERB has not applied its mind on the consent order issued by the TNPCB on the tolerance temperature limits for the KNPP effluent before giving its clearance for loading of the fuel in the plant’s first unit.

According to him, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, states that thermal power plants using sea water should adopt systems to reduce water temperature at the final discharge point so that the resultant rise in the temperature from receiving water does not exceed seven degrees Celsius over the ambient temperature.

The TNPCB, in its consent order, allows the tolerance temperature limit of trade effluent of the KNPP at 45 degrees Celsius while the Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment for the KNPP units 1 and 2 and additional units 3 to 6 has limited the tolerance temperature to 37 degree Celsius.

A central government-appointed expert committee in its report last December said that the seasonal variation in surface water temperature of Kudankulam Marine Environment ranged from 23 degrees Celsius during monsoon and winter to 29 degrees Celsius during summer, with an annual average of 26.6 degrees Celsius.

Court frowns on ministers over Kudankulam launch date

With the protest against Kudankulam nuclear power plant entering its second year, the Madras High Court hearing two petitions against the project Thursday came down on union ministers, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

“Hearing the two petitions, the Madras High Court came down heavily on the union ministers, saying that they respect only the Supreme Court and not the other courts. The court also asked how central ministers can announce KNPP (Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project) commissioning date when a case is being heard,” P. Sundararajan, a lawyer.

P.Sundararajan is junior to advocate M. Radhakrishnan representing G. Sundarrajan who has filed two petitions in the court challenging the consent given by the AERB and the TNPCB to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) that is building the plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

According to Sundararajan, the court also wondered why the AERB was in a hurry to clear fuel loading.

“The AERB gave its nod to NPCIL to load the fuel in the first reactor last week without ensuring the implementation of safety measures in the KNPP as recommended by an expert committee set up to review the safety aspects of Indian nuclear power plants in the wake of nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan,” Sundarrajan told IANS about his petitions.

He said the AERB had earlier submitted to the court in another case that it would issue clearances only after completion of review and resolution of reactor commissioning reports and issues relating to the KNPP, including the implementation of safety measures after the Fukushima accident.

Sundarrajan contends that the AERB has not applied its mind on the consent order issued by the TNPCB on the tolerance temperature limits for the KNPP effluent before giving its clearance for loading of the fuel in the plant’s first unit.

According to him, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, state that thermal power plants using sea water should adopt systems to reduce water temperature at the final discharge point so that the resultant rise in the temperature of receiving water does not exceed seven degrees Celsius over and above the ambient temperature.

The TNPCB, in its consent order, allows the tolerance temperature limit of trade effluent of the KNPP at 45 degrees Celsius while the Comprehensive Environmental Impact
Assessment for the KNPP units 1 and 2 and additional units 3 to 6 has limited the tolerance temperature to 37 degree Celsius, he said.

Interestingly, the central government-appointed expert committee in its report last December said that the seasonal variation in surface water temperature of Kudankulam Marine Environment ranged from 23 degrees Celsius during monsoon and winter to 29 degrees Celsius during summer, with an annual average of 26.6 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, the protest against the two 1,000-MW atomic power plant entered its second year Thursday with anti-nuclear activists stating that their fight was now two pronged — on the streets and within the portals of the Madras High Court.

“Our fight is on two flanks — civil/democratic and legal. We have been protesting against the project in a non-violent manner for the past one year. Now public interest petitions (PIL) have been filed in the Madras High Court. The court has reserved its decision on one, and two more cases have been filed,” said M. Pushparayan, a leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMAN), said.

He said fishermen in Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts did not go into the sea Thursday to express solidarity with PMANE and a huge crowd had gathered in Idinthakarai to attend an anti-nuclear power conference

NPCIL declines to release nuke safety report

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NCPIL) has objected to a Central Information Commission (CIC) order for releasing a safety report on the Kudankulam nuclear reactor, saying it is holding it in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of a Russian company, an official said.

NCPIL said it will approach the courts if the Central Information Commission (CIC) turns down its plea on the Kudankulam reactor Safety Analysis Report (SAR).

“The SAR is prepared by the Atomstroyexport and Atomenergoproekt (AEP) of Russia. It is a proprietary document which NPCIL is holding in a fiduciary capacity and cannot be shared with anybody without the consent of the Atomstroyexport and AEP,” SK Jain, chairman and managing director of NPCIL, told a news agency.

Stating that the SAR runs into over 10,000 pages in about 35 volumes, NPCIL has told the CIC that it is willing to show a copy of SAR to it so that it can come to a conclusion as to why the document is classified as proprietary document.

NPCIL charged the CIC of not following a due process of law before pronouncing its order April 30, 2012, under which NPCIL was asked to share by May 25 the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project’s (KNPP) Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the SAR with SP Udayakumar, an applicant under the Right to Information Act.

The CIC had also asked it to upload the two reports on the company’s website by May 30.

While NPCIL has shared the SER with Udayakumar – the coordinator of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) spearheading the movement against the KNPP – it has appealed to the CIC to modify its April 30 order on the grounds that it is holding the SAR in a fiduciary capacity for the Russian equipment supplier and also that due notification procedure was not followed.

NPCIL is putting up the project at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district around 650 km from here with Russia supplying the entire equipment, including the nuts and bolts, for the reactors and other related systems.

He said the report was prepared by a large number of Russian agencies the cost of which is borne by Atomstroyexport.

According to Jain, the results as claimed in the reports are checked by NPCIL on its computers and also during the cold and hot runs (trial run) of the reactor.

“While giving clearance to KNPP, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) prepares various reports and some are on its website which anybody can access,” Jain said.

Jain has already written to the Atomstroyexport’s president seeking its concurrence in sharing the SAR with Udayakumar and also uploading it on its website.

According to Jain, NPCIL was not informed by the CIC about Udayakumar’s appeals against the company’s decision to turn down g his requests for the two documents.

It was only on March 27, 2012, that NPCIL received a notice from the CIC with a direction to address the CIC through video conference April 23, 2012.

NPCIL contends that CIC has not followed the normal procedure in hearing the appeals while deciding on the matter and its April 30 order needs to be reviewed and modified.

Jain agrees with PMANE’s charge that the SER is illegible, but he disagrees that it is incomplete.

“The SER was prepared several years ago. It was a typed document and we photocopied it. The full report runs into several hundreds of pages containing several proprietary data. Hence, what will be given out will be the executive summary,” Jain said.

He said the SER will be mostly uploaded on NPCIL’s website on Saturday.

“NPCIL has blanked out several pages of the SER without any reason. Logically, SER will not have any information related to reactor design. It should supply the full report,” Udayakumar told a news agency from Idinthakarai near Kudankulam.

IANS