‘Kudankulam plant safe, govt can make it operational’

“The apprehensions about public safety and environmental concerns have been allayed in view of the unanimous expert opinion.” said the apex court.

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu is safe and there is no basis to say that it will have adverse impact on the environment and people living near the site, the Supreme Court said bringing the protracted litigation on the project to an end and clearing the deck to make it operational.

A bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra said that nuclear plants are the need of the hour and they are required for sustained economic development of the country.

“Justification for establishing KKNPP at Kudankulam, therefore has been vindicated and all safety and security measures have already been taken, necessary permissions and clearances have been obtained from all statutory authorities,” according to the bench.

“Apprehension expressed by some sections of the public that if the units are commissioned or put into operation, it will have far reaching consequences, not only on the present generation, but also on the future generation, of the possible radioactive effects of the units, in our view has no basis,” according to it.

The apex court said that apprehension expressed by few people cannot be a ground for scrapping the project which is needed for larger welfare and public interest of people of this country.

“Apprehension, however, legitimate it may be, cannot override the justification of the project. Nobody on this earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny. But once the justification test is satisfied, the apprehension test is bound to fail,” the bench said.

The apex court said all expert bodies are unanimous in their opinion that KKNPP has fully satisfied all safety norms to safeguard the human life, property and environment which will allay the fears and apprehensions expressed by the people living in and around Kudankulam.

“For setting up the project, the project proponent has taken all safety requirements in site and off site and has followed the code of practices laid down by AERB, based on nationally and internationally recognized safety methods,” the bench said.

It said that nuclear energy is an important element in India’s energy mix for sustaining economic growth and the country can not remain as nuclear isolated state.

“Nuclear energy is, therefore, considered to be a viable source of energy and it is necessary to increase country’s economic growth. Nuclear energy is now considered in India as a sustainable source of energy and India cannot afford to be a nuclear isolated nation, when most of the developed countries consider it as a major source of energy for their economic growth,” according to the the bench.

The bench said that the nuclear plant is not going to negate the right to life of people living around the project but will achieve a larger public interest.

“Electricity is the heart and soul of modern life, a life meant not for the rich and famous alone but also for the poor and down trodden. They should also have an adequate means of livelihood, job opportunities for which we have to set up Industries and commercial,” it said.

“Public money running into crores and crores rupees has already been spent for the development, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people and hence, we have to put up with such minor inconveniences, minor radiological detriments and minor environmental detriments in our lives because the benefits we reap from KKNPP are enormous since nuclear energy remains as an important element in India’s energy mix which can replace a significant part of fossil fuels like coal, gas oil etc,” according to it.

SC notice to Russia on Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant liability exemption

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the central government on a PIL challenging the exemption to Russia from any liability under the nuclear liability act in the event of any accident in Unit 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

The petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has sought the declaration that irrespective of any agreement, it (Russia) might have with Indian government, Russia would be bound by the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, in the event of any accident at the plant.

A bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra issued notice in respect of Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP which were exempted under the agreement between India and Russia.

Russian was granted waiver from any civil liability under the act on the grounds that the agreement for the supply of Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP was signed in 2008.

The court issued notice after senior counsel Jayant Bhushan told the court that the agreement exempting Russia from any liability has inherently dangerous implications and it was a settled law that all “agreements/undertaking (that are) in conflict of the law or public policy are void to the extent of the said conflict”.

As court issued notice, it noted that the exemption give to Russia was only in respect of the Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP and not in respect of Unite 3 and 4.

To a query from the court, the Attorney General G. Vahanvati said that Kudankulam reactors 3 and 4 were covered by the liability law.

The court also said that the earlier petition by the NGO Common Cause and other eminent citizens challenging the constitutional validity of the nuclear liability law itself be tagged and heard along with this case.

In the earlier petition challenging the constitutional validity of the act, notice was issued March 16, 2012, to examine the constitutional validity of the act that limits the liability to Rs 1,500 crores.

The court also asked the government to file an affidavit on the disaster management and rehabilitation of people living around the KNPP.

Bhushan told that court that under the 1989 environmental clearance, the union environment and forests ministry directed that exclusion zone (where no person can reside) must be of two km.

The government has unilaterally modified it to be 1.6 km, and so violation of an essential condition would make the clearance void, he contended.

As the court directed the listing of the matter next week, it said that it would also examine the environmental and safety aspects of the plant.

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.