HC tells Tamil Nadu to drop cases against Kudankulam naysayers

madras hcThe Madras High Court Monday directed the Tamil Nadu government to abide by the Supreme Court direction to withdraw cases filed against those opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).

The court, however, refused to stay the functioning of the power plant.

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has been protesting against the project, welcomed the judgment and hoped that the state government would withdraw the cases soon.

City-based advocate P. Pugalenthi filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to know what action the state government had taken to comply with the Supreme Court direction to withdraw all cases filed against the protestors, so that peace and normalcy was restored.

The apex court said that after normalcy was restored, steps should be taken to educate the people about the necessity of the project, which is in the interest of the nation, particularly Tamil Nadu.

According to Pugalenthi, more than 300 cases have been filed by the Tirunelveli police against the protestors over a period of 650 days.

He said the number of cases is less than the actual number of people charged, as police clubbed thousands of people in a single case.

Reacting to the high court verdict, M. Pushparayan, a key person in PMANE, told IANS: “We welcome the court verdict. We hope the state government will withdraw the cases at the earliest.”

He said several cases had been filed against the protestors under the heads of waging war against the nation, and sedition.

“The KNPP is a civil nuclear power project. How can the police file cases for sedition and waging war against the nation against the protestors? For that matter, even the Tamil Nadu government has stalled gas pipeline and gas exploration projects in the state after farmers protested,” Pushparayan said.

India’s atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (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 banner of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), have been opposing the project.

City-based environmental activist G. Sundarrajan filed a case in the apex court demanding that the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the central environment and forests ministry, Tamil Nadu government and the state pollution control panel.

(Source: IANS)

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)

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)

Plea on Kudankulam project filed in Delhi High Court

A plea was filed in the Delhi High Court against the department of atomic energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) for not sharing details related to Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu under the transparency law, a petitioner said Saturday.

The plea was filed Friday for allegedly not abiding with an order of the Central Information Commission to share the site evaluation report (SER) and the safety analysis report (SAR) relating to the Kudankulam project, said the petitioner.

“The CIC had ordered NPCIL to share the SER and SAR by May 25. But till date the SAR has not been shared. The NPCIL gave me some sheets of paper said to be executive summary of SER. Hence this petition,” S.P. Udayakumar, petitioner and coordinator of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), told IANS by phone from Idinthakarai in Tirunelveli district.

In April this year, the CIC ordered the NPCIL to release the SER and SAR by May 25 and upload both the reports on its website.

According to Udayakumar, both the reports did not relate to either national security or anything protected under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The reports related to geography, environment, meteorology and geology and have a huge bearing on public health and safety, he said.

While the NPCIL shared the SER with Udayakumar, it appealed to the CIC to modify its April 30 order on the grounds that it was holding the SAR in a fiduciary capacity for the Russian equipment supplier and also that due notification procedure was not followed.

The NPCIL is building the power project at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, with Russia supplying the entire equipment for the reactors and other related systems.

The Madras High Court is also expected to pronounce its decision on a batch of cases against the project.

The government Wednesday told parliament that the first unit of the project was scheduled to be operational by October. The two 1,000 MW units of the project were initially scheduled to be completed in December 2008.

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.