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)

No plan to dump nuclear waste at Kolar: Narayanasamy

In the Prime Minister’s Office the Union Minister of State V Narayanasamy said that Nuclear waste from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) will not be stored in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in Karnataka.

Queried by reporters about Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) planning to store the nuclear waste from KNPP in KGF, Narayanasamy refuted claims that the waste would be sent to Kolar Gold Fields.

Citing discussions with K.H. Muniyappa, member of the Lok Sabha representing Kolar, and also with officials of his department, Narayanasamy stressed that nuclear waste would not be taken to Kolar.

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is protesting the setting up of two 1,000 MW nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, around 650 km from here, has charged that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has not shared basic information on storage of spent fuel from KNPP at KGF.

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.

Amnesty demands end to police force against Kudankulam protesters

Amnesty Friday demanded an end to the use of police force against “peaceful protesters” agitating against a nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Terming the death of person in police firing on Monday as “a clear example of excessive use of force by the police”, Amnesty demanded an immediate halt to the use of force against the protestors and an “impartial probe into all reports of police violations”.

Amnesty International India’s chief executive G. Ananthapadmanabhan demanded the police drop “false charges against protestors and release those individuals who have been arrested on such charges”.

“The people of the villages around Kudankulam must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly without fear of violence or harassment,” he said, according to a statement.

The villagers are protesting against the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) setting up two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian help at Kudankulam which they fear will jeopardise their safety.

 

 

SC refuses to stop fuel loading in Kudankulam plant

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the fuel loading of the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam. The apex court will hear the matter on next Thursday. Earlier on the day, hundreds of people from Tamil Nadu’s Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), stood in the sea water to give expression to their anger at moves to load uranium fuel in one of the two reactors.

Buffeted by the sea waves, the villagers say they will carry out their ‘jal satyagraha’, or peaceful water protest, till 6 pm.

“We will stay in the sea, we will protest against the loading of uranium fuel in one of the reactors. No one can stop us from protesting,” Immaculate, one among the many agitators standing in waist-deep sea water, said.

Forming a human chain in the sea, the villagers from around the Kudankulam nuclear plant followed a similar ‘jal satyagraha’ in Madhya Pradesh against the Omkareshwar Dam on the Narmada.

“Any kind of satyagraha where people (willing to) take their lives is not an ordinary protest. It is a non-violent appeal to the powers that be and the power holders who must really listen to people,” social activist Medha Patkar told a TV channel.

“I think even the Constitution says that people’s consent is necessary. Forcible eviction in the name of progress  for development or power is absolutely not understandable and it is not justifiable,” she added.

Emphasising that KNPP should not be pushed, she said: “Talk to the people, hold dialogue until they are convinced of not only safety… but all issues of economical, social and politics related to nuclear powers.”

On Wednesday, protestors ended their 48-hour relay fast in Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli district to protest police use of teargas shells and batons to disperse crowds and the constabulary conducting house-to-house searches.

The over one year-long protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power project turned violent Monday, leaving one agitator dead in police firing in Tuticorin district and several injured in a police baton charge.

India’s atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian help at Kudankulam since 2001.

Villagers under the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) banner have opposed the project for the past one year, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan March 2011.

Three days ago, Madhya Pradesh government agreed to give land as compensation and reduce the height of Omkareshwar Dam, as the protestors in Khandwa district stood in neck-deep water from Aug 25 to block the dam work.

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.

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

Anti-nuclear activists to continue protests at Kudankulam

Anti-nuclear activists have claimed that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) clearance to load enriched uranium fuel in the first 1,000 MW reactor at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) is a violation of the atomic regulator’s commitment to the court.

Referring to the batch of petitions filed in the Madras High Court against the project, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) in a statement Saturday said: “The AERB has given assurance to the Madras High Court that the post-Fukushima taskforce’s recommendations would be fully implemented in all the nuclear installations in India and that no fuel loading decision at the KNPP would be taken until then.”

“The current permission to load fuel at KNPP is a gross violation of that commitment made at the court and the sentiments of the struggling people,” PMANE added.

The petitions have been filed challenging the legality and appropriateness of the environmental clearance given to KNPP.

“The struggling people will do whatever democratically possible to oppose the authoritarian and illegal decision of the Indian nuclear establishment,” PMANE said.

According to PMANE, the police force in and around Kudankulam has been increased after the AERB’s nod to load fuel.

“The ruling AIADMK that takes up Tamil people’s issues and causes with the central government is letting us down with this most important issue that will have disastrous impact on our natural resources, our people’s health and livelihood and the well-being of our future generations,” the statement said.

According to PMANE, Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa must decide if this is the “deadly and shameful legacy that she wants to leave with the people of Tamil Nadu”.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two reactors of 1,000 MW each with Russian technology at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

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