Kudankulam nuclear power plant : the unsettled queries


First Published: Wed, Jun 05 2013. livemint
On 6 May, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking to halt the commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu till the implementation of key additional safety measures recommended after the catastrophic Fukushima accident of 2011. The court’s argument was that the project is “part of the national policy” and it “is not for courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfilment of a policy, is fair”. Regardless of one’s opinion about that assertion, what is disturbing about the judgement is that it ventured well beyond its brief and commented on areas that were outside its provenance.
The first set of comments relate to the idea that nuclear power is “an important element in India’s energy mix” and that the risks involved are justified by the benefits. For a source that constitutes 2.3% of India’s electricity generation capacity to be described as important is, of course, questionable. More to the point, this endorsement of nuclear power is at odds with the larger argument about courts not taking a stance on policies. If the apex court cannot weigh in on a policy decision, it’s in an even worse position to decide on India’s energy mix or if the expenditure so far justifies people having “to put up” with “minor inconveniences”, “minor radiological detriments” and “minor environmental detriments”.
In a second set of comments based on various documents and safety codes laid out by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the court “notice(d) that adequate and effective protection measures are in place”. The problem here is that the court’s confidence in the effectiveness of protection measures does not comport well with the actual performance of AERB, in particular its lack of independence and its inability, and perhaps its unwillingness, to force the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL) to undertake stringent safety measures. The government’s efforts at constituting the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA), to “preserve the functional independence of the regulatory board”, is indicative of the problems with the setup.
The most pertinent illustration of AERB’s weaknesses is its actions on Kudankulam. Even though AERB committee set up following Fukushima “to review the safety of Indian NPPs (nuclear power plants) against external events of natural origin” came out with some sensible safety recommendations, when push came to shove, AERB permitted loading of fuel even though these recommendations had not been fully implemented in Kudankulam. None other than a former chairperson of AERB, A. Gopalakrishnan, has termed this decision “a total volte-face…and contrary to the spirit and recommendations of AERB post-Fukushima safety evaluation committee”. By endorsing NPCIL and AERB’s decisions, albeit with conditions, the apex court’s judgement might further entrench the lacunae in NPCIL’s safety culture (see the description in my recent book The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India).
Inexplicably, the court’s decision makes no mention of a devastating report from last year by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, the body mandated to “promote accountability, transparency and good governance”, on the subordinate legal status of AERB and its multiple failings to ensure safety of nuclear installations in the country. CAG observed that AERB had no effective independence from the department of atomic energy (DAE). Of the 3,200 recommendations by AERB’s safety review committee for operating plants, DAE and related organizations had not complied with 375, with 137 recommendations from 2004 or earlier.
The reliance on just the nuclear establishment’s testimony demonstrates myopia regarding a very basic matter—the lack of trust regarding AERB. The situation for any regulatory agency is like that of Pompeia, Julius Caesar’s wife, of whom, Caesar is supposed to have said, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. Public suspicion about AERB and its lack of independence is justifiably high. At least until the regulatory structure is completely overhauled, the court’s call for “safety standards in which public can have full confidence” cannot be fulfilled.
The chances of such a major overhaul are, unfortunately, slim. The proposed fix—replacing AERB with a new NSRA—won’t work. As currently envisioned, many of the key processes involving NSRA’s appointment, policy setting and budgetary allocation will continue to be controlled, in effect, by the Atomic Energy Commission. As CAG observed last year, the “fact that the chairman, AEC and the secretary, DAE are one and the same…negates the very essence of institutional separation of regulatory and non-regulatory functions”. Further, there is little nuclear expertise outside the DAE parivar to constitute an independent NSRA. Developing such expertise requires a decade or two of deliberate effort, which is so far missing.
For the reasons mentioned above and many more, the court’s decision cannot settle the contentious dispute over Kudankulam, or the larger questions about the expansion of nuclear energy in the country. That is still a matter for democratic debate. And all the familiar problems with nuclear energy—including high costs, susceptibility to catastrophic accidents, and the unsolved problem of dealing with radioactive waste—should play a role in that debate.

M.V. Ramana is with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

——–
M. V. Ramana
The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India

 

Supreme Court Verdict on Kudankulam shocking


 

NEW DELHI, May 23, 2013

 

“Verdict on Kudankulam shocking”

 

Mohammad Ali

 

 

Activists and experts under the platform of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament & Peace (CNDP) have termed the Supreme Court’s go-ahead to the controversial nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu “shocking” and “absurd”.

 

Arguing that the verdict will go down in history as one of the “black” judgments of the Court, Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan said: “It is an unfortunate and a terrible judgment which shows the establishmentarian mindset of the SC judges, accepting whatever the Government presents, especially in the context of this mindless rush towards nuclear energy.”

 

The apex court in the first week of this month gave a green signal to the commissioning of the largest nuclear power plant of the country arguing that in order to “sustain rapid economic growth, it is necessary to double the supply of energy. Energy tariff is also increasing, and nuclear power in the long run will be much cheaper than other forms of energy”.

 

Mr. Bhushan underscored that transgressing from the actual prayers in the petition, the apex court completely overlooked brazen violation of official safety norms by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. He also countered the logic of cheaper energy through nuclear power. Mr. Bhushan said nuclear power was the “most expensive” way of producing electricity as “there are large number of hidden costs in producing electricity through nuclear power which the court didn’t take into account.” He said the apex court also did not take into account that the AERB was not an independent body as it was just a part of the Department of Atomic Energy.

 

Kumar Sundaram from CNDP highlighted that the petitioners, concerned at the huge negative impacts of the power plant, had approached the apex court, highlighting serious issues such as recent scams allegedly involving Russian Company ZiO-Podolsk’s supply of sub-standard equipment to nuclear power plant at Kudankulam and violation of the AERB’s reactor sitting norms.

 

In their petition, the concerned groups had also raised the non-compliance with the 17 post-Fukushima safety recommendations by a special AERB committee, besides undermining of several processes of Environmental Impact Assessment and Coastal Regulatory Zone clearance and flouting of the mandate for evacuation exercises and emergency preparedness drills, Mr. Sundaram added. While delivering the verdict the Court “sidestepped all these violations and virtually affirmed all the myths we have been contesting all along. If you read the SC judgment it is like the violation has not taken place at all,” he added. Criticising the judgment, eminent journalist and founding member of CNDP Praful Bidwai also demanded time-bound implementation of the 15 cautionary guidelines proposed by the apex court, especially the one regarding the withdrawal of bogus cases against those involved in the movement against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

 

 

 

The Supreme Quash Court of India


Dianuke.org

Dr. Surendra Gadekar

Surendra Gadekar

A well-known Indian anti-nuclear activist and physicist, Gadekar lives in the remote tribal village of Vedchhi near the Kakrapar atomic power plant in the western Indian state of Gujarat. There, with his wife, a physician, he runs a Gandhian school for young activists and monitors the Indian nuclear industry, conducting surveys of power plants, uranium mines, and nuclear-testing facilities to determine the effect on the public’s health.

In 1987, he founded Anumukti, a journal devoted to establishing a non-nuclear India.

He can be contacted atanumukti@gmx.net
Old issues of Anumukti can be downloaded HERE.

Many people in India have a deep faith in the legal system. They believe that the courts provide justice. Very often, whenever some new nuclear project is in the works, the first thing one hears is, “Let us go to the courts.” Though invariably these attempts have ended in disappointments, the faith abides. Sordid tales of corruption amongst the judiciary have shaken it somewhat, but deep down most feel that in the Supreme Court at least, their concerns will get a fair hearing and once the truth is known, justice shall prevail. Satyameva Jayate.

I have somehow never shared this faith in the judicial process. Maybe it is the anarchist in me but I have always been sceptical of the wisdom of the judges. Two recent judgements of the Supreme Court in cases related to nuclear matters have only reinforced this scepticism. I have seriously begun to doubt, if the honourable judges do read and understand their own judgements. To illustrate my point let us consider the judgement in the case of G. Sundarrajan vs The Union of India & others (The Koodankulam case)

At the very beginning of the judgement itself the honourable judges write;

We are in these appeals concerned with an issue of considerable national and international importance, pertaining to the setting up of a nuclear power plant in the South-Eastern tip of India, at Kudankulam in the State of Tamil Nadu. The incidents occurred in Three Miles Island Power Plant USA, Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR, Fukoshima, Japan, Union Carbide, Bhopal might be haunting the memory of the people living in and around Kudankulam, leading to large-scale agitation and emotional reaction to the setting up of the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and its commissioning.

The nature of potential adverse effect of ionizing radiation, adds to fears and unrest which might not have even thought of by Enrico Fermi a noble laureate in physics in 1938, who was responsible for the setting up of the first Nuclear reactor in a Doubles quash Court at Slagg Field, at the Chicago University, USA.”

Let me first of all clarify that my role while quoting the judgement is purely that of a cut-paste artist. I have not added or subtracted even a comma or corrected the spellings. So those amongst you, dear readers, who have any problems with the English in the text, should take up the matter directly with the authors themselves. I shall only direct your attention to a portion of the last sentence, in fact, towards the Doubles quash Court at the Slagg Field at Chicago University, USA. A minor detail first: It is the University of Chicago and not Chicago University. Second, there is no Slagg Field there. A quick glance at wikipedia confirms it to be Stagg Field. But what takes the cake, is the “Doubles quash Court”. It is of course well known that Fermi built the first atomic pile underneath the squash court at the University of Chicago and that squash is a ball game like tennis played inside a room either by two (singles) or by four(doubles) players. It was previously known as racquets. Pakistanis have been world beaters at this sport with Jehangir Khan being a real legend. But what is quash? Specially Doubles quash. A look at the dictionary comes up with three possibilities:

1. to subdue forcefully and completely; put down; suppress

2. to annul or make void (a law, decision, etc.)

3. (Law) to reject (an indictment, writ, etc.) as invalid

Alas, nothing at all on Doubles quash. Maybe the two (doubles?) learned judges through this Freudian slip are giving an early indication of what they intend to do with people’s aspirations for justice.

I can sense a certain remonstration amongst you, dear readers at all this. Why make such a song and dance about something that might actually be just a typo. So, let it pass although I do think that three mistakes in just half a sentence in the opening paragraph itself in a judgement on an issue of international importance, is something unworthy of what one expects of the Supreme Court of India.

Going further on page 9 and 10 we have,

As a sequel to that national policy, the Central Government, with the active cooperation of AEC, BARC, NPCIL, AERB etc., have already set up about twenty operating power reactors in the country with installed nuclear capacity of 4780 MWe, which have been commissioned over the last four decades from the year 1969 to 2011.

Over and above, India has now set up two PHWRs of VVER based NPPs (2 X 1000 MWe) at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu with the co-operation of Russian Federation which is the subject matter of this litigation.”

It is entirely understandable if a novice gets confused in this alphabet soup. But since the learned judges themselves call it as “the subject matter of this litigation,” one would at least expect that they would know that PHWR and VVER refer to two entirely different reactor types and calling PHWR of VVER based NPP is just absurd. PHWR stands for Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor while VVER are the initials in Russian of what might be translated as Water-water Energised Reactor. A pressurized heavy water reactor is better known as CANDU standing for Canadian Deuterium Uranium reactor. As the name implies, it uses natural uranium as fuel and heavy water both as a moderator as well as the coolant. VVER on the other hand uses enriched uranium as fuel and ordinary natural water as both moderator and coolant. Most Indian reactors till now except for the first two at Tarapur are CANDU types. The Indian atomic energy establishment does not like the name CANDU since it refers to the Canadian origin of the design and rather prefers PHWR of Indian design.

During the entire text of the judgement, the judges place an extraordinary reliance on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) a toothless lapdog regulatory body. Although it would be wrong to say that every page refers to AERB, the total number of references 126 in a 247 page report (more than once in two pages), does illustrate the dependence of the judges on this fig-leaf of a regulator. Even the Government of India having realized following Fukushima the uselessness of AERB as a regulator has decided to constitute a new regulatory body but the faith of the judges in the effectiveness of AERB as a regulator remains strong. However, AERB has no previous experience of regulating a VVER reactor. More relevant is the fact that DAE and NPCIL care two hoots for what ever the AERB manuals may contain.

On pages 14 and 15, the judges are very particular to point out that it is not their province to decide on the correctness of a policy. That is strictly for the parliament to decide. They quote many other legal luminaries to bolster this argument.

It is not for Courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfillment of a policy, is fair. Reason is obvious, it is not the province of a court to scan the wisdom or reasonableness of the policy behind the Statute.

Lord Macnaughten in Vacher & Sons v. London Society of Compositors, (1913)AC107(118)HL has stated:

Some people think the policy of the Act unwise and even dangerous to the community……But a Judicial tribunal has nothing to do with the policy of any Act which it may be called upon to interpret. That may be a matter for private judgment. The duty of the Court, and its only duty is to expand the language of the Act in accordance with the settled rules of construction.”

12. In CCSU v. Min. (1984) 3 All ER 935 (954) HL, it was held that it is not for the Courts to determine whether a particular policy or particular decision taken in fulfillment of that policy

are fair. They are concerned only with the manner in which those decisions have been taken, if that manner is unfair, the decision will be tainted with that Lord Diplock labels as ‘procedural impropriety’.

13. This Court in M.P. Oil Extraction and Anr. v. State of M.P. and Ors., (1997 )7SCC 592 held that unless the policy framed is absolutely capricious, unreasonable and arbitrary and based on mere ipse dixit of the executive authority or is invalid in constitutional or statutory mandate, court’s interference is not called for. Reference may also be made in the judgment of this Court in M/s. Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. v. Delhi Administration & Ors., (2001) 3 SCC 635; Dhampur Sugar

(Kashipur) Ltd. v. State of Uttranchal and Ors. (2007) 8 SCC 418 and Delhi Bar Association v. Union of India and Ors., (2008) 13 SCC 628.

We are therefore firmly of the opinion that we cannot sit in judgment over the decision taken by the Government of India, NPCIL etc. for setting up of KKNPP at Kudankulam in view of the Indo-Russia agreement. Courts also cannot stand in the way of the Union of India honouring its

Inter-Governmental Agreement entered into between India and Russia.

But if the judges really believed in this how come on page 11 one finds them waxing eloquent on the merits of nuclear energy?

One of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significant part of the fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas etc. Oil and natural gas resources might exhaust themselves.”

Does the injunction against making judgements on policy matters hold only if the policy is not to the judge’s liking? What makes this pontification all the more disgusting is the fact that each of the adjectives used to describe nuclear energy; clean, safe, reliable and competitive is not applicable to nuclear energy at all. Nuclear energy is not clean, not safe, not reliable and certainly not competitive. Even with all the corruption involved in the coalgate scandal, coal is still considerably cheaper than nuclear. The judges in exhibiting their complete ignorance of the facts concerning nuclear energy just show the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done in educating the so-called educated classes.

As early as October 2010, we have had the spectacle of the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, Mr Narayanswami making periodic announcements regarding early start to the Koodankulam electricity generation. That has just not happened in the last three years and the reason for the delay is not just public agitation. The fact is that there are serious deficiencies in the equipment supplied for the plant, but the judges have totally ignored this reality and chosen to rely on the worthless assurances of DAE and its lapdog regulator AERB.

In case you are still not convinced of my assertion regarding the judges being ignorant of their own judgement, there is yet another gem in the judgement. On page 192 the judges categorically declare, “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21. ”

Now what can be clearer than this. The judges have already by now (page 192) made absolutely clear that they consider nuclear energy to be in the larger public interest of the community. But according to the statement above, that does not matter. Thousands of individuals have expressed and continue to express their apprehensions of violations of their human rights and the right to life guaranteed under article 21 and whatever invisible public good there might be in nuclear energy, that has to give way according to the learned judges to these apprehensions.

Yet, just a page later on page 194, the judges sing an entirely different tune.

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. Apprehension is something we anticipate with anxiety or fear, a fearful anticipation, which may vary from person to person.

The learned judges have by this u-turn completely lost me and I suspect anybody who reads the judgement seriously. While the project has to give way to people’s apprehensions, the apprehensions cannot override the project. I suppose I shall have plenty of time to ponder on this dilemma and on the wisdom of the judges of the Supreme doubles quash Court when I don’t give way to a truck and the truck overrides me.

 

PRESS RELEASE- Supreme Court Verdict on Koodankulam: A Travesty of Justice


PRESS RELEASE

Mumbai, May 15 , 2013

The Supreme Court’s verdict on Koodankulam rests on three hugely contested premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the  nuclear establishment to perform its role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should be subordinated to the estblishment’s plans. Not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable propositions, they  have also completely overlooked Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

It is unfortunate that the Court, far transgressing the actual prayers of the petition, has completely overlooked the brazen violations by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) of their own norms. The petitioners has highlighted serious issues such as the recent scam in Russia involving ZiO-Podolsk’s supply of sub-standard equipments to Koodankulam, violation of the AERB’s reactor-siting norms, undermining of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearances, flouting of the mandated  emergency preparedness and evacuation exercises, the AERB’s 17 post-Fukushima recommendations etc.

The DAE’s complete hegemony on nuclear expertise in India and its proximity to the country’s top political leadership has been misused by it to mislead the Supreme Court. Extensive citation of the AERB’s safety codes for Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors  (PHWRs) in the judgement whereas the Koodankulam reactors are Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) is a glaring example of this. The verdict also highlights the unfortunate extent to which our democratic institutions, including the judiciary, have come to unquestionably accept the growth-centric model of ‘development’ which is being contested by impoverished and marginalised sections who are bearing its brunt.

We demand that the NPCIL exercises maximum transparency and accountability in implementing the 15 guidelines issued by the Court. The Court’s order to withdraw police cases against the agitators vindicates our position that the government used undemocratic and brutal repression to silence the peaceful protests in Koodankulam.We demand that these fabricated charges be withdrawn at once.

 

issued by: The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) , a  national network of various organisations along with Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti,Madban Janhit Seva Samiti,Jaitapur Anuurja Prakalp Virodhi Samiti and various other organisations and individuals

Join us on facebook:- https://www.facebook.com/groups/109358664039/

To be updated on nuclear issues :- http://cndpindia.org/ ,  http://www.dianuke.org/,

For more information contact- Vivek Sundara (CNDP) -9821062801 /Kamayani Bali Mahabal ( CNDP)  9820749204

 

AERB’s sloppy sarkari reply on Koodankulam


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
April 19, 2013
koodankulam@yahoo.com

Untrustworthy AERB and Its Sloppy Sarkari Reply for the Koodankulam Fiasco

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has finally woken up, it
seems. They have just acknowledged with great awkwardness: “…during
testing of thousands of valves installed in the plant, the
performances of four valves of a particular type were found deficient.
As corrective measures, the valve components are being replaced by
NPCIL and their performance is further being subjected to regulatory
review. Subsequent clearances will be granted by AERB only after a
satisfactory review.”

So, according to the AERB, it is a simple problem of just four valves
malfunctioning in the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). What
an irresponsible and disingenuous explanation to a very complex and
dangerous problem that is deeply mired in corruption, theft,
wastefulness, shoddiness and sheer inefficiency.

No one in India can have any kind of trust and confidence in the AERB
anymore. We would bring the attention of the Indian citizens to the
Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report No. 9/2012-13 on the
“Activities of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board” published in August
2012. It pointed out so many flaws and problems in the regulatory
mechanism of the atomic energy establishment in India.

This discredited agency’s sloppy sarkari reply begs many more
important questions:

[1] Were the first and the second “hydro tests” at KKNPP complete
failures then? Why doesn’t the AERB say anything about these tests?

[2] How did the AERB give clearance to the “initial fuel loading”
(IFL) with all these four valves malfunctioning?

[3] The PMANE posed the following question to AERB on January 28, 2013:
“Zio-Podolsk, owned by the Russian company Rosatom, is under
investigation in Russia for shoddy equipment it produced for several
nuclear plants in that country and abroad since 2007. It is suspected
that Zio-Podolsk used wrong type of steel (cheaper than the one
originally required) to produce equipment for nuclear plants, such as
steam generators. This company is said to have supplied several
equipment and parts to the KKNPP. Please give a list of those
equipment and parts that have been supplied by Zio-Podolsk to the
KKNPP units.”

The AERB replied on February 12, 2013 (No. AERB/RSD/RTI/Appl. No.
329/2013/2421) very evasively: “Selection of a company for supplying
any equipment to NPCIL, is not under the purview of AERB. However,
with respect to Quality Assurance (QA) during design, construction,
commissioning and operation, a set of well established AERB documents
on QA Codes and Guides are published and they were followed during the
safety review of KKNPP.”

If the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides … were
followed during the safety review of KKNPP,” how did the AERB team
fail to find out about these four valves earlier? Which AERB officials
are responsible for this valve malfunctioning oversight? Why did the
AERB have to wait until the former AERB chief, Dr. Gopalakrishnan,
spoke about the Koodankaulam project?

[4] Mr. R. S. Sundar, the site director of the KKNPP, has claimed that
“the NPCIL had placed orders for obtaining a range of components for
KKNPP from LG Electronics, South Korea, Alstom and VA Tech, France and
Siemens, Germany, apart from getting components from Russia” (P.
Sudhakar, “Kudankulam plant Director denies allegation,” The Hindu,
April 4, 2013). Although he lists all these foreign companies and
their host countries, Mr. Sundar carefully avoids the names of
Zio-Podolsk and Informteck from Russia. Does the AERB consider the
KKNPP as a Russian project or an international collaboration project?
Does the AERB have the complete list of all these various parts and
equipment? How were the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes
and Guides” followed during the safety review of all these various
parts and equipment from all different sources?

[5] Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, the former chief of the Atomic Energy
Commission, has publicly acknowledged now: “We sought an additional
safety mechanism well before the Fukushima disaster. The safety
mechanism consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be
altered and I feel this is the basic cause for delay.” According to
him, the valves were designed partially in India and Russia and
compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups
(http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1517314.ece).
Did the AERB authorize the alteration of the “original reactor
design”? If so, when did the AERB authorize it? What authorization
procedure was followed? And who in the AERB authorized the later
“refit” in the reactor? What was this “refit” all about?

[6] Izhorskiye Zavody, which is part of United Machinery Plants (OMZ)
holding, signed a contract with India for the construction of two
nuclear reactor bodies for Kudankulam’s station in 2002. They shipped
a new nuclear reactor body that would be the first power unit of
India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant to the city’s sea port. Yevgeny
Sergeyev, general director of Izhorskiye Zavody, said at a ceremony
sending off the reactor: “We were so sure of our partners that we
started to produce the first reactor bodies four months before the
official contract was signed.” Sergeyev said the reactor was completed
six months before deadline (The St Petersburg Times, 19 November 2004,
http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=2135). How were the
“well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides” followed
during the safety review of the reactor bodies? Is that why we found
belt-line welds much later in the RPVs in sharp contrast to the
original
design?

The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear
Supervision, Rostekhnadzor, claimed in 2009: “The main causes of
violations in the NPP construction works are insufficient
qualifications, and the personnel’s meagre knowledge of federal norms
and rules, design documentation, and of the technological processes of
equipment manufacturing. In particular, the top management of
Izhorskiye Zavody [supplier of RPV] have been advised of the low
quality of the enterprise’s products and have been warned that
sanctions might be enforced, up to suspending the enterprise’s
equipment production licence”
(http://www.gosnadzor.ru/osnovnaya_deyatelnost_slujby/otcheti-o-deyatelnosti-sluzhbi-godovie/).

As Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan has pointed out in response to the AERB’s
sloppy sarkari reply, “the AERB comes up with a very minimal and
partial admission. Their clarification has left out many other flaws,
including potential corrupt practices, lack of adequate quality
assurance, and total & unnecessary secrecy in safety regulation of
civilian nuclear plants.”

To sum up tersely, the AERB has no integrity or credibility and should
call off the Koodankulam project completely instead of explaining away
the dangerous issues involved in the project and making us all guinea
pigs to test the Indian nuclear establishment’s corruption,
inefficiency and black market procurement practices.

The Struggle Committee
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

Andhra Pradesh HC- stays land acquisition for Kovvada nuclear plant #goodnews


TNN | Mar 12, 2013

HYDERABAD: In a relief to protesting villagers, a two-member bench of the AP High Court on Monday restrained the state government from issuing any notification for acquiring land for setting up a nuclear power plant in Kovvada of Ranasthalam mandal in Srikakulam district.

The bench comprising acting Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Vilas V Afzalpurkar gave the interim stay on land acquisition in response to a public interest petition filed by Captain J Rama Rao, a social activist. Notices were issued to the state and the central governments to file their counters within two weeks.

‘Proposed N-plant poses threat to fishermen’s livelihood’ 

The petition challenged the very idea of setting up a nuclear power plant in the area and the consequent land acquisition proceedings launched by the state.

The proposed land acquisition for the nuclear power plant with six 1000 MW light water reactors to be set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India(NPCIL) will take away the livelihood of scores of fishermen and farmers apart from making the area uninhabitable, the petitioner contended.

“Since no clearance has been obtained from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the land acquisition notification issued by the state is an exercise in futility,” he said. Till today, the state and the Centre have not obtained clearance from the AERB but the state government is going ahead with its land acquisition process, he contended.

According to the petitioner, the writ petition was filed in the interests of environment and the rights of the poor and innocent people and to get justice for them. The Kovvada villagers have been on a relay hunger strike since December 18, 2012 against the proposed nuclear power plant. The state government issued GO No 42, dated November 1, 2012, approving the notification for acquisition of over 1,900 acres from Ramachandrapuram, Kotapalem and its hamlets, Jeeru Kovvada, Tekkali and Gudem areas.

According to the petition, the risk associated with the setting up of nuclear power plants cannot be compared with any other industry or project. In case of radiation leakage or accidents, the risk transcends not only local borders but also international borders. Further, the radiation can affect not only the present generation but also future generations, the petitioner said.

The judge while directing the authorities to file their counters directed the state not to issue 4(1) notification under the Land Acquisition Act.

 

Exclusive and Explosive : Public safety info not for public: DAE


Though the central information commission and the Bombay high court have both reiterated that public safety issues must be given precedence, the department of atomic energy (DAE) continues to reject RTI applications seeking information on public safety, citing this information as being of “strategic importance”.

In response to an application filed by DNA in October seeking information on the ground water contamination in areas close to a nuclear fuel complex, the DAE said: “The information on safety issues in respect of NFC, Hyderabad is of strategic importance.”

Yet another RTI application filed with nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on the same subject was rejected on the same ground. “The trend of rejecting is similar across all the nuclear establishments in the country,” said Arul Doss, a nuclear activist from Chennai who has filed several RTI applications with various nuclear power plants across the country.

In April 2012, the chief information commission (CIC) pulled up the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for rejecting an application seeking copies of a safety evaluation report of the Koodankulam reactors. The public information officer (PIO) said the security, strategic and scientific interests of the state would be compromised by the disclosure, but was unable to justify such reasoning, said the CIC order.

The CIC directed the PIO to furnish the information to the applicant and place it on its website before May 30, 2012. “Public authority’s [NPCIL] unwillingness to be transparent is likely to give citizens an impression that most decisions are taken in furtherance of corruption resulting in a serious trust deficit,” said the order.

As far back as 1996, hearing a PIL seeking disclosure regarding 90 issues pertaining to nuclear power plants highlighted by the AERB, the Bombay high court said information on safety violations cannot be denied to the public. Despite this order, DAE has been denying information on public safety.

NPCIL took more than three months to furnish information on safety issues pertaining to the power plant at Tarapore. This correspondent had to send at least eight e-mails besides several phone calls to get the information.

There are other cases where the DAE refused to part with information saying such records do not exist. Replying to an application seeking information on action taken by the nuclear regulator on a report prepared by former AERB chairman A Gopalakrishnan highlighting nuclear safety violations by nuclear power plants, the AERB on September 28, 2012, said it does not have any information on this.

This is despite court records that clearly suggest that DAE agreed in the Bombay high court to constitute a committee to look into the 90 nuclear safety violations raised in the report. Finally, after pursuing the matter with higher authorities, the information was provided to DNA.

“It is relevant to point out that the nuclear power plants are in the civilian sector and not in the defence sector. Therefore, the DAE’s argument that information about nuclear power plants cannot be furnished is flawed,” said BK Subbarao, a nuclear scientist.

DAE spokesperson SK Malhotra did not respond to queries sent by DNA to his official email id.

Dr Sreeramappa Chinnappa, an employee of NPCIL, has filed several RTI applications over the last couple of years seeking information about public health. In his letter, dated August 27, 2012, to the NPCIL chairman and managing director, Chinnappa said: “In spite of my repeated request, NPCIL is delaying and refusing to provide information. I have not received any communication either from CPIO or from Appellate Authority as per RTI Act time frame.”
ARTICLE URL: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_exclusive-public-safety-info-not-for-public-dae_1785681

 

Nuking peaceful protests: democracy is at stake in Koodankulam


 

Praful Bidwai at http://www.dianuke.org/

Even zealous supporters of nuclear power should logically concede three things to their opponents. First, after Fukushima, it’s natural for people everywhere to be deeply sceptical of the claimed safety of nuclear power, and for governments to phase out atomic programmes, as is happening in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and now Japan.

Second, nuclear power, like all technologies, should be promoted democratically, with the consent of the people living in the vicinity, and with scrupulous regard for civil liberties. And third, safety must be paramount in reactor construction and operation, with strict adherence to norms and full compliance with the rules laid down by an independent safety authority.

The way the Indian government has dealt with the opponents of the Koodankulam nuclear reactors being built in Tamil Nadu violates all three red lines. Rather than treat such opposition as natural, logical and an indication of citizens’ engagement with the world, the Department of Atomic Energy and its subsidiary Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd see it as a pathological condition to be cured by psychiatrists from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.

The government has all along demonised Koodankulam’s opponents. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, no less, vilified them as inspired by “foreign-funded” NGOs without citing an iota of evidence. The government even deported a German tourist living in a Rs200-a-day room, alleging he was “masterminding” and financing the agitation. This week, it summarily deported three Japanese activists who were planning to visit Koodankulam. All this shows official disconnect with reality. Globally, nuclear power was in retreat even before Fukushima. The number of operating reactors peaked 10 years ago, and their installed capacity has been falling since 2010. Nuclear’s share of global power generation has declined from its peak (17 percent) to about 11 percent.

Post-Fukushima, the global nuclear industry faces its worst-ever credibility crisis. With increasingly adverse public opinion, and rising reactor costs (which have tripled over a decade), it’ll probably go into terminal decline. Jeff Immelt of General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic equipment says, nuclear power is “really hard to justify”. However, India continues its Nuclear March of Folly and has unleashed savage repression against anti-nuclear protesters. Hundreds of FIRs have been lodged against several thousands of people in Koodankulam (according to one estimate, an incredible 55,000 people), and many are charged with sedition and waging war against the state – for organising protests without a single violent incident.

It’s hard to think of another occasion, including the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, or the 1992 Babri demolition, where the state has charged so many people with such grave offences. On September 10, the police launched a vicious lathi and tear-gas attack on peaceful protesters although they were obstructing nobody’s movement. The police literally drove many agitators into the sea, molested women, arrested scores and looted their houses. Police firing killed a fisherman.

A fact-finding team led by Justice BG Kolse-Patil and senior journalist Kalpana Sharma describes the Koodankulam situation as a “reign of terror”, marked by “extreme and totally unjustified” use of force, physical abuse, vindictive detention of 56 people, including juveniles, and targeting of women. Such thug-like police behaviour, it says, “has no place in a country that calls itself democratic”. Yet, repression of movements against destructive projects is becoming part of a deplorable pattern in India. No socially desirable project can be built on the ashes of citizens. This in and of itself is a strong reason to oppose the Koodankulam reactors.

Manmohan Singh last year suspended work at Koodankulam and promised to allay people’s apprehensions regarding safety. But he had no intention of doing so. The sarkari experts he appointed didn’t even bother to meet the people’s representatives or answer their queries about the site’s vulnerability to tsunamis, volcanic activity and earthquakes. People’s fears grew as NPCIL refused to share relevant information with them, including the Site Evaluation and the Safety Analysis Reports. Despite a Right to Information request, a legal petition and a parliament question, NPCIL failed to disclose the text of an Indo-Russian intergovernmental agreement, which reportedly absolves the reactors’ supplier of any liability for an accident.

This puts a disturbing question-mark over the official claim that the reactors are safe, and accidents are all but impossible. If so, why is the supplier evading liability? That brings us to the third factor mentioned above: NPCIL’s non-compliance with safety protocols, and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s approval for fuel-loading in breach of the own norms. This is a grim story. Last year, following Fukushima, the AERB set up under state orders a task force to suggest improvements in reactor safety. This made 17 recommendations, pertaining to freshwater and power backup, improved sensors and instrumentation, etc.

The Koodankulam plant is not compliant with as many as 11 of the 17. The AERB first told the Madras High Court that it wouldn’t permit fuel-loading unless full compliance was established. But within four days, it made an about-turn – probably under pressure from the government. As the comptroller and accountant general has established in a recent report, the AERB lacks independence and is totally subservient to the government. On August 10, it permitted NPCIL to start fuel loading. NPCIL has since been loading live nuclear fuel into the first reactor. This is wrong and dangerous, and shows reckless disregard for safety procedures.

The AERB is guilty of yet more safety violations. Its own rules say there must be absolutely no population in the “exclusion zone” covering a 1.6km radius from the plant, and that the population in the 5km area must be under 20,000. Now, as anyone who has been to Koodankulam will testify, a a tsunami rehabilitation colony, with 450 tenements, stands less than 1km from the plant. At least 40,000 people live within a 5km radius. The AERB, supposedly the public’s nuclear watchdog, has turned a blind eye to this. Equally disgraceful is its failure to enforce another rule which stipulates that no fuel-loading be permitted until an off-site emergency preparedness drill is completed within a 16km radius under the joint supervision of NPCIL, the district administration, the state government and the National Disaster Management Authority.

This involves full evacuation procedures, with prior warning, identification of routes, commandeering of vehicles, and clear instructions to the public. No such drill was ever conducted. And yet, the AERB cleared initial fuel-loading. This amounts to playing with the public’s life.

India is loath to move away from nuclear power although the world is abandoning it rapidly. The transition is fastest in the OECD countries, which account for 70 percent of the world’s 429 reactors. There are just two reactors under construction in the West. Both are mired in safety problems, long delays and 130 percent-plus cost overruns. Even France, which gets 80 percent of its electricity from atomic reactors – a fact the global nuclear industry repeats as if that were clinching proof of its own safety and reliability – will reduce its nuclear dependence to 50 percent by 2025.

As nuclear declines, global investment in clean, flexible renewable sources like wind and solar has grossed $1 trillion since 2004. Their costs are falling dramatically. Renewables are the future.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

 

Flunking Atomic Audits- CAG Reports and Nuclear Power


 

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Vol – XLVII No. 39, September 29, 2012 | M V Ramana

 

The recent Comptroller and Auditor General‘s report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and, more broadly, on nuclear safety regulation has highlighted many serious organisational and operational flaws. The report follows on a series of earlier CAG reports that documented cost and time overruns and poor performance at a number of nuclear facilities in the country. On the whole, the CAG reports offer a powerful indictment of the department of atomic energy and its nuclear plans.

M V Ramana (ramana@princeton.edu) is a physicist who works at the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security, both at Princeton University, on the future of nuclear power in the context of climate change and nuclear disarmament.

The new report (Report No 9 of 2012/13) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the acti­vities of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) could not have come at a more appropriate time (CAG 2012). Concern about nuclear safety has naturally increased significantly since the multiple accidents at the Fukushima Daichi ­nuclear reactors. The response of the ­Indian nuclear establishment and, more generally the Government of India, to Fukushima can largely be characterised as an attempt to placate people’s concerns about the potential for accidents at Indian nuclear facilities. One element in that strategy was to emphasise that safety regulation at the Nuclear Power Corporation’s (NPC) facilities was impeccable. The CAG report has essentially demo­lished this claim.

Independence of Regulator

A basic tenet of regulation is that the safety regulator must be independent of industry and government. Article 8 of the international Convention on Nuclear Safety, which India has signed and ratified, calls upon signatores to “take the appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organisation concerned with the promotion or utilisation of nuclear energy” (CNS 1994). The absence of such separation has been identified as one of the factors that led to the Fukushima accidents by the Independent Investigation Commission.1

India’s nuclear regulatory regime suffers from the same lack of effective separation. Despite India’s international commitments, awareness of best practices, and criticism by various outsiders, the CAG report pointed out, “the legal status of AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the central government, with powers delegated to it by the latter” (CAG 2012: vi).

At first glance the AERB does seem independent of the department of atomic energy (DAE) and the NPC. It reports to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) rather than the DAE. The problem, as the CAG observed, arises from the “fact that the chairman, AEC and the secretary, DAE are one and the same” and this fact ­“negates the very essence of institutional separation of regulatory and non-regulatory functions” (p 12). The chairman of the NPC is also a member of the AEC. ­Another significant constraint on the AERB’s activities is that the organisation “is dependent on DAE for budgetary and administrative support” (p 13). What all this means, in effect, is that despite all pretences and claims to the contrary by the DAE and its attendant institutions, the AERB lacks power and independence. As common experience would indicate, it is hard to criticise one’s boss or force action in ways that he or she does not want. Of the 3,200 recommendations by the AERB’s Safety Review Committee for Operating Plants, the DAE had not complied with 375, with 137 recommendations dating back to earlier than 2005 (p 42).2

The lack of separation is not an accident, but a choice made by the nuclear establishment. As early as the 1970s, Ashok Parthasarathi, a senior bureaucrat and science adviser to the prime minister, had suggested that the

inspection of all nuclear installations from the point of view of health and environmental safety should be administered by a body with a suitable name and located in department of science and technology, as that department had been assigned the national responsibility for ensuring the preservation of environmental quality (Parthasarathi 2007: 131-32).

But even the idea of having an external agency monitor its environmental record was not acceptable to the AEC, let alone having someone monitor safety in its facilities.

In the subsequent decades, many have emphasised the importance of having an effective and independent regulator, in particular, A Gopalakrishnan, the chairman of AERB from 1993 to 1996 (for example, Gopalakrishnan 1999). Gopalakrishnan has also recounted many instances where the DAE and NPC have actively interfered with the safety activities of the AERB. Others from AERB have tried to defend the board, its independence, and its ability to monitor safety (for ­example, Parthasarathy 2011). Unfortunately, the situation for any regulatory agency is like that of Pompeia, Julius Caesar’s wife, of whom, Caesar is supposed to have said, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. Now, the CAG report adds to public suspicion of the independence of the AERB and it is not going to be easy for the AERB to be seen as capable of effectively regulating nuclear power.

From the AERB to the NSRA

The situation described by the CAG might change with the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill of September 2011 being introduced in Parliament by the Government of India. Indeed, the DAE did state to the CAG “that the process of improving the existing legal framework for introducing greater clarity in respect of separation of legal responsibilities concerning promotional and regulatory functions had already been taken up”, mentioning the NSRA Bill (p 11). Essentially, the same argument has been offered by AERB secretary R Bhattacharya in response to the CAG report (Jog 2012).

Technically, that may be a valid defence, but just because the AERB is to be replaced by the NSRA – assuming, of course, that the government manages to get it through Parliament – should we be confident of the safety of the DAE’s nuclear facilities? The underlying problem highlighted by the CAG is not just the legal status, but one of effectiveness. And looking at the content of the bill and the context under which the NSRA has been created, it seems unlikely that it will create an effective separation between the regulatory authority and the nuclear establishment.

In the NSRA as has been envisioned, many of the key processes involved in ensuring effective regulation will continue to be controlled by the AEC. The power for crucial steps like the appointment of members is vested with the central government. But for most purposes, the authority empowered to act on behalf of the central government is the AEC. The AEC chairman will also be one of the key members of the Council of Nuclear Safety that will set the policies with respect to radiation and nuclear safety that will fall under the purview of the NSRA.

There is another problem that the CAG did not discuss. The AERB suffers from a lack of technical staff and technical facilities, and this lacuna has been exploited by the DAE (Ramana and Kumar 2010: 53). Further, there is little expertise outside the nuclear establishment on technical issues relating to nuclear facilities, and no proposed method of enhancing such independent expertise. For these reasons, there will continue to be cause for concern about nuclear safety in the country.

Plan Not, Care Not?

A different structural and institutional problem highlighted by the CAG report has to do with protection of workers from radiation. Earlier, each nuclear plant had a Health Physics Unit that was part of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). However, in 2009, these units were transferred from BARC to NPC. This “meant that the functions of monitoring of radiological exposure as well as the responsibility of radiological surveillance” is now with NPC – the operator of the reactors (p 45). In other words, “AERB had no direct role in conducting independent assessments and monitoring to ensure radiological protection of workers despite being the nuclear regulator of India” (p vii).

The CAG report also shows that the AERB has not exactly been particularly zealous about promoting nuclear safety, illustrating this through a plethora of examples. One is that it never fulfilled an official requirement from 1983 to prepare an overall nuclear and radiation safety policy, which would have given structure to practical radiation safety planning at lower levels. The AERB has not been proactive in participating in emergency planning exercises; the CAG notes that these exercises have highlighted ­inadequate emergency preparedness (p 61). Nor does the AERB have the mandate to take follow-up action with district or state authorities when it detects deficiencies in emergency preparedness (p 60).

The AERB has also not paid any attention to planning for decommissioning nuclear reactors. Nor has NPC. All nuclear plants in the country were operating without any decommissioning plans, including plants that are over 30 years old (p 65). The AERB did put out a safety manual on decommissioning in 1998, but neither the plants that were operating then nor the ones that were commissioned subsequently have produced a decommissioning plan. Now, on paper, each reactor that started operations after 1998 was required to submit such a plan before the AERB issued a construction or operating licence. This leaves two possibilities: The AERB did not insist on NPC following its regulations – or NPC did not bother to comply with the requirement, and there was not much AERB could do about it. Neither of these possibilities is comforting.

The CAG vs the DAE

Though this is the first time the CAG has looked at nuclear regulation, the agency has exposed various other problems with the DAE in its audits from earlier years. It is perhaps the most prominent government body to openly criticise several aspects of the DAE’s functioning. The few examples listed below should ­illustrate the agency’s ongoing monitoring of various facets of the DAE and how the nuclear establishment has fallen short on so many dimensions.

The trend started with the 1985-86 report, which included for the first time an audit of a nuclear power project (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1024).3 In what was to become a pattern, this first report documented cost and time overruns in the case of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS). Approved in 1965 at a cost of Rs 60 crore each, the capital cost more than doubled for each of the reactors, with substantial increases in 14 of 20 expenditure heads, and the projects were delayed by over eight years for each reactor. These “constituted inadequacies in planning of the projects rather than wages of development of indigenous technology” (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1026). Even with inadequate provisions for decommissioning, repairs, waste management, and so on, the CAG found that the rate of return on capital was only 3.5% and not the 12% expected of power projects.

A couple of years later, the CAG found a similar pattern of cost and construction time increases with the Narora reactor, noting that in 10 major heads of expenditure there had been cost overruns of 188% or more (CAG 1988). This was well before the reactor was commissioned, and the final cost figures were significantly higher. What was important was that the CAG’s conclusion that the revision of costs indicated that the project got “approved on unrealistic cost estimates” and its censure of the DAE saying, “Unrealistic cost estimates and optimistic time schedules make financial allocations and controls less meaningful” (CAG 1988).

Some years later, in 1993, the CAG studied yet another reactor – the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) – and found again not only the pattern of cost increases and time overruns, but also that its performance was wanting (CAG 1993). The CAG documented that by the time the reactor first became critical in 1985,4 the net time overrun had become 220% and the corresponding increase in cost had gone up by 164%. The CAG also described several of the incidents and accidents involving the FBTR during just the first five years of operation. These included a nitrogen leak in 1987, followed by “a complex mechanical interaction due to fuel handling error in the reactor damaged certain ‘in-vessel’ components” that took two years to rectify; and the failure of the load cell and damage to the Capsule Transfer Gripper (CTG) in 1989.

Over the years, the CAG has also documented cost increases, time overruns, and/or poor functioning with a number of other nuclear facilities. These include the Tuticorin (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1028-29), Baroda (CAG 1988), and Manuguru heavy water plants (CAG 1994),5 Dhruva research reactor (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1029), Waste Immobilisation Plant (WIP) and Solid Storage Surveillance Facility (S3F) at Tarapur (CAG 1996), the Nuclear Fuel Complex (CAG 1998), and the Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Plant at Kalpakkam (CAG 2008).

In 1999, the CAG audited another aspect of the DAE’s functioning: its propensity for making large-scale expansion plans. Such grandiose projections have been a staple of the DAE’s strategies to garner political and financial support (Ramana forthcoming). In 1984, the DAE drew up a plan to set up 10,000 MW of nuclear power by the year 2000. What actually materialised from the profile was shocking:

Against the targeted additional power generation of 940 MW by 1995-96, gradually increasing to 7,880 MW by 2001 AD, the actual additional generation of power under the profile as of March 1998 was nil in spite of having incurred an expenditure of Rs 5,291.48 crore” (CAG 1999: 20).

The implications of this abject failure to deliver for current projections of nuclear expansion are profound.

This impressive, if depressing, series of reports by the CAG points to an even more depressing reality: the DAE cannot be easily forced to change its ways. For example, despite the CAG’s warning after its Narora case study not to get projects approved on “unrealistic cost estimates and optimistic time schedules”, the DAE continues with this practice till today. Its flagship project – the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor – was initially expected to be commissioned in 2010 (Subramanian 2004), but has been delayed by more than three years; the update from January 2012 was that the reactor would go critical in early 2013 but that would be followed by “a year of testing” before it is declared commercial (IANS 2012). Its cost estimate has gone up from Rs 3,492 crore to Rs 5,677 crore, as of November 2011, when approximately 80% of the work on the reactor had been completed (Srikanth 2011).

Conclusions

Many have written about the nuclear establishment’s safety problems, problems with radiation exposure, accounting problems, and so on (some examples are Bidwai 1978; Subbarao 1998; Gopalakrishnan 1999; Gopalakrishnan 2000; Subbarao 1999; Dias 2005; Ramana 2007; Ramana and Kumar 2010). The CAG’s advantage has been in its access to various documents that would be unavailable to members of the public.6 Put together, the CAG reports, including the latest one, amount to a pretty damning assessment of the DAE and its activities. The CAG has done its bit. It is up to Parliament, and to the population at large, to hold the DAE accountable.

Notes

1 As the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission’s Official Report to Japan’s Diet put it, “The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents” (Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission 2012: 16).

2 There are other ways in which the DAE has marginalised the AERB. In the case of the Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, AERB approval for construction was sought only in 1994 when “construction of the plant was already in progress” (Sundararajan, Parthasarathy and Sinha 2008: 26). What, one wonders, were the odds that AERB would disapprove of the project even if it had found a problem with the design?

3 Earlier reports had, in the words of an official history of the CAG, not included any “worthwhile comments” on the AEC or the DAE “despite the massive expenditure incurred in the development of nuclear energy and connected research and development” all of which was “virtually kept shrouded in mystery and secrecy, except the publicised benefits leaked out to the media by the Department/Commission” (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1024).

4 Even then, the reactor was not fully functional and the steam generator, essential for producing electricity, began operating only in 1993 (Hibbs 1997).

5 We have already written about the case of the CAG and heavy water plants in the pages of this journal (Ramana 2007).

6 The CAG “scrutinised records relating to issue of consents, authorisations, licences, and regulatory inspections; minutes of various committee meetings; utility correspondence files; project reports, etc, during the period September to November 2010 and September to October 2011” (p 5).

References

Bidwai, Praful (1978): “Nuclear Power in India – A White Elephant?”, Business India, 4 September.

CAG (1988): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General, New Delhi.

– (1993): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1994): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1996): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1998): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1999): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (2008): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (2012): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

Chandrasekharan, R K (1990): The Comptroller & Auditor General of India: Analytical History 1947-1989 (New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House).

CNS (1994): “INFCIRC/449 – Convention on Nuclear Safety”, http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/inf449.shtml

Dias, Xavier (2005): “DAE’s Gambit”, Economic & Political Weekly, XL (32): 3567-69.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (2012): The Official Report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (Tokyo: The National Diet of Japan), http://naiic.go.jp/en

Gopalakrishnan, A (1999): “Issues of Nuclear Safety”, Frontline, 13 March. http://www.flonnet.com/fl1606/16060820.htm

– (2000): “Undermining Nuclear Safety”, Frontline, 24 June.

Hibbs, Mark (1997): “Kalpakkam FBR to Double Core, Load First Thorium-232 Blanket”, Nucleonics Week, 38 (48): 10.

IANS (2012): “India’s First PFBR to Go Critical Early 2013”, Zee News, 21 January, http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/igcar-finalises-design-of-commercia…

Jog, Sanjay (2012): “AERB Downplays CAG Report, Says High Safety Standards Maintained”, Business Standard India, 24 August,http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/aerb-downplays-cag-report-sa…

Parthasarathi, Ashok (2007): Technology at the Core: Science and Technology with Indira Gandhi (New Delhi: Pearson Longman).

Parthasarathy, K S (2011): “Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Not Quite Subatomic”, Economic Times, 19 April.

Ramana, M V (2007): “Heavy Subsidies in Heavy Water”, Economic & Political Weekly, XLII (34): 3483-90.

– (forthcoming): The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (New Delhi: Penguin India).

Ramana, M V and Ashwin Kumar (2010): “Safety First? Kaiga and Other Nuclear Stories”, Economic & Political Weekly, XLV (7): 47-54.

Srikanth, R (2011): “80% of Work on Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam Over”, The Hindu, 27 November.

Subbarao, Buddhi Kota (1998): “India’s Nuclear Prowess: False Claims and Tragic Truths”, Manushi, 109: 20-34.

– (1999): “Is Our Nuclear Regulator Effective?”, The Observer of Business and Politics, 9 December.

Subramanian, T S (2004): “A Milestone at Kalpakkam”, Frontline, 19 November.

Sundararajan, A R, K S Parthasarathy and S Sinha, ed. (2008): Atomic Energy Regulatory Board: 25 Years of Safety Regulation, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai.

 

 

 

Madras High Court frowns on Ministers over Kudankulam nuclear power plant launch date #goodnews


 

Chennai, Aug 16 (IANS) 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, told IANS.

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.