#India – Flaws in Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant


By A Gopalakrishnan

19th June 2013 07:23 AM

The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu is owned and will be operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is to oversee and regulate nuclear safety, while the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) also have well-defined regulatory roles to play in non-nuclear safety aspects.

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) reviewed previous lower court judgements and heard fresh affidavits on issues of KKNPP safety. In its final judgment on May 6, 2013, the SC directed AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB to (collectively) oversee each and every aspect, including safety of the plant, its impact on environment and the quality of various components and systems in the plant, before commissioning it. The SC has also directed that a (joint) report to that effect be filed before it prior to commissioning of the plant.

To understand the overall problems in their right perspective, one has to see how the total project responsibility at KKNPP is shared between India and Russia. Under the 1998 inter-governmental supplementary agreement, the Russians are to provide the reactor designs and supply the major equipment. The instrumentation and control (I&C) design package, including installation details, were also to come from Russia. The NPCIL and its Indian contractors would build the reactors, but a small team of Russian specialists (“advisers”) would stay at the site to render technical assistance at all stages of construction, in the installation of reactor equipment and in the commissioning and operation of the reactors, until NPCIL takes over.

KKNPP reactors are pressurised water reactors (PWRs) of the Russian VVER type, of 1000 MWe rating. The past Indian experience is entirely on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), India having built only a very small PWR for a submarine which is yet to be started. The PHWRs are technologically very different from the VVER-1000 reactors, and the Russians have designed and built more than 20 of them. The experience gained over the years by Indian contractors who have steadily worked with NPCIL is also limited to PHWRs. Therefore, it is certainly foolhardy for India to insist that KKNPP Units 1 & 2 shall be built under the above division of responsibilities. The reasons for doing so have been the minimisation of cost and an overconfident estimation of NPCIL’s capabilities, combined with a lack of appreciation of the technological finesse required to build a large and complicated PWR for the first time. The problems described in this article can be primarily attributed to this fatal error in project formulation.

Besides the probable installation of substandard parts in KKNPP reactors due to laxity of quality control, it is now evident that another major safety issue related to the I&C systems is worrying the KKNPP management and the AERB, because of which the Unit 1 start-up is now postponed to July 2013. This inference is reached by piecing together information now available in the public domain. The problem, to put it simply, appears to be the inability to eliminate spurious signals of untraced origin appearing in many of the instrumentation cables of paramount importance to safety, like the reactor neutron chamber output lines, wiring of the safety and shut-off rod control systems, etc.

Such phenomena belong to a broad class of problems known as Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). A very rudimentary example of EMI, for instance, is that of a power-carrying, unshielded cable that would generate a surrounding electro-magnetic field, that in turn could induce a voltage/current in a nearby instrumentation or control cable. This spurious input can add to or subtract from the “real” signals, thereby sending erroneous control inputs to a variety of crucial safety systems, possibly leading to unpredictable and serious malfunctions or accidents.

EMI in nuclear plants can be totally avoided by following modern I&C system design and installation norms. (See, for example, “Modern I&C for Nuclear Power Plants”, IAEA, 1999). In particular, obtaining a sound, interference-free transmission of electrical signals between various parts of a nuclear system demands careful attention to cable laying and routing as well as earthing, and requires that specific rules in this regard are strictly followed. The Russian “advisers” on site seem to have earlier indicated to the Indians that most of the VVERs which they have commissioned have used strict Russian standards like GOST 50746-2000, called the National Standard of the Russian Federation for Electro-magnetic Compatibility (EMC) of equipment for nuclear power plants (Requirements and Test Methods), which is available at: http://files.stroyinf.ru/Data1/41/41348/. However, the sequential history of KNPP events do not show that such care was taken in implementation of I&C systems by NPCIL and their contractors.

The cable problems at Koodankulam have a long history. Glimpses of this can be seen from the past annual reports of the AERB. The 2009-2010 AERB report states the regulators were “informed (by NPCIL) that new cable routes have been created to take care of additional cables required for normal operation of the plant, as these were not accounted for in the earlier design”. AERB’s 2010-2011 annual report states that “NPCIL was asked to submit detailed response to various observations made on cable layout — along with justifications for deviations from established methods of laying of cables and alternative measures to meet any exigencies”. Interestingly, the 2011-2012 annual report is totally silent about the follow-up actions taken in this matter.

Around the same time, a telling PTI report on the KKNPP cable problem appeared on July 20, 2011, in Indian newspapers. In part it said (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/tn-kudankulam-nplant-to-achieve-criticality/168957-3.html), “But the observation that several cables were missing, to be incorporated by designers in the reactor almost towards completion of the plant (2009-2010), could not be explained… The designers discovered that several kilometres of power and control cables in the reactor were ‘missed’ after the completion of the double containment of the reactor… A year ago, a major operation had to be undertaken to incorporate the ‘missing’ cables by making new opening in the containment domes (breaking open the concrete walls and its steel liner) and sealing it again after bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside”. One wonders how such a serious error was committed by the NPCIL engineers and their contractors!

This exposes a serious difference in the ethics of doing project site work between the Russians and Indians. Russians are very well-organised and systematic, and they rigidly follow the rules and expect others also to do so. While Indians, too, have rules and regulations on paper, to expedite work or to minimise cost, they would not hesitate to bend or break rules. In case of the I&C design and installation details, the Russians had prepared detailed documentation including hundreds of drawings, which they expected the Indian installers to follow diligently, in the interest of performance and safety. The World Nuclear Association has reported that KKNPP control system documentation was delivered late by the Russians and, when reviewed (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/#.Ub7fWPkzjAs) by NPCIL, it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking of some aspects. This was necessitated because, while waiting for details to arrive from Russia, the NPCIL team had proceeded on with the I&C work based on their PHWR experience, little realising that the PWR/VVER requirements contained in the Russian documents would be significantly different. In doing re-work and rectification of the PHWR-based work, the NPCIL team is unlikely to have come close to meeting the Russian design intent or conformed to the installation documents received from them. The origin of the present problem lies in this massive installation error of the NPCIL.

In 2004, the then KKNPP station director told Frontline (http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2108/fl210800.htm) that “difficulty arose with working documentation, which was to arrive from the Russian designers. But I shall not blame the Russians, there was pressure on them to advance their drawings and documents.” He went on to say, “When you want to speed up…you have to take certain decisions even if the input data are not available. As a designer and an engineer, you have to assume those data and go ahead.” It is this daredevil approach of the NPCIL site engineers and their contractors which has landed the KKNPP in the present mess.

It is most likely that the KKNPP cable system, as completed today, has not conformed to the norms and standards of cable selection, EMI shielding, or layout as per Russian, Indian or any other standards. No wonder the EMI problem is persisting, because there is no other short-cut solution other than re-doing a sizeable part of the I&C cabling and its layout in accordance with a set of modern standards, agreeable also to the Russians. This may take several more months and extensive re-working, but this must be done in the interest of public safety. As directed by the SC, the group consisting of NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB must certainly find an acceptable resolution of this problem and include it in their report to the apex court.

A Gopalakrishnan is a former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

 

Outrage Over Safety Issues at Indian Nuke Plant


By K. S. HarikrishnanReprint |   ips news
Residents of Kudankulam, a village in Tamil Nadu, protest against the Indian Supreme Court verdict approving construction of a nuclear power plant. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSResidents of Kudankulam, a village in Tamil Nadu, protest against the Indian Supreme Court verdict approving construction of a nuclear power plant. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

KUDANKULAM, India, Jun 14 2013 (IPS) – The Tirunelveli district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu may seem idyllic, dotted with lush green fields, but upon closer inspection one sees signs of a battle that does not appear to be abating.

Locals here have been waging an incessant campaign against a proposed nuclear power plant that was supposed to be operational in 2012 and which is currently sitting idle 24 kilometres from the tourist town of Kanyakumari, located on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula.

A recent report by a group of prominent Indian researches has now added another issue to a long list of grievances with the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) that activists and residents have been compiling since August 2011: evidence of faulty material used in the construction of the plant itself.

Plans for the plant were first drawn up in 1988 under a bilateral agreement between Russia and India, but various political obstacles kept construction on hold for over a decade. It was not until 2001 that a fresh attempt was made to jump-start the 3.1-billion-dollar venture, which has an installed capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Things were moving smoothly until news of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan in March 2011 went viral. Fearing a repeat performance of the tragedy, locals here took to the streets, protesting lax safety standards and possible nuclear radiation in the event of an accident.

The government has refused to address protestors’ concerns, instead issuing blanket assurances that the plant has been constructed using state of the art instrumentation and contains a passive cooling system and other mechanisms that will enable it to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Nalinish Nagaich, executive director of the National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), has repeatedly insisted that the equipment installed in the power station has undergone multi-stage quality checks.

Last month, in a 247-page ruling, a division bench of the Supreme Court of India consisting of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra dismissed protestors’ concerns as “baseless”, adding: “The benefits we reap from KKNPP are enormous since nuclear energy remains an important element in India’s energy mix, which can replace a significant (quantity) of fossil fuels like coal, gas (and) oil.”

But new information brought to light in ‘Scandals in the Nuclear Business’, a report published by Dr. V. T. Padmanabhan, a member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk, exposes cracks in the government’s position and highlights the potential crises arising from the use of faulty parts.

According to the study, the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV), considered to be the “heart” of a nuclear station, has been built using an outdated, three-decade old model. In addition, various pieces of equipment supplied by Russia have been found to be faulty.

The report has only deepened a crisis of confidence that surfaced earlier this year when Russian Federal prosecutors booked Sergei Shutov, procurement director of the Russian company ZiO-Podolsk that supplied vital equipment to the KKNPP, on corruption charges.

Shutov was charged with “having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India”, according to a joint letter sent by over 60 scientists to the chief ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The New Delhi-based Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) has expressed serious concern over the recent scam, calling it a direct violation of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)’s safety norms.

Back in April, following a series of tests, the AERB itself acknowledged that four valves in the KKNPP were defective and ordered the NPCIL to replace the parts and surrender itself for review by the regulatory authority, before resuming construction.

World Nuclear News reported last month that “technical issues discovered during the commissioning of Unit One have necessitated the replacement of several valves in the passive core cooling system, leading to further delays” in the commissioning of the KKNPP.

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERBhas urged the government to put an immediate stop to the project until allegations of corruption and faulty equipment have been adequately addressed, and the safety and quality of the parts used to house the reactor have been determined.

Police crack down on women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

Police crack down on women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

“The fact that a high-cost, high-risk nuclear reactor is (thought to have) defects…in its components and equipment even before it (has started operating) is highly unusual, and indicates gross failures at several levels in the AERB-NPCIL-Atomstroyexport (triumvirate),” he said, referring to Russia’s national nuclear vendor that stands accused of supplying low-quality parts to India.

N. Sahadevan, environmentalist and prominent campaigner against nuclear arsenals, told IPS that the recent scandal necessitated a “thorough re-examination of the safety aspects of the plant.”

Furthermore, according to Supreme Court Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the NPCIL, which operates the KKNPP, has failed to comply with the 17 post-Fukushima safety recommendations made by a special AERB committee.

Meanwhile, thousands of villagers in and around Kudankulam continue their daily, peaceful demonstrations.

S. P. Udayakumar, leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, told IPS that the Fukushima catastrophe categorically proved that nuclear power projects are not aligned with the welfare of the people, especially those living in the vicinity, and are incapable of providing any kind of “security”, energy or otherwise.

Activists have also exposed discrepancies in the government’s claim that nuclear power is crucial for the Indian economy, pointing out that the country currently has just 4,880 MW of existing capacity, “which contribute to only 2.7 percent of the total electricity generation in the country,” according to Dr. E. A. S. Sarma, former Union Power Secretary of India.

- See more at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/06/outrage-over-safety-issues-at-indian-nuke-plant/#sthash.Q7VgTdmC.5cfoiTLx.dpuf

 

#India – Uranium waste contaminates water in Jharkhand


Saturday, Jun 8, 2013, 8:21 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Reckless dumping of radioactive waste in Jharkhand is contaminating surface and ground water, putting thousands of locals at risk of developing cancer, according to a report by independent researchers.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy, supplies uranium (yellow cake) to nuclear power plants in the country. It mines and processes uranium at seven mines in Jharkhand’s Jaduguda area. According to atomic experts, sludge and waste from uranium mines has to be scientifically disposed of as it contains around 85% radioactive substances.

Scientific disposal means creating pits that are covered, protected, cordoned off and made flood-proof. A tailing pond over an area of 30-40 acres must be created for disposal of sludge. These ponds too have to be cordoned off, made flood-proof and ensure that it prevents overflow. The waste decays to produce radium-226, which in turn produces Radon gas, a very powerful cancer-causing agent. For its three new mines i.e. Turamdih, Banduhurang and Mohuldih Uranium Mine, UCIL has one tailing pond at Talsa village, which fails to prevent sludge overflow and is not even fenced.

PT George, director of research institute Intercultural Resources, and independent writer Tarun Kanti Bose, spent six months studying the effects of uranium mining in the areas around the mines. Their report, Paradise Lost, released recently, states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases.

Heaps of uranium mining wastes have been abandoned in Dhodanga, Kerwadungri villages and those around Banduhurang open cast mine, according to the report. “The dumping has been going on for the last five years,” said Ghanshyam Birulee, a 45-year-old resident of Jaduguda village. “Despite complaints to UCIL, it has failed to take any action.”

Danger zone

Their report, Paradise Lost,  states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases

However, the nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) said that it has not received any complaint so far on water contamination due to careless dumping of wastes by UCIL.

“AERB periodically inspects UCIL facilities to ensure that the waste management practices are followed and only treated effluent is discharged in Jhuria nallah which eventually meets the Gara River. Sludge generated in the effluent treatment plant is also disposed securely at the tailings pond. According to the site sample collected and analyzed the concentrations of uranium and radium observed in surface and ground water around Jaduguda are well within the specified drinking water limits.”

 

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

 

Koodankulam’s Environmental Impacts: An open letter to Jayanti Natarajan


 

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan wrote this letter to the Minister of Forest and Environment Ms. Jayanti Natarajan. After getting no reply from the ministry, he has put this letter in the public, which has been published in today’s New Indian Express. The letter raises some urgent and crucial issues regarding adherence to MoEF norms as directed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgement.

Dear Ms. Natarajan:

My name is Dr A Gopalakrishnan. I have been the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the Government of India from 1993-1996, and have been actively following the nuclear projects and programmes in India, over the last several decades.

I have attached a bio-data of mine, which summarises my academic and professional background, which you may find informative. Many of us are deeply troubled at the unwritten and unexplained nuclear power policy which the UPA Government is following since 2004, with no opportunity given for a discussion with the knowledgeable sections of the public so that they may present their views and debate this policy with the government. I was appalled to hear your cryptic statement of support for the Indian nuclear power programme, by terming it as ‘essential’ for the country and a ‘sustainable’ form of electricity generation, in one of your recent TV interactions in the Headlines Today TV channel.

May I remind you that neither the Prime Minister nor his Department of Atomic Energy has ever presented such a case for nuclear power before Parliament or the public, on the basis of credible substantiating techno-economic and social impact studies. Therefore, I wish you would kindly take time out to study this issue in all its varied facets, rather than form superficial and self-serving opinions based on literature and views that the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO provide you to further their interests.

Considering the specific portfolio of Minister in charge of Environment & Forests that you hold in the Cabinet, we in the public are all the more concerned about your rather casual and ill-informed understanding and attitude towards the nuclear power sector. Incidentally, just two months before he demitted his office, your predecessor (Mr.Jairam Ramesh) had promised me at one of our meetings that he will organise a seminar at MoEF to discuss issues of nuclear power and the impartial regulation of its safety. But, as a loyalist of the current government, he also did injustice to the local people in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, by hurriedly issuing an environment clearance for the Areva nuclear power project envisaged there, because of pressures from the PMO, in view of the impending visit of the French President to India.

Soon Mr. Ramesh got transferred out of the MoEF and the possibility of any seminar on nuclear power and its potential environmental impact became a lost dream! Since Jairam should also be reminded of this, I am copying this mail to him as well. The immediate reason for this mail from me is the recent Supreme Court judgment, on the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu .

This judgment was delivered on May 6, 2013, and, for your ready reference, I have attached here a copy of the judgment.

Of crucial importance to you, the MoEF and the general public, is the fact that the “Directions” given by the SC Bench on pages 242-247 of their judgment call for certain very important actions to be independently undertaken in all seriousness by the MoEF experts. Lack of expertise in engineering systems, etc. cannot be claimed as excuses to shirk off the responsibility which the MoEF has been entrusted with by the SC.

Essentially, what is asked of your Department/ Ministry is to play the role of an impartial observer on behalf of the people of India, in a matter of life and death in which the SC decision does not reflect, in my view, a full trust in the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO. For the first time, in such a safety evaluation, the SC has brought in the MoEF and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), side by side with the NPCIL & the AERB, to form a collective four-organisation team, members of which are to get involved in examining ALL potential safety and environment-related areas, irrespective of what each organisation’s normal field of operation and responsibility would have been.

Many of us are keenly watching to see how the MoEF takes on this global responsibility and completes it in flying colours, to the full satisfaction of the Supreme Court and the general public.

Lastly, I wish to bring to your attention two articles I had recently published in The New Indian Express (dated April 19 and May 15, 2013), one before the SC judgment was delivered and another afterwards.

I have attached both of them to this mail for your kind information.

I hope I can expect to receive an acknowledgement of this letter and suitable and impartial follow-up action from the MoEF in this matter.

With Regards,
Sincerely Yours,
(Dr.) A. Gopalakrishnan,
Former Chairman,
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Govt. of 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.

 

HC rejects petitions against nuclear plant in Haryana village #WTFnews


TNN | May 17, 2013, 09.09

A division bench of the HC comprising Justice A K Mittal and Justice G S Sandhawalia passed these orders while giving reference to recent supreme court judgment, giving a go-ahead for Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, in which SC had observed that such plants are set up for the welfare of people and for sustainable growth.

In the Kudankulam case, the apex court in its May 6 orders had also observed that development of nuclear energy is important for India and allowing the plant is in larger public interest.

The development is significant, as a large number of petitioners of Gorakhpur village, whose land was acquired by the government for setting up the plant, had moved the Punjab and Haryana high court demanding quashing of government notifications, whereby the process of acquiring around 1,500 acre land of Gorakhpur and adjoining villages of Fatehabad district was initiated.

In their petition, filed in January 2012, the farmers had also sought directions to shift the site of project towards barren or less fertile land, which is in abundance in the adjoining villages of other districts.

Contending that the plant is proposed on fertile land, which is the only source of their livelihood, villagers had submitted that the said land gives 2-3 crops per year and there is no reason why such fertile land has been selected for the plant.

Villagers have also argued that in the instant case, Haryana government has shown undue haste for acquisition of land without considering the suitability of land from Union ministry of environment and AERB and Nuclear Power Corporation.

“No public objection was invited while publishing the site selection. Farmers are protesting and the state government remained insensitive despite death of three protesting farmers in the past one year,” the petition had alleged.

During the hearing of the petition, it also emerged that a large number of petitioners had accepted compensation amount from the state government against acquisition of their land.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is expected to start construction work of the project in August this year.

 

Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline


, TNN | May 16, 2013

Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline
Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.
NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed theAtomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPP should be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.

NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.

This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.

These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.

While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”

Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”

 

Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant – From Supreme Court to People’s Court?


M.G.Devasahayam

M G DevasahayamShri M. G. Devasahayam is a former IAS and Managing Trustee, Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living, Chennai

He is the Convener of the PMANE Expert Group on Koodankulam.

Shri Devasahayam can be reached atdeva1940@gmail.com

Supreme Court Judgment–The Essence

On 6th May 2013, Supreme Court delivered the much awaited judgment on the Koodunkulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) arising out of SLP (C) 27335/2012 that had been reserved since first week of December 2012. The penultimate para (229) of the judgment reads thus: “Before proceeding to issue certain directions, it is required to be stated that the appellant, by this Public Interest Litigation, has, in a way, invoked and aroused the conscience/concern of the court to such an issue. True it is, the prayer is for the total closure of the plant and the Court has not acceded to the said prayer but his noble effort is appreciated to put forth the grievance of the local people and the necessity of adequate safety measures as is perceived. When such cause comes up before this Court, it is the bounden duty to remind the authorities “Be alert, remain always alert and duty calls you to nurture constant and sustained vigilance and nation warns you not to be complacent and get into a mild slumber”. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as the regulatory authority and the MoEF are obliged to perform their duty that safety measures are adequately taken before the plant commences its operation. That is the trust of the people in the authorities which they can ill afford to betray, and it shall not be an exaggeration to state that safety in a case of this nature in any one’s hand has to be placed on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”.

After placing public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”, Supreme Court has issued 15 directions for compliance by nuclear establishment and other regulators for strict compliance before commissioning of the plant. From the language, tone and tenor these conditions appear to be non-negotiable.

Response from Nuclear Establishment

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) response to the judgment was typical of the nuclear establishment’s vulgar hurry to impose the unsafe KKNPP on the struggling people: “With the Supreme Court giving the green signal, the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is likely to go critical anytime between May 13 and 20. Top sources in the NPCIL told ‘The Hindu’ that a team of Automic Energy Regulatory Board experts are going through the results of the test conducted a few days ago and holding discussions on the results with the NPCIL technocrats. The AERB’s governing body, expected to meet before this weekend is likely to take a final decision on giving the nod for criticality immediately”

As for RK Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) it was a great relief and he said so: ‘I humbly welcome the judgment of the court, it should lay to rest all perceived doubts about the Kudankulam atomic reactor. The reactor is at an advanced stage of commissioning and criticality or the start of the nuclear chain reaction in the plant should happen soon.’

Legal Notice

It looks as if nuclear establishment had not read the judgment carefully. If they had done so their response would have been different. And they had to be reminded of it the hard way-through a legal Notice which reads as under:

“As you are aware, the Supreme Court has given several directions to be complied with before the commissioning of KKNPP including the following two directions:

1. The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance…….

15. The AERB, NPCIL, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant. A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The above directions of the Supreme Court are categorical. These directions need no interpretation whatsoever. As per these directions, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project cannot be commissioned as it stands now. When clearance was granted by you (AERB) for initial fuel loading (IFL) and first approach to criticality (FAC) of Unit.I of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project on August 10, 2012 the same was challenged before the Madras High Court by my client. The said clearance was ultimately tested by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 4440 of 2013 and batch matters. Having considered all aspects of the matter, the Supreme Court has now given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy not to make the KKNPP operational until a fresh review of the quality of various components and systems of the KKNPP is undertaken. The Supreme Court has further given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and Ministry of Environment & Forest of the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant and after fulfilling this task file a report in the Supreme Court before commissioning of the plant. These directions have not yet been complied with by you (AERB & NPCIL) or by the Government of India or by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

It appears that after the judgment of the Supreme Court you have not even commenced a fresh review of the ‘quality of various components and systems in the plants’. Without even attempting to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court, NPCIL is making a statement to the press that the KKNPP is likely to go critical any time between May 13 and 20.

Kindly take notice that any such assertion on the part of NPCIL or AERB as reported in The Hindu dated 7 May 2013 would amount to contempt of the Supreme Court, since no report as directed by the Supreme Court in direction No.15 has so far been submitted to the Supreme Court.”

 

The Flaws

While this could bring some succour to the struggling farmer-fisher folk, Supreme Court judgment nevertheless suffer from several flaws:

  1. While the Special Leave Petition starts with characterising nuclear power as “the most dangerous means of producing energy with a serious potential for catastrophic accidents causing severe damage to life and property, with cost of reparation running into lakhs of crores of rupees”, the court nonchalantly and without appropriate due diligence declares that “nuclear energy…is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source”. This assertion is debatable, disputable and defeats the very purpose for which the petitioners appealed to the highest court of law.
  2. On the issue DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) for radioactive nuclear waste, which is a critical issue concerning public safety, the court has been very casual: “NPCIL does not seem to have a long term plan, other than, stating and hoping that in the near future, it would establish a DGR (Deep Geologic Repository)”. Its directive that “DGR has to be set up at the earliest” does not specify a date nor make it a necessary condition before NPCIL embarks on new nuclear reactor construction. This is clear pandering of the nuclear establishment.
  3. Safety concerns that remain paramount in the minds of the citizens living in the vicinity of Koodankulam have not been adequately acknowledged by the Court, which did not even see fit to mention the problems with valves that the AERB disclosed, or the news reports of corruption in supplier companies in Russia. The Court’s call to “educate the people” smacks of condescension, which is anachronistic for a democracy and inexplicable when seen in the context of this well-informed and widely-participated movement against the Koodankulam reactors.
  4. SC’s uncritical reliance on the opinions of the nuclear establishment and its complete disregard of the absence of public trust in the regulatory agency is a serious problem with the judgment. It quotes extensively from AERB documents, especially safety codes, yet overlooks the fact that AERB and NPCIL do not often follow their own safety rules. The most pertinent example is that of Koodankulam itself, when AERB allowed the loading of fuel into the reactors even though NPCIL had not complied with its safety recommendations following the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
  5. The Court did not even acknowledge, let alone examine, the questions surrounding the independence and effectiveness of the AERB, and instead claimed that the AERB has been “regulating the nuclear and radiation facilities in the country very effectively”. Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out that AERB “continued to be…an authority subordinate to the central government”, putting a big question mark over its independence as a regulator. Its actions in the case of Koodankulam, unfortunately, do not enhance the credibility of the AERB. The Court claims that the AERB “has, over the years, issued a large number of codes, standards and guides”, while the CAG pointed out that the AERB had failed to prepare “a radiation safety policy even after three decades of its existence”.
  6. The court does not seem to have properly considered the prayers contained in the SLP. While the petitioner had asked for commissioning the plant after ensuring all safety & environmental requirements court has said that the petitioner wanted “total closure of the plant and we have not conceded to the said prayer”.

Not addressing corruption and sub-standard machinery issues

Another disturbing aspect of the judgment is the question as to why did SC ignore the IA filed on 23 April (two weeks before the judgment) clearly bringing to the notice of the Supreme Court the supply of sub-standard equipment and materials by ZiO Podolsk, a Russian public sector machine works company, to the Koodankulam plant, and how Unit 2 of the Leningrad nuclear power plant using similar materials supplied by the same company collapsed on 17 July 2011, leading to the arrest and prosecution of Sergei Shutov, procurement director of ZiO Podolsk, by a Federal court in Russia. All other scams/scandals like 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate etc came out and are under serious investigation because of exposures by CAG followed by activism and advocacy by civil society with legal luminaries in the forefront. Courts had not been forewarned in these scams, but when these came before the SC it took very serious notice and is pursuing these with vigour by upbraiding the government and constituting SIT etc. What happened in the Coalgate case is an apt example. But in the KKNPP case it is just the opposite. SC was forewarned about the scam, sub-standard material and corruption and criminal action in Russia against supplier company weeks before the judgment was issued and was ‘mentioned’ in open court. The least SC could have done was to ask for independent investigation in to these ‘life-threatening’ allegations and satisfied itself before issuing final orders.

On this aspect of SC judgment Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, AERB has a slightly different take. This is what he has to say: “As per Directions No: 15 given in the SC Judgment, NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB are to be jointly involved in all  aspects  of  certifying  this  reactor as safe. Of  these three  organizations (AERB, TNPCB, MoEF) are Regulatory Agencies, and NPCIL is the promoter  and  it will  have  to  serve  as  the main supplier of  inspection data and other compliance information to the other three for  review . Without  solely  resting their confidence & trust  in the  two  DAE  institutions (AERB & NPCIL) , the Supreme Court  has intentionally broadened the jury to include two additional government  regulators  who are not connected with the DAE. This I see as the impact of our last affidavit (IA on 23 April) on Zio-Podolsk corruption and supply of substandard components & equipment from  Russia. We have to make best use of this opportunity”.

This matter however has been taken care of in a complaint filed with the CBI and a writ filed in the Madras High Court for directing the CBI to conduct expeditious investigation into corruption and supply of sub-standard equipment.

Future Imperatives

Dr. EAS Sarma, former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Power has created a matrix for making the ‘best use’ of the 15 directions and other observations made in the SC judgment. It is presented below with some of my inputs:

 

Para Direction & Action points Compliance imperative before commissioning
230.1 The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance. Final clearance and the process adopted should be placed in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.2 MoEF should oversee and monitor whether the NPCIL iscomplying with the conditions laid down, while granting

clearance vide its communication dated 23.9.2008 under the provisions of EIA Notification of 2006, so also the conditions laid down in the environmental clearance granted by the MoEF vide its communication dated 31.12.2009. AERB and MoEF will see that all the conditions stipulated by them are duly complied with before the plant is made operational.

MOEF should place the monitoringreports in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.3 Maintaining safety is an ongoing process not only at thedesign level, but also during the operation for the nuclear

plant. Safeguarding NPP, radioactive materials, ensuring

physical security of the NSF are of paramount importance.

NPCIL, AERB, the regulatory authority, should maintain

constant vigil and make periodical inspection of the plant

at least once in three months and if any defect is noticed,

the same has to be rectified forthwith.

NPCIL, AERB should place the periodic reports in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.4 NPCIL shall send periodical reports to AERB and the AERB shall take prompt action on those reports, if any fallacy is noticed in the reports. The reports should be available for the public as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.5 SNF generated needs to be managed in a safe manner toensure protection of human health and environment from

the undue effect of ionizing radiation now and future, for

which sufficient surveillance and monitoring programme

have to be evolved and implemented.

 

Copy of the surveillance and monitoringreports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.6 AERB should periodically review the design-safety aspectsof AFR feasibly at KKNPP so that there will be no adverse

impact on the environment due to such storage which

may also allay the fears and apprehensions expressed by

the people.

The reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.7 DGR has to be set up at the earliest so that SNF could betransported from the nuclear plant to DGR. NPCIL says

the same would be done within a period of five years.

Effective steps should be taken by the Union of India,

NPCIL, AERB, AEC, DAE etc. to have a permanent DGR at the earliest so that apprehension voiced by the people of

keeping the NSF at the site of Kudankulam NPP could be

dispelled.

The periodic progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.8 NPCIL should ensure that the radioactive discharges to theenvironmental aquatic atmosphere and terrestrial route

shall not cross the limits prescribed by the Regulatory

Body.

The monitored data should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.9 The Union of India, AERB and NPCIL should take steps atthe earliest to comply with rest of the seventeen

recommendations, within the time stipulated in the

affidavit filed by the NPCIL on 3.12.2012.

The Apex Court, in para 189, has cautioned AERB, NPCIL as follows.“Adequate measures have, therefore, to be taken for storage of NSF at site, and also for the physical safety of stored NSF. Of the seventeen suggested safety measures, by AERB, LWR, twelve have already been implemented and the rest, in a phased manner have to be implemented which the experts say, are meant for extra security”

The apex court, in para 228, has also emphasised as follows

 

Therefore, I am obliged to think that the delicate balance in other spheres may have some allowance but in the case of establishment of a

nuclear plant, the safety measures would not tolerate any lapse. The grammar has to be totally different. I may hasten to clarify that I have not discussed anything about the ecology and environment which has been propounded before us, but I may particularly put that the

proportionality of risk may not be “zero” regard being had to the nature’s unpredictability. All efforts are to be made to avoid any man-made disaster. Though the concept of delicate balance and the doctrine of proportionality of risk

factor gets attracted, yet the same commands the highest degree of constant alertness, for it is disaster affecting the living. The life of some cannot be sacrificed for the

purpose of the eventual larger good.”

Therefore, NPCIL is expected to lay down strict time schedules to ensure safety and the progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.

230.10 SNF is not being re-processed at the site, which hasto be transported to a Re-Processing facility. Therefore,

the management and transportation of SNF be carried out

strictly by the Code of Practices laid down by the AERB,

following the norms and regulations laid down by IAEA.

The details should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.11 NPCIL, AERB and State of Tamil Nadu should takeadequate steps to implement the National Disaster

Management Guidelines, 2009 and also carry out the

periodical emergency exercises on and off site, with the

support of the concerned Ministries of the Government of

India, Officials of the State Government and local

authorities.

Hon’ble Madras High Court in W.P.No.24770 of 2011 August 2012 (Para 89) observed as follows“Even though it is stated that the said exercise was done in only one village, namely Nakkaneri village, which is stated to be nearer to the KKNPP, as we are informed that nearly 30 to 40 villages are within 30 Kms radius of KKNPP, such event must take place in all villages and more importantly, apart from the officials, as stated above, the people in the area must be made to participate and an awareness programme must be made to infuse confidence in the minds of the local people that the project is for the benefit of the country and there is no need to alarm”

Since this observation has not been modified by the apex court, it should be treated as a pre-condition to commissioning of the plant. In addition, implementation of NDMA’s guidelines should also precede commissioning.

The Apex Court’s observation in para 221 (extracted below) of the judgment has importance

“The concept of disaster management cannot be allowed to remain on paper. Its procrastination itself rings the bell of peril. The

administration has to be alive to the said situation and the awakening to manage the disaster in case of an

unfortunate incident has to be founded on scientific and

sophisticated methods. Taking care of the situation of the present alone is not the solution. All concerned with the same are required to look to the future because that elevates the real concern. The danger of the future should be seriously taken note of and should not be veiled in the guise of thought for the present”.

230.12 NPCIL, in association with the District Collector,Tiruneveli should take steps to discharge NPCIL Corporate

Social Responsibilities in accordance with DPE Guidelines

and there must be effective and proper monitoring and

supervision of the various projects undertaken under CSR

to the fullest benefit of the people who are residing in and

around KKNPP.

Progress reports with the names of beneficiaries should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.13 NPCIL and the State of Tamil Nadu, based on thecomprehensive emergency preparedness plan should

conduct training courses on site and off site administer

personnel, including the State Government officials and

other stake holders, including police, fire service, medicos,

emergency services etc.

Progress reports with the names of trainees should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.14 Endeavour should be made to withdraw all thecriminal cases filed against the agitators so that peace

and normalcy be restored at Kudankulam and nearby

places and steps should be taken to educate the people of

the necessity of the plant which is in the largest interest of

the nation particularly the State of Tamil Nadu.

 

This should precede commissioningction taken should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act
230.15 The AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB would overseeeach and every aspect of the matter, including the safety

of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various

components and systems in the plant before

commissioning of the plant.A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The Report thus filed should be notified to the Petitioner for filing counter and if found ‘fake’ SC should order investigation of quality of various components and systems in the plant by an Independent Expert Group before issuing final orders.

Compliance requirement suggested for Direction #15 assumes all the more importance due to post-judgment revelations through a research study that the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) supplied to KKNPP, considered to be the heart of the reactor, could be obsolete and different from the originally promised one. This has humongous repercussions and if unchecked, has all the potential for a catastrophe in peninsular India and the island of Sri Lanka. Serious charges of corruption and suspicion of substandard material and obsolete RPV have arisen, but not addressed even by the highest court of law. God forbid, if some incident/accident happens during commissioning or after, besides human catastrophe it would devastate SC as an institution and extinguish whatever little faith people have in this bulwark of justice. Supreme Court monitored pre-commissioning is therefore a must because the Court has placed public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust” and hopefully would never countenance its betrayal by the nuclear establishment.

The Groundview

But the ‘soldiers on the ground’ have a different perception altogether. They are of the view that in order to free up Russia from supplier liability, charges of theft and abject project failure, the Indian nuclear establishment has begun to claim that the KKNPP is not a Russian turnkey project.

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, nuclear establishment is announcing various dates to fake-commission the project and trying to protect their own self interests and save the Russians from all the embarrassing and serious charges. Instead of answering the component-related concerns, financial improprieties and liability commitments in an earnest manner, they are spreading irresponsible rumors and conjectures as they have been doing since 2005 about commissioning the KKNPP.

In fact, the KKNPP authorities do not even allow journalists anywhere near the reactors for fear of their smelling any of the fishy things that have been happening there. In an interview RS Sundar, the site director has claimed that they are facing difficulties with the media.

This is what the struggle leaders have to say: “The Indian government, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and the AERB do not even want to walk the extra mile of assessing the quality and safety of the components with a team of independent scientists, engineers and journalists. No one in India knows anything about the omissions and the commissions of the KKNPP, NPCIL, AERB, DAE, AEC and their Russian counterparts and suppliers. Even the Indian courts seem to accept the establishmentarian views in spite of the fact that they have laid down fifteen directions in their recent judgment. All nuclear establishment want is commissioning of the plant even if it is a fake one! So all the thefts, untested technology, unsafe components and the overall failure could be buried in radioactive contamination and inter-governmental cover up.”

So the struggling community, all ordinary citizens of India, have decided to turn to their fellow citizens and Mother Nature to protect the interests of our country and people. They have decided to come out in the open, travel to neighboring villages and organize people all over again. They have decided to fight it out to the finish and are confident that they shall overcome.

To this determination Admiral L.Ramdas has responded to the struggle coordinator Udayakumar: “We are happy to see that the spirit of “Never say Die” prevails. I am sure our prayers and hard work and commitment will not go waste. Regards and Greater strength to your elbow”. So, it is from Supreme Court to the Court of the People.

We are a Democracy and VOX POPULI is VOX DEI–‘Voice of the People is Voice of God’. But is mere voice enough? To seek assurance, ground forces should draw on the famous clarion of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “It is infinitely difficult to begin when mere words must remove a great block of matter. But there is no other way if none of the material strength is on your side. And a shout in the mountains has been known to cause an avalanche

Just replace ‘mountain’ with ocean and ‘avalanche’ with tsunami. BRAVO.