#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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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

 

“Emission from Sterlite plant was above permissible level”


Chennai, April 16, 2013

Special Correspondent

A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The Hindu Photo Library A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

People complained of eye irritation, constant cough: Minister

Emission of sulphur dioxide from the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin above the permissible level led to people complaining about the plant, Environment Minister M.C. Sampath told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Replying to a calling attention motion, the Minister said continuous monitoring of sulphur dioxide by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had clearly proved increased emission of gas from the plant on March 23, 2013.

He said people from Meelavittan, Anna Nagar, Brian Nagar, George Road and Thivipuram had complained of irritation in eyes, constant cough and choked throat condition and made a representation to the district Collector. Subsequently the Collector asked the district environmental engineer to take immediate action.

Mr. Sampath said according to National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOH) if the level of sulphur dioxide exceeded 5 parts per million (ppm), it would cause health hazards including eye irritation, cough and choked throat condition.

When the company was asked to explain about the emission of Sulphur dioxide above the permission level, it had informed the Pollution Control Board that the online continuous sulphur dioxide stack monitor was under maintenance. But it had failed to inform the TPCB about temporary suspension of monitor and resuming its operations.

The Minister said while issuing orders for closing the copper smelter division TNPC also directed termination of power supply to the plant.

The company approached the Green Bench and the Bench in its interim order had directed constitution of two-member expert committee.

The names of the experts would be announced on April 18 and the report would be submitted on 29 of the month, the bench had said.

 

#India- National Green Tribunal says panel will inspect Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant


The members of the committee to inspect Sterlite’s copper smelter will be decided on 18 April
S. Bridget Leena, Livemint.com
First Published: Fri, Apr 12 2013. 09 32 PM IST
http://www.livemint.com/rf/Image-621×414/LiveMint/Period1/2013/04/13/Photos/sterlite–621×414.jpg” />
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the Tuticorin plant, which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year, on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions. Photo:
Chennai: The national green tribunal on Friday said it will constitute a committee to inspect the country’s largest copper smelter, run bySterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
The members of the committee will be decided on 18 April, said judicial member M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendranof the national green tribunal.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the plant—which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year—on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions.
Sterlite, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources Plc., has said the plant’s emissions are within permissible limits.
On 1 April, Sterlite filed a petition with the national green tribunal challenging the order of the state pollution control board.
The committee will inspect and assess the state of the copper plant. It will give its report on or before 29 April. Only after the findings of committee are presented will the tribunal decide on the re-opening of the plant, Chockalingam said.
The unit should be open for monitoring but it can’t start resume commercial production, the tribunal said.
During the proceedings on Friday, the judicial member asked why the pollution control board waited for more than a week to shut the plant if it found toxic amounts of sulphur dioxide were released between 2am and 11am on 23 March.
The Supreme Court last week fined Sterlite Rs.100 crore for polluting the environment but set aside a 2010 directive of the Madras high court to permanently close the Tuticorin smelter on grounds of environmental concerns.
The apex court said its judgement would not stand in the way of the matter regarding the emissions.
Vaiko, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu-based political party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is one of three entities supporting the state pollution watchdog’s order to shut the Sterlite plant.
Sterlite shares ended unchanged at Rs.88.50 on BSE on Friday, while the benchmark Sensex fell 1.62% to 18,242.56 points.

 

#India- Supreme court fined Sterlite 1 billion rupees for breaking green laws #goodnews


A labourer works inside a copper workshop in Siliguri June 6, 2009. REUTERS-Rupak De Chowdhuri-Files

A labourer works in a factory at Bharibramna, 20 km (12 miles) west of Jammu, July 15, 2008. REUTERS-Amit Gupta-Files
NEW DELHI | Tue Apr 2, 2013 2:59pm IST

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court has fined Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd 1 billion rupees for breaking environmental laws at its copper smelter in Tamil Nadu. The case is unrelated to a separate order that has shut the 300,000 tonnes per year Tuticorin plant, India’s largest, since last week following complaints of a gas leak. Despite imposing the fine, the Supreme Court overruled an earlier order from the Madras High Court demanding the firm close the plant over longstanding environmental concerns. That disputed order was handed down before the gas leak forced the smelter’s immediate closure. “We have to see that no person or society would be adversely affected by environmental hazards,” said judge A.K. Patnaik, who headed the bench. The money must be deposited within two months, he said. On Monday, the company said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had ordered it to shut the plant after local residents complained of breathing problems. Sterlite, a unit of Vedanta Resources PLC (VED.L), has for years been involved in legal battles over environmental concerns at the Tuticorin smelter, with the first of many petitions against it filed in 1996. “Sterlite Industries would continue to work in close association with the State Government of Tamil Nadu and other regulatory bodies, towards maintaining highest standards of Health, Safety and Environment,” the company said in a statement. India consumes around 600,000 tonnes of copper annually – about 3 percent of the world’s total, far behind China which used around 9 million tonnes last year. Shares in Sterlite rose more than 3 percent on Tuesday in a firm Mumbai market. (Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Siddesh Mayenkar; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

 

Relief marks shutting of #Vedanta unit #goodnews


31 March 2013

shivani chaturvedi, Statesman

CHENNAI, 31 MARCH: The closure of the Thoothukudi unit of Sterlite Industries yesterday has brought great relief to environmental activists of Tamil Nadu and residents of Thoothukudi (formerly known as Tuticorin).

The copper smelter plant owned by Sterlite Industries has affected the livelihoods of the fishermen, farmers and other sections of the population through unprecedented level of pollution.

Mr Vaiko, the leader of the MDMK, has been campaigning for the closure of this polluting unit since 1997.

The closure of the Thoothukudi unit of Sterlite Industries comes just two days before the apex court is to deliver its verdict on an appeal filed by the Sterlite Industries challenging the 2010 order of the Madras High Court directing the closure of the unit on a petition filed by Mr Vaiko and others. They had complained to the court that the unit was discharging noxious effluent which devastated the entire environment by polluting sea, land and air in the region.

The plant has been closed following the order issued by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in reply to the complaint by the town’s residents that the sulphur dioxide emitted by the company was much higher than the permissible levels. Since 23 March this year, people in and around Thoothukudi have been complaining of suffocation, sneezing and burning sensation in the eyes due to large scale discharge of sulphur dioxide.

However, a press note from the company claimed that the plant adhered to the highest standards of environment, health and safety practices.

The factory, which began production in 1996 has an installed capacity to produce 4,00,000 tonnes of copper per year. It has a regular workforce of 1,000 and 3,000 contract workers.

#India- Peoples Victory- STERLITE COPPER CLOSED #goodnews


Sterlite Copper Closed
30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industriescopper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.

On March 28, 2013, more than 5000 people from Thoothukudi — led by the Anti Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee — marched towards Sterlite to shut down the plant. Nearly 1000 people were arrested. The rally was prompted by a toxic gas leak on March 23. Sterlite has been a controversial company since the time that it was proposed in 1994. In its 20 years of operation, it has been shut down twice by the Madras High Court — once by way of an interim order, and in September 2010 through a final order. Sterlite appealed the High Court’s closure order in the Supreme Court, and the plant that was shut down last night was operating on leave from the Supreme Court.

A verdict on the Supreme Court case is expected on 2 April, 2013.

SC to decide fate of Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant Tuesday
By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court will Tuesday (April 2) pronounce its verdict on the fate of the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu‘s Tuticorin, which was ordered to halt its operations in 2010 by Madras High Court for violating environment norms.

The verdict will be pronounced by a bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice H.L. Gokhale.

Sterlite, which had described the high court order as “draconian”, had told the apex court that it was a public limited company with 2.3 lakh shareholders, 1,100 employees, 2,500 people employed indirectly and an annual turn over of Rs.13,000 crore.

It said the company was meeting 50 percent of the domestic requirements of copper and was contributing Rs.1,600 crore by way of taxes. Sterlite Industries was the largest manufacturer of copper in the country and even exported it, it added.

In the course of the hearing that was spread over several weeks, the apex court had asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to carry out detailed inspection of the plant and its site.

CPCB counsel Vijay Panjvani said Sterlite spent Rs.150 crore for putting in place new pollution control devices to overcome the deficiencies in its pollution control measures as suggested to it by different agencies mandated to protect the environment.

The Madras High Court by its Sep 28, 2010 order had directed the immediate closure of the plant, nut the apex court, by its interim order of Oct 1, 2010, stayed its operation.

Besides the closure, the high court had also directed the payment of compensation to Sterlite’s employees as per the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.

Tuticorin’s district collector was also directed to take all necessary and immediate steps for the re-employment of the workers in some other companies, factories or organizations.

Challenging the high court order, Sterlite Industries contended that it was passed on a PIL filed in 1994, pointing to then alleged deficiencies in the compliance of the statutory environmental provisions.

It said that though the hearing on the PIL was concluded in January 2010, it was eight months after on Sep 28, 2010, that the high court passed the order directing the immediate shut down of the company.

While ordering the plant’s closure, the high court had noted that it was within 25 km of an ecologically fragile area

 

Vedanta-Sterlite – Dangerous by Design #CSR #Humanrightsviolations


 Nityanand Jayaraman

MARCH 28, 2013
 at kafila.org

Guest Post by  NITYANAND JAYARAMAN 

Tuticorin Oct 2010 298

A toxic hotspot in the backyard of a house in Therkuveerapandiapuram, a village adjoining the Sterlite factory.  Dangerous levels of iron and arsenic were found in the soil here. (Picture by Nityanand Jayaraman)

On 23 March, 2013, a toxic gas leak from Vedanta-subsidary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi spread panic and discomfort for several kilometres around the plant. The leak once again highlighted the increased potential for major catastrophes due to an atmosphere of collusion between regulators and polluters. The company, which was shut down for maintenance, resumed operations in the early hours of 23 March. Within hours, people in the nearby areas complained of suffocation and eye and nose irritation. A 35-year old Bihari contract labourer, who was working at Sterlite’s thermal power plant nearly a kilometre away, reportedly succumbed to the effects of the toxic gas. Irate residents rallied to the District Collector’s office demanding permanent closure of the offending factory.

The District Collector suggested that sulphur dioxide may have been the culprit. But anyone who knows the history of this plant would lay the blame not on this gas or that, but squarely on pliant regulators, and perhaps the judiciary.

The 1200 tonne per day (tpd) copper smelter was constructed in two phases – both with dubious legality – with active support of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the chairperson of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC). In September 2004, when SCMC visited Thoothukudi, it found that Sterlite had constructed a 900 tonne per day copper smelter complex without obtaining an Envirnomental Clearance from the MoEF. Neither did the plant have the mandatory Consents to Establish under Air and Water Acts.

Citing poor pollution management, the SCMC recommended that clearance should not be given. It ordered the TNPCB to verify the illegal constructions and take action. Contrary to recommendations, clearance was given a day after of the Committee’s visit to Sterlite. TNPCB inspected and confirmed the illegal constructions, but did nothing more.

On 7 April, 2005, a director at the MoEF wrote to the chairperson of TNPCB urging her to grant a Consent to Operate to Sterlite. “The directions issued by SCMC in this regard has (sic) been discussed with Chairman, SCMC, who has desired that TNPCB may now decide regarding granting consent for expansion to M/s Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) Tuticorin, Tamilnadu,” she wrote. The Air and Water Acts do not have any provision for legalising units constructed without a valid Consent to Establish. TNPCB obliged and issued a consent on 19 April 2005.

Sterlite went on to expand its capacity to 1200 tpd. To get its licenses, Sterlite exaggerated the extent of land in its possession. In 2007, Sterlite submitted an Environment Impact Assessment report that suggested that it had greened 26 hectares of its 102.5 hectare plant site. It claimed that it had sufficient lands – about 176 ha — in its possession to accommodate the expanded capacity and the resultant pollution (solid waste, air emission and effluents). It promised to plant 43 hectares with pollution-abating trees. Subsequent inspection reports by the TNPCB even state that the company had greened 25 percent of its 176 hectare land holding.

On 28 September 2010, the Madras High Court ordered closure of the copper plant. One key grounds for closure was the industry’s failure to comply with the condition requiring the development of a 25 metre greenbelt around the factory. TNPCB was chided for arbitrarily reducing the greenbelt requirement from 250 metres to 25 metres in response to Sterlite’s lament about high land costs associated with the wider belt.

The Madras High Court had rightly held that the failure to comply with greenbelt requirements was a crippling lapse. Indeed, had a thick belt existed, the effects of the recent gas leak would not have reached the city.
When Sterlite was shut down by the High Court, the factory was running without valid licenses under Air and Water Acts. Two days later, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order and unwittingly authorised the unlicensed operation of a disputed facility.

In May 2011, Sterlite’s non-compliance of greenbelt requirements and its land fraud came to light in a report submitted by NEERI to the Supreme Court. Against a requirement of 176 hectares for the 1200 tonne plant, Sterlite had only 102.5 hectares, the report found. Also, less than 13 hectares – as against 43 hectares – had been greened.

Since October 2010, Sterlite has functioned on leave granted by the Supreme Court. During the apex court’s watch, at least 8 hazardous incidents were recorded where 3 workers were killed, four more injured. Several hundred people in the vicinity of the plant have been gassed.

Under the circumstances, faith in the rule of law is not an easy belief system to sustain.

UPDATE

Thoothukudi Gears up For Major Showdown with Sterlite

27 March, 2013. Thoothukudi – Residents of the coastal Tamilnadu town of Thoothukudi are gearing up for a major showdown with Sterlite on 28 March, less than a week after a massive gas leak injured hundreds of people for kilometres around the company’s controversial copper smelter. Numerous groups, cutting across political lines, will march from the city to Sterlite’s gates demanding its permanent closure. In the 20 years that it has functioned, Sterlite has been blamed for numerous mishaps, deaths and injuries. It has been closed twice by the Madras High Court, including in September 2010 when the High Court shut it down through its final order arguing that the company had violated siting setbacks, pollution norms and licence conditions.Tomorrow’s rally is gathering massive support as the Tamil Nadu Federation of Merchants led by Vellian, and the Esakkimuthu Conch Divers Association have said they will participate in the strike. The call for the strike was originally given by Vaiko, a political leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, who said that this was an issue that transcended politics, and that the residents are united in their desire to rid their city of Sterlite’s Bhopal-like factory. Other prominent Thoothukudi-based workers organisations too have committed their support to the strike. The Anna Bus Stand Taxi Drivers Association, and the Anna Bus Stand Auto Drivers Welfare Association with nearly 200 auto drivers as members have said they will boycott work and join the residents demanding closure of Sterlite. Many more organisations and political parties are expected to join.“We are very angry. We have seen numerous such agitations start and then stop. We want an end to this nonsense. Sterlite must be shut down,” said 55 year old M. Shanmugavelu, Presidents of the Auto workers Association.

34-year old M. Kishorekumar, who is the president of Taxi Drivers Association clarifies that they are not opposed to industries. “We want good industries to come to Thoothukudi, to Tamil Nadu. But Sterlite is not good for us. It is a dangerous factory. We have to think about our futures too,” he says. “My 11-year old son suffered because of the gas leak. It is now three days since the leak, and he is still complaining of head ache, eye and throat irritation, a bitter taste in his mouth and has no appetite. I have had to take him to hospital for three days. He has to go to school with all this because it is examination time,” Kishorekumar says.

List of Hazardous Incidents at Sterlite Industries between October 2010 and March 2013 during the time the plant has run on leave granted by Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Compiled by Nityanand Jayaraman, based on reports by Sterlite workers

Total: 3 dead; several injured in 8 incidents

Date

Incident

Number Dead/Injured

8.3.2013

Amalan, 30, sustained serious injuries after an electrical fire broke out at Motor Control Room of Phosphoric Acid Plant.

1 injured

18.3.2013

Swaminathan, 50, killed after falling into Phosphoric Acid tank. Due to the poor light conditions, the worker tripped on the scaffolding and fell 15 metres into an open and empty tank.

1 dead

23.3.2013

Massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, causes suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas.

1 dead; several injured

23.8.2011

One North Indian worker, sourced by labour contractor Lohit, and employed by Mahesh Engineering was injured while working in the Phosphoric Acid Plant. Workers, who said very little information was available about his condition and what actually happened. He is reported to have had 5 stitches.

1 injured

17.8.2011

A white gas (suspected to be Sulphur Dioxide) escaped for about 45 minutes at ground level throwing a scare among Sterlite workers, after a power outage caused a shutdown of the Copper smelter and sulphuric acid plant at around 10 a.m. today (17 August, 2011). The wind was blowing from East to West and carried the smoke away from the highway and the Milavittan village.

13.8.2011

Thangapandi, a 32-year old contract worker, engaged by OEG Ltd to work in Sterlite’s copper smelter factory sustained first degree burns due to an electrical accident. Thangapandi is a resident of Pandarampatti.

1 injured

31.5.2011

Amalanathan, a 28-year old crane maintenance mechanic, was electrocuted and killed in Vedanta-subsidiary Sterlite Copper’s premises today. According to workers, Amalanathan died on the spot at around 11.30 a.m. As of 3.30 p.m., the police had not yet registered a First Information Report. According to a Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party worker, it was only after the communist unions and MDMK intervened by staging a road blockade did the Police even enter the scene. Amalanathan, who was married barely 3 months ago, is a resident of a locality called 3rd Mile, near Sterlite.

1 dead

3.3.2011

Ratheesh, a young contract employee from Sterlite, sustained 30 to 35 percent burn injuries on chest and hand. He was admitted to Apollo Hospital, Madurai, and underwent treatment until 24.3.2011. Inpatient Number: 205688. Referred by Dr. Vanitha Stephen, Tuticorin.

1 injured

 

Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and environmental activist.