N-fuel complex in Rajasthan faces public anger


Sunny Sebastian

The Hindu

There appears to be considerable opposition from the local population to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) proposed to be set up at Rawatbhata near Kota in Rajasthan. The complex, with an envisaged capacity of 500 tonnes fuel a year, is to cater to the four PHWR (Pressurized heavy water reactors) plants of 700 MWe capacity each coming up by 2016 in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In capacity, the Rawatbhata fuel complex is to be next to only Hyderabad NFC in the country which produces 850 tonnes fuel a year.

A “jan sunwai” or public hearing, organized by the Department of Atomic Energy and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) at Anu Pratap Colony in Rawatbhata on Wednesday witnessed angry protests from the local villagers. The hearing — the villagers said they were never consulted when the nuclear power plants were set up one by one, starting from 1973 — first of its kind, found the villagers and representatives of the casual labourers union complaining of unfilled promises made by the management in the past.

The hearing was attended by NFC Hyderabad’s senior official N. Sai Baba, Pollution Control Board representative K.C. Gupta, Additional District Magistrate and scientists from NEERI besides scientists, Surendra Gadekar, Sanghamitra Gadekar and energy expert, Soumya Dutta. Dr. Sanghamitra rubbished the environment study on the complex prepared by NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Institute) and termed it as a “document of untruths”.

The palpable tension perhaps justified the heavy presence of police in the premises of the New Community Centre where the hearing was held. The complaints pertained to poor development of the area, lack of employment avenues to the local population and the requirement of huge quantity of water for the existing power plants as well as the proposed fuel complex.

On June 15, the villagers held a massive rally at Rawatbhata protesting against the risks brought about by the existing plants and the proposed fuel complex. The latest incidence of radio active exposure has been as recent as that of June 23, when two workers got affected by radio active tritium vapour at Unit 5. A case currently debated is the affliction of contract labour Nand Kishore Mehar, who complains that he is not being admitted to the hospital or allowed to access the report on his urine status.

The radiation threats, complaints of risks faced by the casual labourers – who, the labourers said, are removed once they get affected — and denying the medical facilities available at the well equipped hospital in the nuclear plant premises to the local population also were points highlighted by the public and the social activists. “People are being evacuated from the area in the name of four wildlife sanctuaries but then how can the authorities allow a nuclear fuel complex in the same area,” wondered Harak Jain, leader of the local Sangarsh Samiti.

Besides, the locals feared that the uranium brought to the place for processing by truck or by train would contaminate the water and air in the area and as such the Chambal river itself was at risk.

Breaking: Tritium leak in nuclear reactor at Rawatbhata, 38 workers exposed to radiation!


News clip in today’s Rajasthan Patrika

Kumar Sundaram

The front page of today’s Rajasthan Patrika has carried a news about tritium leak in Rajasthan’s Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant (RAPP) which the national media has conveniently overlooked. According to the news item, the accident happened 5 days back but the plant administration at RAPP kept it under wraps. On Saturday, 38 workers were exposed to tritium leaks while they were working on heavy water and tritium supply channels in the reactor. Vinod Kumar, the Station Director of RAPP Units 5 and 6 has been quoted as saying that 3 workers have been exposed to Tritium doses exceeding normal.

According to some unconfirmed sources, around 150 employees and daily workers were examined and kept under observation. An expert team from Mumbai has arrived there.

Speaking to DiaNuke.org, prominent nuclear physicist Dr. Surendra Gadekar said there is no “safe does” of Tritium. It is a dangerous radionuclide of hydrogen, soluble in water and can reach in every corner of the body once somebody is exposed to it. It leads to disabilities and genetic mutation. Dr. Surendra Gadekar has done extensive health survey around the RAPP in the past and his studies have revealed high occurrence of physical disabilities and cancer, especially in children and women. He also expressed concern over the plight of contractual workers in the nuclear industry in India.

Contrary to the high-decibal official rhetoric, the Indian nuclear industry has a poor track-record on safety. In August last year, radioactive leak took place in India’s Kakrapar nuclear reactor leaving 3 workers severely sick due to radiation exposure, all employed on contractual basis without any health benefits or insurances. The officials in the power plant pressurised the workers for a month until their condition worsened and they complained to the district collector. Embarrassed when this incident was revealed, a senior official from the NPCIL said –  “taking advantage of it, the workers, who were on contract, began demanding regularisation” !

Mr Kailash Chandra Purohit, who has taken over as the new CMD of the NPCIL this week, started his career at the Rawatbhata nuclear reactors. In a media interview today, Mr. Purohit has summed up his lesson from Koodankulam for other nuclear power projects- a massive “outreach program”. Public relation is the best way to ensure nuclear safety !

Radioactive water leak at Japan nuclear plant: report


Feb 2, 2012

TOKYO: Some 8.5 tons of radioactive water leaked from a reactor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but it had not flowed outside the reactor building.

Tokyo Electric Power Co said the leak occurred in the No 4 reactor after a pipe connected to the reactor dropped off, Kyodo News agency reported today, quoting the plant‘s operator.

The leak was discovered last night and was stopped shortly afterwards.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant was crippled by meltdowns and explosions caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

Radiation was scattered over a large area and made its way into the oceans, air and food chain in the weeks and months after the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in a large area around the plant and swathes of this zone remain badly polluted, with the clean-up proceeding slowly amid warnings that some towns could be uninhabitable for three decades.

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