Koodankulam – The coast is not clear

Nityanand Jayaraman, Hindustan Times
March 10, 2013

Two years ago, on this day, an earthquake and tsunami wiped out a fair section of Fukushima prefecture. The independent commission appointed by the Japanese parliament to investigate the accident observed that while natural disasters may have triggered the nuclear events, the meltdown itself was    “profoundly

The commission concluded that “the accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties.”

The regulatory and governance deficit is all the more true for India. Take Kudankulam, for instance. Minister of state in the PMO V Narayanasamy has assured us at least 16 times in the last 18 months that the plant will be commissioned within 15 days, after the final nod from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). But the PMO’s statements ignore a crucial fact. Kudankulam plants 1 and 2 do not have valid Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances.

Last November, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) grudgingly admitted to the Supreme Court that the desalination plant was an afterthought, and that it was constructed without the mandatory prior environmental clearance. No clearance was obtained for the already constructed dyke and seawall either.

The missing references in the PMO’s statements to the absent CRZ clearance exposes the scant regard that the nation’s highest office has for our environmental laws. Unmindful of the supersession of the 1991 CRZ Notification by the 2011 Notification, NPCIL has applied post-facto for a prior clearance under the defunct 1991 rules. The application is legally untenable.

CRZ clearance is not a mere technical formality. The Notification is supposed to protect the sensitive coastal region by prohibiting some activities and permitting others, subject to conditions derived from a scientific scrutiny of the impacts of the proposed works. India’s east coast is characterised by the massive movement of sediment up and down the shoreline.

A September 2005 study for NPCIL estimates that there is a net transport of 420,000 cubic metres of sediment towards east at the project site. This littoral drift is what nourishes beaches and maintains the coastline in equilibrium.

Hard engineering structures, especially those like the dyke and seawall, that are constructed without studying and providing for management of impacts, can cause severe beach erosion. Idinthakarai’s disappearing beaches are proof of this. The Pollution Control Board’s Consent to Operate is to environmental due diligence what AERB’s final nod is to radiological aspects. Legally speaking, a company can get this consent only after obtaining all other clearances.

But the lack of CRZ clearance has not stopped the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) from issuing consents for units 1 and 2. Legally speaking, the TNPCB should have revoked the Consent to Operate, and the PMO should have stated that the plant will be commissioned only after all clearances, including CRZ, are obtained.

But nobody is keen to make any pronouncements on Kudankulam’s legality. Perhaps, they are praying that AERB will give its final nod.  After that, all those who are “legally speaking” can deal with the fait accompli of a radioactive reactor.

Nityanand Jayaraman is a Chennai-based writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle. The views expressed by the author are personal.


#India- Govt Bluffing the Country on Koodankulam Safety: M G Devasahayam

Latest,DiaNuke.18th Jan 2013

After the recent high-level pronouncements about Koodankulam and repeated reassurances from the DAE as well as the Prime Minister himself, DiaNuke.org spoke to M G Devasahayam, the retired civil servant and energy policy expert, who also heads the independent expert’s panel supported by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy(PMANE) in Koodankulam. Here is his interview:

M G Devasahayam
M G Devasahayam
Shri M. G. Devasahayam is a former IAS and Managing Trustee, Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living, Chennai
Recent articles byShri Devasahayam:

1. What do you think has been behind the nuclear establishment’s repeated postponements of KKNPP’s commissioning?

I feel that despite their bravado, the nuclear establishment is jittery, being torn between relentless Russian pressure and persisting public protest. Never before have they been so intensely challenged and they know they cannot afford to make even small mistakes. And since absolute perfection is virtually impossible in any technology, let alone nuclear, they are not sure about its commissioning.

Besides, the matter is pending in Supreme Court and there is every possibility of an unwritten and undeclared assurance that the government lawyers have given to the SC that NPCIL will not proceed towards making this reactor critical and raise power level until the SC judgement is given. And yet, the government would not like to admit this openly because it will be an admission that Udayakumar and PMANE have succeeded in at least temporarily halting the project progress.

Hence the repeated postponements

2. The DAE Chairman has said everything is safe in Koodankulam and it is their extra efforts to ensure safety which is causing the delay. There have been reports of German and Ukrainian experts being flown in and also rumors of a blast. Do you think doubt the KKNPP’s design safety?

If the design is safe and secure and the nuclear establishment is so sure of it why don’t they share the plant safety report at least with experts. Them not doing it only creates doubts. As a layman, I have a lurking suspicion that the design/technology is unproven and in the process of fuel loading NPCIL has come across several glitches which they are unable to satisfactorily fix. After all too much of secrecy has its own after-effects.

3. The Supreme Court is still hearing the case. What are the major issues being raised there?

Supreme Court has completed hearing and has reserved orders. The major issues before SC are:

i. In 1988 India signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement with erstwhile USSR to set up the two 1000MWe VVRS nuclear reactors at Kudankulam. This agreement was signed on the premise that the spent fuel from the project would be shipped back to USSR for treatment and disposal. Accordingly Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) issued Environment Clearance (EC) on 09-05-1989. Based on this EC, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) issued site clearance for the project on 10-11-1989 meaning that when EC was issued, the plant site had not even been finalised! This is gross illegality.

ii. In the Supplemental Agreement signed with Russia in May, 1998, DAE changed the basic scope of the project by agreeing to retain the spent-fuel in India probably within the plant itself. Since spent fuel is highly radioactive and very toxic, its handling and storage involves very high risks and serious environmental implications. Due to these changed conditions DAE should have approached MoEF for a fresh EC which it failed to do. Instead, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCL) went ahead with the construction of the project in violation of Environment Protection Act, 1986 (EPA). This was a serious statutory violation that called for cancellation of EC and stoppage of construction of the project. This was not done by the MoEF and the construction commenced and continued.

iii. When the EC was issued, it was assumed that cooling water for the project would be drawn from Pechiparai reservoir, whereas the source was later changed to a seawater desalination plant. This substantial change in fresh-water source would make it necessary for DAE to approach MoEF for clearance under CRZ Rules. There was further urgency because under the 1998 agreement high-quality fresh water was critical to keep the spent-fuel in safe storage. By not doing this DAE has violated the EPA.

iv. Project construction should not have started without prior Consent for Establishment (CFE) of the nuclear reactors at Kudankulam. NPCIL applied for CFE as an afterthought on 30-12-2001 and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) granted it on 25-02-2004 without any application of mind. This defeated the very purpose of CFE and its relevance to safety and environmental conservation aspects. Thus, the project as it stands today is the outcome of several illegalities that impinge on the local environment as well as the health and the safety of the people living in its vicinity.

v. NPCIL has not carried out risk analysis for the worst case scenario based on Fukushima experience to assess the consequences up to 30km and even beyond depending on the direction and velocity of wind. From the time of the original EC in 1989, the local conditions such as population growth have changed significantly and such studies are imperative to understand the implications of an accident. In the absence of such a comprehensive analysis, it will be unsafe to start the reactor units.

vi. As the initiator of the project, DAE should have reviewed the safety norms of KKNPP on the basis of Fukushima experience and redefined the boundaries of the Emergency Plan zoning system to bring the same in line with international best practice and the guidelines formulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This has not been done.

vii. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), created post-Tsunami 2004, is a statutory body chaired by the PM himself that has issued unambiguous guidelines on the institutional structures to be set up for handling nuclear accidents. This calls for State-level and District-level DMAs, providing nuclear shelters for the affected people, hospitals for medical care as well as training and orientation to the officials, local Gram Sabhas and the project affected people (PAP) to respond immediately to disasters and evacuate to safer places in case of accidents. None of these have been complied with and Tirunelveli Destrict where KKNPP is located has no such plan or Authority.

vii. Though the Government claims that KKNPP is 100% safe, yet the Russian reactor manufacturer company does not trust its own reactor and has refused to share any part of civil liability in case of an accident due to defect in the reactor. Government of India (to appease that Russian company and Russian Government) has signed an agreement with Russia stating that in case of an accident the public exchequer or the tax payers would foot the bill (that might run into lakhs of crores of rupees) while the Russians would be indemnified.

vii. AERB as it functions is not an independent regulatory body. Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) has come out with a scathing report about the ‘lapses in safety measures’ by the AERB posing ‘grave threats.’ CAG has highlighted several lapses by AERB: Non-preparation of a nuclear and radiation policy; no safety documents as recommended by two expert committees; no decommissioning plan which is extremely critical for public safety and non-adoption of international safety standards and practices. Typical example of AERB’s servility is the fact that NPCL was allowed to go ahead with fuel loading without implementing the 17 safety measures recommended by the post-Fukushima taskforce appointed by the Government of India. For several months NPCL has been telling AERB that it would implement these 17 safety measures by October-November 2012. AERB counsel stated before the Madras High Court that these 17 measures would have to be implemented before any further clearance was given. However, on 10.08.2012, AERB gave initial fuel-loading clearance even while 11 of these safety recommendations were yet to be implemented.

4. Do you think the DAE is misleading the Supreme Court?

DAE has tied itself in knots in the SC. A careful reading of the affidavits filed by AERB, NPCIL and MoEF clearly brings out the fact that no approvals as mandated by the Rules framed under Environmental Protection Act 1986 have been obtained after complying the leagal requirements. What they have got are only patch-works of Environment Clearance (EC) dated 09-05-1989 which was not under any of the EPA Rules all of which have been notified post-1992.

5. The PM has recently said that people’s safety comes first and nuclear energy can wait. How do you respond to this?

As far as nuclear power is concerned Prime Minister has been hypocritical in his statements and actions and does not carry much credibility.

6. As the head of the independent experts’ team in Koodakulam, what do you think are the minimum requirements which must be ensured before commissioning?

Given the series of illegalities and irregularities, lapses and regulatory capture, MoEF should step into the scene and enforce the EPA-1986, revoke the EC given in 1989 and direct NPCIL to undertake a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as per extant Rules which include full public hearing among the Project Affected People. As part of the EIA, NPCIL should be mandated to carry out comprehensive life & livelihood risk analysis on the PAP and the risks of even low-intensity radiation exposure on marine ecosystem. Before MoEF issues fresh EC, NDMA’s norms should be put in place and tested for its effectiveness by an independent agency.

7. People’s movement in Koodankulam is still on. Other places like Kovada, Jaitapur etc are also rising in protest. In coming days, what future do you see for nuclear power in India and what is the scope for replacing it with Renewable Energy and Energy conservation.

Relevance of nuclear power is linked to country’s energy security and the overall welfare of our communities. The present Indian state is clueless on both counts. In the event there is neither any blue print nor any vision as to how energy could serve the cause of people’s welfare and not just the interests of a few investors and MNCs. Hence the rabid argument by the Indian state that nuclear power is essential to bring electricity for the masses While many countries with large percentage of their electric power coming from nuclear source are phasing out, India with a measly 2.5% share is clinging to it like leech, ignoring the massive Renewable Energy potential that the country has.

Germany is the most prominent among these countries which is determinedly moving away from nuclear power. It has a clear plan to reduce the share of nuclear power from the present 23% to zero in 2022 without having to compromise on the energy security or to give up its position as a world economic power-house. And it is planning to eliminate the nuclear power without adding other fossil fuel or dam based power plants. This calls for some scrutiny so that lessons could be learnt

Germany gives six major reasons for switching to renewable energy and to increase energy conservation:

A – Fighting climate change

B – Reducing energy imports

C – Stimulating technology innovation and the green economy

D – Reducing and eliminating the risks of nuclear power

E – Energy security

F – Strengthening local economies and providing social justice

Germany has identified five main problems with nuclear power:

1. the risk of a nuclear disaster at a plant;

2. the risks of proliferation (plutonium from nuclear plants for military purposes)

3. the risk of radiation from the storage of nuclear waste;

4. cost, with nuclear being unbankable at the moment – banks will not finance the construction of new nuclear plants because the cost is too high in comparison to renewables, so all plants currently on the drawing board in Western countries have massive state support; and

5. the limited availability of uranium resources.

Germany considers the third risk is even greater because this will affect future generations, who will not even be able to consume the nuclear power that is produced today but will be forced to deal with the waste. Even when all nuclear fission plants have been shut down, mankind will have to protect its repositories of spent nuclear fuel rods for up to 100,000 years.

There are also several other reasons:

  • Nuclear power is far more limited than renewables. Nuclear plants produce electricity but not useful heat or motor fuel, as in the case of renewables
  • Germany rejects nuclear power because of the risks, the costs and the unsolved waste issue. In ad­dition, nuclear power does not have the potential to play a major role in the world’s energy supply.
  • With 30 kM of evacuation zone around its nuclear power plants, as in the case of Fukushima, it is estimated that about 12% of its population would be affected; with 80 kM evacuation zone as recommended by US around Fukushima about 51% of its population would be affected. A pretty compelling reason for saying NO to nuclear power.
  • Nuclear is simply too small a player on global markets; it does not even account for six percent of global energy supply right now, and more plants are scheduled to be taken off-line over the next decade than are expected to go online.
  • If it is feasible to gradually transition to a renewable energy supply, then it seems irresponsible to have nu­clear plants today – and unethical to pass on these risks to future generations.
  • Renewables will reduce dependency on energy imports, making India less vulnerable to rising prices for fossil fuels and to political influence from abroad.
  • Renewable energy can consist of numerous small, distributed units, but it can also consist of a small number of large, central plants. In the latter case, the power stations can be gigantic solar arrays in deserts or large wind farms on coastlines.
  • Local ownership of renewables provides great economic payback to investing communities. Energy efficiency and renewables together give the poor a way around higher prices for fossil fuels.
  • Another important aspect of the energy transition is social justice. Energy efficiency in particular not only helps promote domestic added value, but also reduces energy poverty.

Key findings of German Energy Transition Report – Arguments for a renewable energy future (www.energytransition.de)

a. The German energy transition is an ambitious, but feasible undertaking.

b. The German energy transition is driven by citizens and communities

c. The energy transition is Germany’s largest post-war infrastructure project. It strengthens its economy and creates new jobs.

d. With the energy transition, Germany aims to not only keep its industrial base, but make it fit for a greener future.

e. Germany demonstrates that fighting climate change and phasing out nuclear power can be two sides of the same coin.

f. The German energy transition is here to stay.

g. The energy transition is affordable for Germany, and it will likely be even more affordable for other countries.

These are more applicable to India than Germany and the potential for RE and energy conservation is far more in India than in Germany. Yet we are mad in pursuing destructive nuclear energy, while playing just lip service to Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation.

8. How should the anti-nuclear movement proceed in India in the future?

From protest to proactive advocacy of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. We must expose the hollowness of India Energy policy driven more by alien interests and kick-backs than national interest and indigenous potential. Advocacy and awareness building should be the major tool in this strategy. Since mainstream media is unlikely cooperate in this we need to develop social media as an effective and powerful tool.

Koodankulam_PTIHeavy police deployment in Koodankulam (file picture, courtesy: PTI)


Shifting sands: A fishing village lost to sea

By Nityanand Jayaraman at  http://tnlabour.in/, a bilingual blog site dedicated to discussing issues related to labour in Tamil Nadu. This site is set up and run by a small group of volunteers.

A photo taken in June 2011. As of 6 November, 2012, the building is in ruins, and the beach has disappeared into sea

P. Jagan is a kattumaram fisherman, a trade that has changed little in centuries. Early most mornings, Jagan launches his boat through the pounding surf and paddles his way to the fishing grounds of his choice. The sea, it appears, has been kind to him.

His house, situated in a row of identical concrete houses closest to the sea, is well-lit and spacious. A washing machine, refrigerator, wide-screen TV and other assets suggest that Jagan has not done too badly for himself with just the kattumaram. As boats go, the kattumaram — with its five logs hewn from the wood of the Albizzia tree, and lashed together — is an efficient and light surf-riding, beach landing vessel. Jagan has been facing one problem, though. The beach outside his home is shrinking.

“The sea has come in,” he says. Looking east from his house, the proof of his claim is visible. A 2-metre high wall of granite boulders lines the village. Unlike many of the other fishing villages on the East Coast Road, Jagan’s village — Sulerikattukuppam or Kattukuppam for short — has no beach. On the Northern edge of the village, near the temple where the line of rocks end, there is a small beach. But this too is rapidly shrinking, as the boulders divert the waves northwards. With every pounding wave and its backwash, a valuable piece of Kattukuppam is lost to the sea.

“We had 47 fibre boats, and 17 kattumarams in our village before the Thane cyclone (2011),” Jagan says. “The cyclone damaged the boats, and many didn’t feel it was worth replacing the boats. Now, there are only 24 boats and 14 kattumarams. There is no place to park our boats. The ocean trade (kadal thozhil) is finished. That’s all sir,” he says.

The cause of Kattukuppam’s misery is a 100 million litres per day desalination plant being constructed at the southern edge of the village by VA Tech Wabag for the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board.

Beaches are dynamic formations, waxing and waning with changing seasons. India’s east coast is influenced by two monsoons – the Northeast and the Southwest. For nine months, including during the southwest monsoon, ocean currents move sand northwards feeding the beaches along the way. Briefly, for three months during the Northeast, the silt is transported from south to North. It is a known fact that any hard engineering structure constructed on India’s eastern coastline will cause erosion of the beaches north of the structure.

Such erosion, they said, would not only expose them to the fury of storms but also cost them precious beach space. Besides being the space for storing craft and mending gear, beaches are also used for fishing. Kattukuppam has eight shoreseine nets. These nets are dragged into sea by a boat, with one end held on to by 10 to 15 fishermen standing on the beach. The boat then makes a loop and returns to the beach encircling the target shoal of fish. The other end of the net is handed over to a second team of 10 to 15 able-bodied men, who then drag back the heavy net, hopefully made heavier by a healthy catch of anchovies or shrimp. Shoreseines are communal nets that are deployed when the sea is flat as glass, usually in the late and post-monsoon months of December, January and February. But these nets require vast amounts of beach space, wide enough to accommodate 15 men standing 2-3 metre apart and long enough to allow for the net to encircle a 100 metre-wide shoal of fish in the nearshore waters. On a lucky day, a shoreseine can haul in several lakhs worth of fish.

Jagan is rueful. “This year, it looks like the shoreseine will not touch water even once. We even lost one net last month. We had kept it on the beach. The sea took it,” he said simply. “We have moved the remaining into the casuarina grove. They are very expensive. Each net costs more than Rs. 2 lakhs.”

Even when it was coming up, fisherfolk protested. They complained that the highly saline rejects from the desalination plant will poison the sea near their village, and harm fishing livelihoods. More importantly, they worried that the structures built in sea for sucking in seawater or discharging wastewater will trigger sea erosion.

In typical fashion, the wisdom behind the fisherfolk’s protests was brushed aside. Protestors were brutalised by the police; a few contracts were given to a handful of big people in the village. The collector assured the villagers of jobs in the water factory.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board issued a Consent to Establish in August 2009. Experts nominated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests claimed to have studied engineering and environmental impact assessment reports and granted CRZ clearance to the project. Scientists averred that there would be no detrimental or unmanageable environmental consequences. The drone of the institutionalised expert drowned the rustic wisdom of the subaltern.

“What can a small fishing village do against these giants?” asks Jagan, looking towards Metro Water’s massive water tanks that can be seen towering over the village.

Construction at the plant began in 2010 with a row of pilings driven into sea. In June 2011, when the author visited the village, erosion was already at an advanced stage. Sandbags had been thrown at the waterline – a puny attempt to thwart the sea. The fall from the beach to the water was already very steep. The foundations of a community hall, used by the fisherfolk to mend nets, stood exposed and eroded. Storm surges had already taken a toll on the building, and cracks were evident.

These buildings were built by the Rotary Clubs of Chennai and Mumbai after the tsunami. They wanted to develop Sulerikattukuppam as a model fishing village. “At that time, the sea was far away,” said Jagan. “All that was beach,” he said with a sweep of his hands covering a 20 to 50 metre expanse of water.

Between June 2011 and now, two cyclones – Thane and Nilam – have battered the coast. “Had the sea been where it had, with the beach separating us, we would have been fine.” A row of community structures – the net mending hall, a community gathering hall, a wall-less hall with a roof supported on pillars – that once defined the eastern edge of the village now lie in ruins.

Advancing steadily northwards, the erosion is now eating into the beaches of Nemmelikuppam, nearly 1.5 km away. According to Jagan, those villagers too have now sent a letter of complaint to the authorities. A mapping study done using a handheld GPS meter and Google Earth images suggests that anywhere between 2.5 acres to 12 acres of beach may have already been lost to erosion.

“The Collector tells us that the pilings will be removed by February, after which there will be no problem. But we know that is not true. They have dumped huge concrete boulders – each weighing hundreds of tons – to anchor down the pipes for taking in seawater and letting out effluents. These boulders form a submarine wall that will prevent the sand from moving north,” he says. “Will they remove this too?”

Jagan’s wife brings out a bottle of “ice-water” for us. That water is from a hand-pump near his house. Almost anticipating my next question, she tells me with a laugh that even this water will turn salty now that the sea has moved closer to the village. It is ironic that a desalination plant set up to turn salt water into fresh water ends up turning fresh water saline.

From nuclear plants to desalination plants, the standard response to protests is police action and the banal promise of employment. About 160 people work as daily labour on and off in the water factory. “Their job is to wash pebbles,” says 30-year old housewife S. Kavitha. Men get about Rs. 300 a day, and women about Rs. 200. “My husband goes there for some extra income if he has free time. But washing pebbles isn’t exactly a livelihood,” Kavitha says with a smile.

The Government seems none too bothered by the plight of the 217 families in this village. Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa plans to inaugurate the desalination plant early next year. Another plant, four times this size, is proposed at an as-yet undisclosed location in Kanchipuram district.


#India-Kudankulam nuclear power plant on shaky legal ground

November 5, 2012

    D. Nagasaila
    V. Suresh, The Hindu
File photo shows the two reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tirunelveli district.
PTI File photo shows the two reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tirunelveli district.

Violations of Coastal Regulation Zone and Environmental Impact Assessment notifications make official claims questionable

The debate over nuclear energy will go on, but the issue with the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is one of the several illegalities on which it is founded.

In 1988, India inked the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant deal with the former Soviet Union. Two key elements in it were: the highly dangerous and toxic “Spent Nuclear Fuel” (SNF) would be shipped back to the Soviet Union; and the massive volumes of fresh water required to cool the plant would be supplied from Pechiparai dam, in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) formally granted approval on May 9, 1989 on this basis. But there was no further progress until 1997.

In 1997, India signed another agreement, this time with Russia, to revive the KKNPP.


Between 1989 and 1997, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notifications were issued in 1991 and 1994 mandating compulsory clearances by environmental regulators before any new plant could be set up.

The CRZ prohibited all industrial activity within 500 metres of the high tide line. The only exception to this was industries and projects of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) directly requiring waterfront or foreshore facilities. The KKNPP today claims exemption from CRZ notification. This is untenable. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), which set up the KKNPP, is registered under the Companies Act as a commercial venture to engage in the business of power projects and “… to enter into partnerships with any person, including private entity or any foreign investing entity.” The NPCIL-KKNPP is thus, under law, only a “Company” and not a project of the DAE. The Supreme Court has consistently held that government departments are distinct from government companies. Further, merely because it draws seawater, it does not become an industry requiring waterfront facilities as per the decision of the Supreme Court in the shrimp farming case. Thus the KKNPP is not exempted from CRZ and the plant has been built in violation of the CRZ notification.

The EIA notification stipulated that for notified industries, environmental clearance is mandatory for new projects or expansion or modernisation of existing ones. Nuclear power is a notified industry and as per EIA notification, an EIA report must be prepared and made public. A public hearing should be conducted to record objections. The entire record would be considered by an independent “Expert Appraisal Committee” before environmental clearance is granted. Clearances are valid for five years. If the project does not commence within the five-year period, then fresh clearances will have to be obtained after fresh public hearings.

The NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the MoEF all claim that the EIA notification is not applicable to KKNPP as it has obtained clearance in 1989. Is this claim valid? An explanatory note to the EIA notification says that in respect of existing projects as of 1994 (the year when the EIA notification was promulgated) only those which have completed the land acquisition process and which have obtained the “Consent to Establish” from the State Pollution Control Boards are exempt. The KKNPP has not even applied for “Consent to Establish” from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board; nor was the land acquisition process completed.

Hence the repeated assertions of exemption from environmental regulations are untenable and seriously compromise environmental safety. The NPCIL started construction work only in 2001. More than 12 years had gone by since the grant of approval in 1989.

Two significant changes

There were two significant changes to the project. The first was that, contrary to the original proposal to ship out the SNF to Russia, the highly radioactive SNF from the nuclear power plant was to be stored, transported and reprocessed within India.

The second change was equally major: the freshwater requirement was now to be met by the construction of six desalination plants instead of sending piped water from Pechiparai dam. The environmental impact of the desalination plant on coastal ecology and marine life are serious concerns with implications for the livelihoods of the fishing community.

The environmental impact of storage, transportation and reprocessing of spent fuel as well as the impact of six desalination plants on marine ecology were not assessed at the time of initial clearance, and not since.

After launch of construction, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) prepared an EIA report in 2003. Even in this report the environmental impact of spent fuel and desalination plants was not assessed. It is important to note that generally for all EIAs the baseline data on air, water, flora and fauna in and around the proposed plant are vital to assess the likely impact of the plant on them.

In the EIA for plants three to six, NEERI used baseline data from the Coast of Travancore on the west coast though the KKNPP is located in the east. The NEERI concluded that the heat from the coolant water from the KKNPP on the east will not affect marine life on the west coast, although it doesn’t require scientific expertise to arrive at such a conclusion.

The NPCIL and the AERB (the MoEF also agrees) put forward the erroneous proposition that spent fuel is no issue at all; it is actually an asset; it can be safely stored at the plant site for five years, then safely transported and reprocessed safely in a facility at a location which is yet to be decided. What is the supporting material for this assertion? Nothing.

In the U.S., Japan

No country has ever been able to reprocess more than a third of spent fuel. Even that involves significant quantities of High Level Waste which is equally radioactive and has to be stored.

In the United States, licences for nuclear power plants have been subject to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) assurance in 1984 that a permanent storage by way of a geological repository would be available for all SNF by 2007-09 and spent fuel can be safely stored on site at the plants until then. In 1990 the deadline was extended to 2025. In December 2010, it was revised to conclude that a suitable repository will be available “when necessary” and in the meantime the spent fuel can be stored safely on site. This ruling was challenged before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In “State of New York, et. al., vs Nuclear Regulatory Commission and USA” the court ruled that spent nuclear fuel “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk.” It will remain dangerous “for time spans seemingly beyond human comprehension.” The court struck down the NRC’s ruling on two grounds. First, in concluding that permanent storage will be available “when necessary,” the commission did not calculate the environmental effects of failing to secure permanent storage — a possibility that cannot be ignored. Second, in determining that spent fuel can be safely stored on site at nuclear plants for 60 years after the expiration of a plant’s licence, the commission failed to properly examine future dangers and key consequences. In other words, no EIA was done by the NRC before coming to such a conclusion.

The real lesson from Fukushima is not merely on improved technical safeguards at plants from tsunamis and earthquakes. The “Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission” appointed by the Japanese Parliament warned that the disaster was man-made. The commission found that it was the government of Japan’s single-minded pursuit of nuclear power which resulted in collusion between the government, the regulators and the plant operator, TEPCO — leading to the practice of resisting regulatory measures and covering up violations.

(The writers are advocates. V. Suresh is also National General Secretary, PUCL. Email: rightstn@gmail.com)


Activist ‘surrenders’ before court to highlight pollution of lake #mustread #ganapati

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu, Sept 25, Salem

Says immersion of Vinayaka idols has polluted the Mookeneri Lake

Moral responsibility:V. Piyush Sethia (right), an environmentalist, came to Salem court to surrender on Monday.- Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Moral responsibility:V. Piyush Sethia (right), an environmentalist, came to Salem court to surrender on Monday.- Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Taking moral responsibility that he was not able to save the picturesque Mookeneri Lake, here, from a bunch of polluters, who immersed idols of Lord Vinayaka, made of plaster of Paris and toxic dyes in it, a Salem-based environmentalist V. Piyush Sethia, Convener, Salem Citizens’ Forum, which resurrected the lake into a throbbing water spread that was once a PWD’s cesspool, ‘surrendered’ before a Salem judicial court here on Monday.

The activist’s ‘surrender,’ with no case pending against him in any police station in this particular issue, had caught the Judicial Magistrate No. 4 N. Vijayalakshmi and a host of lawyers and litigant public, unawares. After going through his petition, which claimed that he ‘surrendered,’ since, as a responsible member of Salem Citizens’ Forum, he had failed to keep his promise given to stakeholders at the time of rejuvenation that the lake would not be ‘abused’ for purpose other than water holding and ayacut use.

Perplexed, the Magistrate after seeking his explanation told the petitioner’s lawyer P. Mayan that she had to consult legal experts and senior colleagues before deciding the fate of his ‘surrender petition.’ “But later in the evening the Magistrate had dismissed the petition itself pointing out that it had enclosed no supportive documents such as FIR or any specific complaint filed against the petitioner in this regard,” Mr. Mayan said.

Talking to The Hindu, Sethia said despite knowing well in advance that chemical-coated idols would be immersed in the lake, he failed in his duty as a responsible citizen to stop it.

“As the Forum’s convener I could not also stop the massive pollution that the immersion caused to the lake, illegal under the provisions of Air and Water Act of Environment Protection Act 1986 and Tamil Nadu Public Property Damages Act. I construed it as negligence on my part, which is an abetment to crime. Hence I surrendered,” he said.

He further said the City Police had permitted the immersion of idols – all made of plaster of Paris and toxic dyes in the lake. “We gave the Police Commissioner a petition against the immersion of such toxic coated idols. He assured us of ‘rule of law.’ Believing him, we did not take the matter to Collector, PWD and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to stop it,” he said. He and others were not against the immersion of idols that are made of clay and natural dyes.

Painful sight

It was a painful sight to see the water spread of Mookeneri Lake, now home to rare water birds, fish and exotic plants, and a much sought-after tourist spot, turning poisonous. “We in the Forum are developing many lakes under private-public partnership. But all our concerted efforts go waste when such environmental vandalism goes on unchecked,” he said.

He has decided to approach City Police to register a case against him – again for abetment to a crime.



  • Piyush Sethia was involved in the restoration of Mookaneri Lake
  • Vinayaka Idols made of plaster of Paris and toxic dyes were immersed in the lake recently


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


Chennai, Aug 16 (IANS) With the protest against Kudankulam nuclear power plant entering its second year, the Madras High Court hearing two petitions against the project Thursday came down on union ministers, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

“Hearing the two petitions, the Madras High Court came down heavily on the union ministers, saying that they respect only the Supreme Court and not the other courts. The court also asked how central ministers can announce KNPP (Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project) commissioning date when a case is being heard,” P. Sundararajan, a lawyer, told IANS.

P.Sundararajan is junior to advocate M. Radhakrishnan representing G. Sundarrajan who has filed two petitions in the court challenging the consent given by the AERB and the TNPCB to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) that is building the plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

According to Sundararajan, the court also wondered why the AERB was in a hurry to clear fuel loading.

“The AERB gave its nod to NPCIL to load the fuel in the first reactor last week without ensuring the implementation of safety measures in the KNPP as recommended by an expert committee set up to review the safety aspects of Indian nuclear power plants in the wake of nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan,” Sundarrajan told IANS about his petitions.

He said the AERB had earlier submitted to the court in another case that it would issue clearances only after completion of review and resolution of reactor commissioning reports and issues relating to the KNPP, including the implementation of safety measures after the Fukushima accident.

Sundarrajan contends that the AERB has not applied its mind on the consent order issued by the TNPCB on the tolerance temperature limits for the KNPP effluent before giving its clearance for loading of the fuel in the plant’s first unit.

According to him, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, state that thermal power plants using sea water should adopt systems to reduce water temperature at the final discharge point so that the resultant rise in the temperature of receiving water does not exceed seven degrees Celsius over and above the ambient temperature.

The TNPCB, in its consent order, allows the tolerance temperature limit of trade effluent of the KNPP at 45 degrees Celsius while the Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment for the KNPP units 1 and 2 and additional units 3 to 6 has limited the tolerance temperature to 37 degree Celsius, he said.

Interestingly, the central government-appointed expert committee in its report last December said that the seasonal variation in surface water temperature of Kudankulam Marine Environment ranged from 23 degrees Celsius during monsoon and winter to 29 degrees Celsius during summer, with an annual average of 26.6 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, the protest against the two 1,000-MW atomic power plant entered its second year Thursday with anti-nuclear activists stating that their fight was now two pronged — on the streets and within the portals of the Madras High Court.

“Our fight is on two flanks — civil/democratic and legal. We have been protesting against the project in a non-violent manner for the past one year. Now public interest petitions (PIL) have been filed in the Madras High Court. The court has reserved its decision on one, and two more cases have been filed,” said M. Pushparayan, a leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMAN), said.

He said fishermen in Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts did not go into the sea Thursday to express solidarity with PMANE and a huge crowd had gathered in Idinthakarai to attend an anti-nuclear power conference.


Kudankulam project cleared by PCB: counsel


CHENNAI, August 2, 2012



“The board gave the consent after fully satisfying itself”

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) gave its consent for operating the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project on July 23, its counsel submitted before the Madras High Court on Wednesday.

During the resumed hearing of a batch of petitions before a specially-constituted Division Bench, comprising Justices P. Jyothimani and M. Duraiswamy, counsel Rita Chandrasekar said that the board gave the consent after fully satisfying itself and due inspection.

The order issued by the Member-Secretary stated: “Consent is hereby granted under Section 25 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and under Section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.” The consent was subject to provision of the Acts, rules and orders and also subject to the terms incorporated in the special and general conditions.

A copy of the order was filed before the court.

No to public hearing

Mohan Parasaran, Additional Solicitor-General, appearing for the Centre and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, said that units I and II of the KKNPP were initiated in 1989 itself. No useful purpose would be served if a public hearing for the units was held now when adequate awareness and various expert committees had gone into various issues/concerns raised in respect of the project.

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991 was prospective and, for a project initiated in 1989, the notification could not be applied. An administrative note was also placed before the court whereby the PMO had clearly advised that the project should be exempted from any CRZ regulations that may come into force. Further, the 2001 CRZ notification clearly exempted Department of Atomic Energy projects from obtaining CRZ clearance.

On the issue of spent fuel of the plant, an additional affidavit was filed stating that the spent fuel would be buried deep as per Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards.

Krishna Srinivasan, counsel for the project, said that the pollution control board had given consent in 2004 for establishing the plant. It was valid for two years or till such time the company took steps to initiate the project. It had been demonstrated that the company had taken various steps to initiate the project within two years.

I.S. Inbathurai, Special Government Pleader, said the district administration conducted an offsite drill at Nakkaneri on June 9 this year. He filed the AERB’s report in this regard.


  • “The spent fuel will be buried deep as per AERB and IAEA standards”
  • Special Government Pleader says he had filed AERB report on offsite drill at Nakkaneri


Fishermen’s body seeks TNPCB inspection of Kudankulam site

CHENNAI, May 31, 2012, The Hindu


Wants consent order for operating plant issued only after this is done

A fishermen’s welfare organisation has filed a public interest litigation petition in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Member-Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) here to inspect the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project site along with experts, and later issue the consent order for operating the plant.

The order should be issued only after the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) of India complies with all mandatory requirements, Fisherman Care of Old Pallavaram here stated in its petition.

It had been reported in the media that fuel filling operations in the power plant would commence soon. The board, by an order of February 2004, had issued a consent order to the NPC authorising it to establish the plant. The consent was valid for two years or till the industry obtained consent to operate under Section 25 of the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, whichever was earlier. The Board had earlier stipulated several conditions.

The petitioner said that from the reply of April 2 this year under the RTI Act, it was clear that the TNPCB had not given consent for operating the plant. It also came to be known that the Member-Secretary had not inspected and verified whether all safety measures as required in the conditions stipulated in the consent order of 2004 had been implemented.

The petitioner said some of the conditions had not been complied with. One condition was that adequate number of coastal water quality monitoring stations should be set up. But, the compliance report states that coastal water quality was being monitored by the Environmental Survey Laboratory.

Another condition was that precautionary measures should be taken in transportation, handling and storage of radioactive fuel and wastes and spent fuel. The NPC had stated that it “will be complied”.

The petition has been posted for hearing after the court’s summer vacation.

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