Catastrophe in Japan stokes fear among green activists

The deadly shadow of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan is stoking fear among green activists, leading to a stepped-up campaign for a rethink on India's nuclear power development programme.

Environmental activists from Visakhapatnam have appealed to the authorities to have a relook at the decision of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to set up nuclear power station at Kovvada of Srikakulam district with an investment of Rs.60,000 crore.

“After the holocaust caused by the tsunami and nuclear reactor plant meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in technologically advanced Japan, the decision to establish the nuclear power plant should be reviewed. Moreover, the project site is very close to Visakhapatnam — a strategically located area with the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command and several sensitive industries including oil refinery,” E.U.B. Reddy, professor of environmental sciences, Andhra University, told The Hindu.

He said any accident or emission of radioactive waste and other hazardous material would endanger the lives of people as well as the flora and fauna. “It is better to tap energy from non-conventional resources such as solar energy and power from tidal waves,” he suggested.

The colossal loss experienced by Japan and the widely televised scenes had shattered many. Those opposed to nuclear power station at Kovvada with a capacity of 8,000 MW wanted to intensify their agitation against land acquisition.

The project needs 2,375 acres half of which is owned by local people including fishermen. Now, personnel of the National Institute of Oceanography situated at Visakhapatnam and Goa are carrying out studies on weather and characteristics of the waves. It was said that the project would be commissioned in phases with six new generation reactors.

“The reactors which will be supplied from the US have not been tested anywhere. First of all, we don't want the nuclear power plant at Kovvada. We have told the government categorically that Srikakulam should not be made an experimental ground for these reactors,” E.A.S. Sarma, former Union Energy Secretary, said.

Asked to comment on the fallout of the Japan catastrophe for India, he said the widely televised developments had brought about awareness among a large number of Indians on the perils of nuclear technology. Inherently, nuclear technology was highly risk-prone.

An American company (possibly General Electric) would supply reactors for Kovvada, he said and stated that these were not fully tested for safety. In view of the incidents in Japan, the safety standards would have to undergo a major change. “India does not need such large nuclear capacity additions. Kovvada can be safely deferred or dropped,” he said.