Even though there is no doubt about the safety of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, a communication gap between the scientific community and the public has led to the impasse over its implementation, nuclear scientists told a discussion here on Saturday.
“Public acceptance is a matter of utmost importance in setting up a nuclear power plant. And we have no right to question the questions,” G.R. Srinivasan, former vice-chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, told a discussion organised by the Chemical Industries Association on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).
Mr. Srinivasan said it was too late to talk about rejecting nuclear energy. “What we should ask now is how to go ahead with thorium utilisation and how to improve public acceptance.” Noting that there had been only three accidents in the nuclear power plants in the world so far – one in 4,500 reactor years, he said the safety and security of nuclear plants in India were excellent. India maintained a safety review of these plants once in five years as against 10 years in other countries. The concerns expressed over the Fukushima plant had been addressed almost 15 years ago in the Indian plants. The KNPP was comparable to the best and the safest in the world, he said.
“There is nothing secretive about these plants. We do not cut corners with regard to safety,” he contended, and added that the country's preparedness for emergency was quite high.
V. Venugopal, former director, Radio Chemistry, BARC, said the major problem with Indian scientists was that they were not meticulous in documentation and that there was a communication gap between the scientific community and the public. This credibility gap should be bridged. He urged scientists to come together and go in for a “structured discussion” without creating a sense of having discordant voices.
Lamenting that the per capita consumption of energy in India was very low, he said only adequate energy would be able to improve GDP which could in turn lead to improvement in quality of life.
The impasse over KKNPP is “not a nuclear disaster but a public relations disaster,” observed B.S. Raghavan, former chief secretary of Tripura. Stressing that the fears expressed by the public were genuine, he advised administrators and scientists against imputing motives for the agitation against KNPP.
“Don't make the situation worse by giving spurious arguments,” he said, adding that the issue had reached the present level because of the “miserable failure of approach and expression” by the authorities.