Makes clear that 17 safety measures are additional, not a condition precedent

Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati asserted in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was absolutely safe and all apprehensions on safety of the plant were completely baseless.

Making this submission before a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, Mr. Vahanvati also made it clear that it was not a condition precedent that all the 17 safety measures to be implemented before the plant was put into operation.

Appearing for the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), he dispelled the impression sought to be made by the petitioners that the plant was not safe without the implementation of the safety measures. He drew the attention of the court as to how the safety aspects were considered and reviewed by the Advisory committee at every stage and clearance was given for loading the fuel. He said the 17 measures were additional safety measures needed to be put in place in phased manner to ensure that the plant was fully safe and not a condition precedent.

Referring to the contention of the petitioners that the Task Force appointed by the government had recommended the 17 safety measures, the AG said it was appointed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).

Sequence of events

Tracing the sequence of events from May this year, the AG explained as to how at every stage various committees had considered the reports and reviewed safety measures both short term and long term. It was never the recommendation that all these measures should be complied with before the commencement of the operation of the plant.

He said the NPCIL was asked to improve and give an update at every stage. The AERB gave clearance for fuel loading on September 18 and had sought a report. This would be further reviewed for the next stage viz. First Approach to Criticality (FAC), he said and added that the alarming situation projected by the petitioners was completely wrong.

Safety measures

When Justice Radhakrishan drew the AG’s attention to an affidavit filed on behalf AERB before Madras High Court that the safety measures would be implemented before any further clearance, the AG said it was never said that the implementation of the 17 safety measures was a condition precedent.

He said, “At every stage, the NPCIL would have to seek the approval of the AERB before proceeding to the next step.”

This was however disputed by Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.