Focus will be on re-processing and waste management, it tells court

Allaying the apprehensions of the people of Kolar in Karnataka, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) on Tuesday submitted in the Supreme Court that no decision had been taken to dump nuclear waste in the defunct Kolar Gold Mines of Bharat Gold Mines Ltd.

During the hearing of the Kudankulam case last week, Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman, referring to an affidavit filed by NPCIL on November 7, stated that the Kolar gold mines area was being considered as a disposal site for nuclear waste.

This created a huge controversy and led to protests in the area. In view of this, the NPCIL filed a brief affidavit on Tuesday to the effect that “nothing stated in para 26 of the affidavit [filed on November 7] or otherwise should be read to suggest that NPCIL has identified Kolar Gold Mine of BGML located in South India as one of the sites for storage of nuclear waste.”

Para 26 of the November 7 affidavit had said that “…keeping in line with international developments, the initial focus of work in eighties mainly centred on setting up generic under ground research laboratory in one of the abandoned mines in India and resulted in the development of an underground chamber in Kolar gold mine located in South India.”

This paragraph was interpreted to mean that nuclear waste would be dumped in the Kolar mines, and hence the Centre now clarified that no such decision had been taken.

NPCIL, in its earlier affidavit, said that ‘spent nuclear fuel’ was the ‘used’ fuel after the desired energy had been extracted. After being discharged, it was being reused to produce electricity through recycling. “These discharged materials include uranium and plutonium which constitutes about 96 per cent and 1 per cent of the spent fuel respectively. The remaining 3 per cent cannot be re-cycled.”

It said: “The core focus of the fuel recycle management in India “involves around re-processing and waste management to reclaim fertile and fissile elements for use as fuel, removal of minor actinides, long lived fission products and noble metals from spent fuel, for reduction in radio toxicity of the waste for final disposal. Reprocessing of spent fuel is the key to our country’s three stage nuclear power programme.”

‘We are aware of safety, security’

The affidavit said: “The residuary spent fuel [after recycling] was stored as per the guidelines of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board [AERB]. The spent fuels are kept in pools for a number of years for the purpose of decay of short lived radio active isotopes and reducing their heat generation and radioactivity associated with spent fuel.”

“NPCIL is itself aware of the importance of safety and security and takes utmost care to ensure that the management and transportation of spent fuel is carried out safely, following internationally recognised norms and regulations and the same is done under the observations of the AERB and the government of India,” it said.

Arguments will continue on December 4.