While the world is analysing threat possibilities from the tsunami-hit Japanese nuclear plants, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said instructions had been given for an immediate technical review of all safety systems in the country's nuclear power plants to withstand natural disasters.

“The Department of Atomic Energy [DAE] and its agencies including the Nuclear Power Corporation of India have been instructed to undertake an immediate technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants, particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes.”

India has 20 nuclear reactors, of which 18 are indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors, and the rest at Tarapur — TAPS-1 and 2 — are boiling water reactors, like the ones used in Japan. The government attached the highest importance to nuclear safety, and work was under way in the DAE towards further strengthening the nuclear safety regulatory authority. “A safety audit of these reactors was completed recently.”

Blankets to Japan

Dr. Singh, who made statements in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami, said India, by way of immediate help, was airlifting 25,000 blankets to that country. It was ready to send search and rescue teams and relief materials. The Navy was on standby to send its ships to Japan. “We will spare no effort in assisting the Japanese authorities.”

Dr. Singh said most of the about 25,000 Indians in Japan were not in the tsunami-affected areas. About 70 Indians were in the Japan government's tsunami shelters and New Delhi was monitoring their welfare. “So far we don't have any report of [Indian] casualties.”

Stressing that all was well with the safety aspects of the Indian reactors, Dr. Singh pointed out that following earthquake in Bhuj (Gujarat) on January 26, 2001, the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station continued to operate safely without interruption. Similarly, following December 26, 2004, tsunami the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam was safely shutdown without any radiological consequences. The plant was restarted in a few days after the regulatory review.

Earlier, members of both Houses condoled Japan quake/tsunami victims and observed silence in their memory.

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari read out a message expressing his “heartfelt sympathy and deepest condolences” to the “friendly people” of Japan, who had lost their near and dear ones in the tragedy. He described it as a tragedy of “incalculable magnitude.”

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Meira Kumar expressed the House's “heartfelt condolences to the people of Japan for the tragic loss of life and large-scale damage to property wreaked by this [tsunami] catastrophe.”

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