Environmentalists say EIL is not qualified to conduct study, want report to be reviewed by an independent experts panel

Environmental experts and activists, who have alleged that Engineers India Limited (EIL) is not qualified and accredited as yet to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Mithivirdi nuclear power plant in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, have found serious gaps in the EIA report itself in its present form.

They have demanded that the EIA presented by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) as submitted by EIL should be reviewed by an independent experts committee.

“The project, if implemented, can lead to national disaster, whose impact will be experienced by people and the eco-system, beyond the borders of Gujarat,” say environmentalists Rohit Prajapati, V. Pugazhendi and V.T. Padmanabhan in their analysis.

Mr. Prajapati heads the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti in Gujarat, while the other two are scholars who have previously questioned the safety issues of Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

They have identified 24 contentious issues in their report titled, “Critique of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Gujarat Nuclear Power Park at Mithivirdi by the Engineers India Ltd.” In their analysis of the scientific aspects of the proposed nuclear plant, they have claimed that the EIA report is “thoroughly incomplete, studies have not been conducted properly, and withholds crucial information related to the safety of the reactors.”

Among the key issues they have raised is that no drilling has been done at the reactor site to ensure that there is a stable continuous rock under the reactor foundation. For this, they say, rock samples need to be taken from 100 metres below the proposed site. This was not done following public protests against the project.

The activists point out that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had made it clear that studies of the maximum flood level and mitigation strategies should be conducted, but this was not undertaken.

The environmentalists say the impact of the proposed Kalpsar Project of the Gujarat government was also not considered. The project that envisages damming the Gulf of Khambhat lies just 43 km north of the Mithivirdi nuclear plant site in coastal Bhavnagar district. Their report states that “the western limb of the dam is situated near the active West Cambay [also called Khambhat] Basin Fault that happens to pass 11 km west of the plant site.” The EIA makes no mention of this.

The Kalpsar project will divide the Gulf of Khambhat (or Cambay) into two — a 2,000-sq km freshwater lake and a remaining open seat. “This will change the water level, tidal height and many other variables in the Southern half of the Gulf,” says the report. The activists claim this too has not been studied in the EIA.

They cite the finding of B.K. Rastogi, Director-General of the Institute of Seismological Research (ISR), Gandhinagar, who had warned of a “reservoir induced earthquake because of the [Mithivirdi] project.” He suggested that scientific studies with respect to this problem need to be undertaken immediately.

The activists point to the presence of the massive Alang-Sosiya ship-breaking yard and say the presence of hazardous industries near a nuclear project site could not be glossed over in an EIA project.

They say the EIA shows the ship-breaking yard to be 4 km from the site but the actual distance is 700 metres and so the site is not right for a reactor complex.

The environmentalists say: “There are other unresolved questions about the safety of AP1000 reactor also. To be brief, we only mention that a 3,000,000 litre water tank is perched on top of the reactor building. Normally, these tanks are located on the ground level. The water tank 100 metres above the ground level can be an easy target for a terrorist attack.”

They explain: “Our critique of Mithivirdi EIA is based on studies conducted by the scientists of the Gujarat government and reputed academic institutions in the country.”

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