The safety measures recommended by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) are crucial and the Kudankulam nuclear power plant should not be allowed to be commissioned without implementing these measures, argued counsel Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Appearing for petitioner G. Sundararajan, social activist, he submitted before a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra that the AERB had recommended 17 safety measures, of which only six were complied with and 11 yet to be put in place.
“The said recommendations are extremely critical to the safety of the plant and it could not be allowed to run even for a day without adequate safety and backup features in place.”
Mr. Bhushan said that immediately after the nuclear tragedy at Fukushima in Japan, the Government of India constituted a task force to review, among other things, the capability of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) to withstand and mitigate earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural phenomenon. The task force came out with the 17 recommendations for implementation before commissioning Units 1 and 2 of the KKNPP.
“The AERB now states that implementation of these measures would take six months to two years. If, by chance, any natural disaster happens before the said measures are implemented, then there is every chance of a meltdown and huge leakage of radiation that would make a large area uninhabitable for decades and would need evacuation of millions of people.”
Mr. Bhushan also drew the court’s attention to the fact that spent fuel, containing radioactive material, which was earlier agreed to be transported to Russia would now remain in the plant for seven years and its potential to cause accident had not been assessed. Even the recommendations of the Disaster Management Board had not been considered by the government.
Intervening, Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman objected to Mr. Bhushan raising things that were not relevant for the present petition. Justice Radhakrishnan told the SG: “This is not an adversarial litigat
Justice Misra then asked the Solicitor-General “what is the guarantee that there will not be any accident [at the plant when spent fuel is stored there for seven years].” He reminded Mr. Nariman that after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, there was still the problem of how to remove the waste.
Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran, explaining the AERB’s role, said all safety measures had been taken.
Quoting a CAG report, Mr. Bhushan said, “The CAG has stated that the AERB continues to be a subordinate authority and this failure to have an autonomous and empowered regulator is clearly fraught with grave risks.” People in the Kudankulam area were fearful of their safety if the plant was commissioned without implementing all safety measures. It was absolutely essential in the interest of life, health and safety of a large sections of the population that the precautionary principle was invoked and the government be directed not to go ahead with the project until all the recommendations of its own Task Force on safety were implemented.
In its petition, Fishermen Care said the High Court had failed to appreciate that issuing consent order to establish and operate was unlawful in the absence of the Environment Impact Assessment report and the Environmental Management Plan and the report of Public hearing.
Arguments will continue on September 27.