The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved verdict on the petitions for a direction to the Centre not to operationalise the Kudunkulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu without putting in place all 17 safety measures.
Earlier, even as arguments concluded after a three-month period, Counsel Prashant Bhushan drew the court’s attention to announcements being made from time to time by the Prime Minister and other Ministers that the plant would become operational by December-end. The court should either injunct the government against operationalising the plant or get an undertaking from Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran, who represented it on Thursday, that the project would not go on stream.
A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, however, said: “Unless they give an undertaking, we cannot record; they are not giving, what we can do?”
Mr. Bhushan argued that the plant got a vague environmental clearance in 1989 when the site was not decided. No Environment Impact Assessment was done and no public hearing, mandatory under law, was conducted. Three critical changes were made in the plant. “Earlier, water was proposed to be taken from the local dam, but now it will be taken from the sea; earlier the Ministry of Environment and Forests said the change in the temperature of water discharged into the sea must not be more than 5 degrees but now it will be 7 degrees without any MoEF clearance.” Issuing the consent order to establish and operate the plant was unlawful in the absence of the EIA report and the Environmental Management Plan.
Pointing out that the 17 safety measures were intended to be carried out in a phased manner, Solicitor-General Rohin Nariman and Mr. Parasaran had argued that these were additional features formulated after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The government filed an additional affidavit giving a time frame within which these measures would be complied with.
The Tamil Nadu government, in its affidavit, explained the disaster management programmes put in place near the Kudankulam site, training programmes, mock drill conducted in the area, medicines and other safety precautions adopted, and allayed the apprehensions of the people.
Senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, explained the various steps taken and the infrastructure created by the government.
Additional Advocate General Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, explained the various consent orders passed by it for the plant. The averments of the petitioners on release of water with a temperature of seven degrees into the sea were misplaced, going by what was happening in China, he said.