Based on data obtained through RTI, civil rights activists on Saturday called for putting on hold further expansion of nuclear power plants at Kalpakkam until fears of a possible revival of undersea volcanic activity about 110 km away were conclusively ruled out by a scientific assessment.

Addressing a press conference, V. Pugazhendi, from ‘Doctors for Safer Environment’ and V. Suresh, national general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties pointed out that while replying to an RTI query, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had not ruled out this possibility totally; rather it had called for detailed studies “on the inferred high density material intrusion of remnant magnetisation”.

In a reply to an RTI plea by M. Vetriselvan on the AERB’s assessment of the volcanic risk in the region, the Central Public Information Officer stated that while studies by some agencies such as the National Institute of Oceanography and the ONGC did not notice significant bathymetric anomaly in the vicinity to suggest the existence of a volcano, the Geological Survey of India had recommended further analysis of the situation given the magnetic and gravity anomalies around the said location.

Based on this, the AERB had stated in the RTI reply on May 31 that it had asked utilities at Kalpakkam to conduct detailed studies on the volcanic risk and that these efforts were in progress.

The AERB had taking into account the US-based Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program that had documented the holocene volcano near Kalpakkam that last erupted in 1757 and was classified as “uncertain status”.

“This is not an allegation by rights groups but the contemporary scientific assessment by the country’s top regulatory body in the field of nuclear energy,’ Mr. Suresh said.

Until such time these ongoing studies produced a categorical negation of volcanic risk in the region, the AERB and the Centre should suspend nuclear energy expansion plans at Kalpakkam.