Says it is well protected from tsunami or other natural disasters

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is well protected from tsunami or other natural disasters, the Centre submitted before the Madras High Court on Tuesday.

It made the submission while the First Bench of Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam was hearing a batch of petitions seeking various reliefs, including a direction to the Union government and others to undertake a fresh review of the project by affording an opportunity to the public to express their views on the feasibility of commissioning it.

The petitions also sought to prevent the authorities from commissioning the plant until such a review was completed in all aspects.

Additional Solicitor General M. Ravindran presented the counter affidavit on behalf of the Union of India.

An Under Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy said that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had undertaken a thorough review of safety measures at Kudankulam as part of its assessment of nuclear plants across the country in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and made additional recommendations.

The affidavit stated that the Centre had spent more than Rs.14,000 crore as on October 31, 2011 on the project. It had signed international contracts and third party agreements. Any temporary stoppage of work would affect the rights of the third parties too and result in colossal wastage of national funds and resources.

Unit 1 and 2 of the KKNNP were in the final stages of completion and would shortly start production of electricity.

The implication of stoppage of work would be grave and create chaotic conditions.

Advocating the need for the commissioning of the plant, the government said that the power situation in Tamil Nadu was critical.

Along with the public and poor farmers who were affected by long hours of power cuts all over the State, there were reports of industries and manufacturing establishments being closed owing to unviable economic prospects and mounting losses due to the non-availability of power.

Most advanced

It further submitted that KKNPP 1&2, categorised as Generation III Plus plants, were most advanced nuclear power plants (NPP) in the world. Most of the current standardised NPPs, including those in the U.S., France and Russia, were Generation II units.

Advanced safety systems

The KKNPP had advanced safety systems that would shut down the reactor, remove decay heat from the core and mitigate any accidents. A Chernobyl-type accident was ruled out. The advanced safety features would prevent any serious incident. Countering the petitioners' averments to the contrary, the affidavit said that the KKNPP was located beyond 1,500 km of an epicentre that might generate a tsunami like the one that struck the Fukushima plant in Japan, where it was just about 110 km from the epicentre.

In a separate counter, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) submitted that the clearance was granted for setting up the KKNPP units 1 and 2 as early as on May 9, 1989.

The provisions relating to the public hearing in the environment clearance process were introduced only in 1997. Hence, there was no necessity to have any such public hearing before the grant of clearance.

It stated that environmental clearance to units 3-6 was granted only after a public hearing.

The Bench directed the matter to be placed to another Bench for further hearing.

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