Says Central, State Governments have taken safety measures

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board have applied their mind in all clearances and statutorily passed various orders relating to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). There is no scope for the Madras High Court to presume that the orders are arbitrary, a Division Bench has held.

Passing orders on a batch of writ petitions relating to KKNPP, the Bench comprising Justices P.Jyothimani and M.Duraiswamy said once units one and two had been proposed, the Tamil Nadu and Central Governments and the AERB gave their due clearance subject to various conditions.

On the project’s technical aspects, the Bench said when a major study had been done, as seen from the voluminous reports of various authorities, it did not know how it could substitute their views with its own. The court was not competent to make a scientific study or recommendation once it was satisfied that adequate safety measures had been taken.

Insofar as maintaining the seawater’s ambient temperature was concerned, the Bench said it was conscious that the purpose of keeping ambient temperature was for the betterment of bio-diversity, flora and fauna. The ambient temperature, stated to be normally between 23- 28 degree Celsius, had to be necessarily kept intact. When seawater was discharged after mixing with seven degrees of coolant temperature, the ambient temperature should be maintained and the temperature at the discharge point could not exceed 35 degree Celsius. It was not for the court to say otherwise.

Referring to Advocate-General, A.Navaneethakrishnan’s submission that consent to operate would be issued only subject to such conditions, the Bench said these conditions were already available in various reports of expert bodies such as the AERB, the MoEF and the Centre. It hoped that the TNPCB would ensure compliance with such conditions and act in consonance with the reports while granting consent to operate.

Dealing with the fear in the people’s minds regarding the plant’s safety after the Fukushima radiation crisis, the Judges said the expert committee appointed by the State government, had said the reactor was enclosed in a pre-stressed building that could withstand high internal pressure. This was enclosed in a secondary reinforced concrete building, which could withstand external shocks or even an impact of an aeroplane or a missile. There was a spray system which could cool the space in the inner containment and bring down the pressure in case of a pressure build-up. There were 154 passive hydrogen re-combiners at various locations in the inner containment. If hydrogen was released, it would get converted into water without any intervention of an operator or any need for any external power.

For allaying the people’s fears, the Central and State Governments had taken enormous efforts and safety measures. Therefore, it was high time the government took steps for starting production for obtaining more electricity.

The Bench said the expert committee had found that even the strongest tsunami could not disrupt the emergency power supply at the KKNPP and cooling of the reactors could be maintained without interruption. It had also found that the Fukushima reactor was of a much older design and did not have several safety features provided in the Kudankulam plant.

The court said it was happy that the Tamil Nadu government had allotted Rs.12 crore for upgrading Kudankulam and Chettikulam primary health centres into government hospitals and open a primary health centre at Uvari as part of a Rs.500-crore package announced by the Chief Minister.

The government was also planning to construct 10,000 houses under the KKNPP neighbourhood development scheme.