The Supreme Court on Monday said there is no basis to the fear that the radioactive effects of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, when commissioned, will be far reaching.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said: “We are convinced that the KKNPP design incorporates advanced safety features complying with the current standards of redundancy, reliability, independence and prevention of common cause failures in its safety systems. Design also takes care of Anticipated Operational Occurrences (AOO), Design Basis Accidents (DBA) and Beyond Design Basis Accidents (BDBA) like Station Black Out (SBO), Anticipated Transients Without Scram (ATWS), Metal Water reaction in the water core and provision of core catcher to take care of core degradation. The design also includes the provisions for withstanding external events like earthquake, tsunami/storm, tidal waves, cyclones, shock waves, aircraft impact on main buildings and fire. The 17 recommendations were made after the Fukushima accident, which was caused by a natural phenomenon. The facts would indicate that the tsunami-genic zone along East Coast of India is more than 1,300 km away from the nearest NPP site (Madras/Kalpakkam) and about 1,000 km away from Kudankulam. The possibility of hitting tsunami at Kudankulam, as the one that hit Fukushima, seems to be very remote.”

The Bench disposing of petitions challenging the commissioning of Kudankulam NPP said: “Few of them raised the apprehension that it might repeat accidents like the one that had happened at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Union Carbide and Fukushima and so on. Apprehension, however, legitimate it may be, cannot override the justification of the project. Nobody on this earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny. But once the justification test is satisfied, the apprehension test is bound to fail.”

The Bench noted that for establishing the NPP at Kudankulam, India had entered into an inter-governmental agreement with the erstwhile USSR in November 1988 followed by a supplementary agreement in 1998 signed by India and Russia which was in tune with India’s National Policy.

Waste storage

The Bench said: “Serious apprehension has been voiced by the appellants that huge amounts of radioactive waste are generated with the use of nuclear energy which, unless handled, treated, transported, stored and disposed of safely without any leaks, can cause serious contamination of land, water, food, air and the ecosystems. Further, it was also the case of the appellants that during the nuclear fission process, nuclear plants convert almost all of their fuel into radioactive waste with little reduction in mass and even re-processing creates its own high level waste.”

The Bench said, “We may, however, caution that it is of utmost importance that the Union of India, NPCIL etc. should find out a place for a permanent deep geological repository. Storing of Spent Nuclear Fuel at NPP site will, in the long run, poses dangerous, long-term health and environmental risks. NPCIL and the Union of India are bound to look at the probabilities of potentially harmful events and the consequences in future. Noticeably, NPCIL does not seem to have a long-term plan, other than, stating and hoping that in the near future, it would establish a DGR.”

The Bench said: “Economic growth and energy support have to go hand in hand, for the country’s development for which India has entered into various collaboration agreements with U.S.A., Canada, Russia etc. and several Nuclear Power Plants have already been set up in the country.”

Quoting a report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Bench said: “The report highlights that to sustain rapid global economic growth, it is necessary to double the supply of energy and tripling supply of electricity by 2050. Further, it is stated billions of poor people need energy and other life-saving and job-creating technologies.”

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