In its verdict giving the thumbs-up to the Kudankulam nuclear power project, the Madras High Court ruled that the government had taken post-Fukushima concerns while clearing the project and observed that remote possibilities of a disaster could not be cited to abandon a project.
The basic issue before the court was whether the KKNPP had all the required confirmations as per statutory provisions. It dealt with a host of issues relating to the agreements between India and Russia for setting up of the plant, apprehensions that arose following the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, safety measures, temperature of the trade effluent that would be discharged into the sea, earthquakes and safety, spent fuel and environmental safeguards.
Writing the order, Mr.Justice Jyothimani said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had taken note of the post-Fukushima concept and made a thorough study not only by itself, but also through other agencies such as NEERI, M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation and others, who had categorically held that as regards safety of the two units, the apprehension was unfounded. When experts in the field had given concrete opinion more than once, it was not for the court to substitute its own view simply because there was a fear after the Fukushima accident. “In projects of this nature, there is certainly a fear involved. Simply because there is a remote possibility of happening of an event, it does not mean that the very project becomes useless.” Public hearing could at the most be for rectification of possible defects and not for abandonment of the project.
The people’s fear following the Fukushima incident was natural. It was exploited by certain people. Following this, the state government appointed an expert committee, presided over by the former Atomic Energy Commission chief, M.R.Srinivasan.
As regards spent fuel, the Bench cited the Centre’s argument that the only requirement was that the spent fuel should be preserved and used without causing any health hazard. As seen in various reports, such spent fuel could be kept under cold atmosphere in water for fairly long number of years before either using it or disposing it of, the court said.