Experts' answers to plant safety questions may be circulated

Former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission M.R. Srinivasan on Sunday expressed the hope that the Tamil Nadu government, which has historically been proactive in supporting India's nuclear energy programme, would help resolve the deadlock over the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project quickly.

Addressing reporters, Mr. Srinivasan said he was confident that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa could be looked upon to continue the tradition of Chief Ministers extending “solid support” to a safe and reliable nuclear programme. He recalled that during her previous tenure as Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa had, while visiting the Kalpakkam plant, clearly enunciated the position that Tamil Nadu would encourage the use of science and technology for public good.

Mr. Srinivasan said the 15-member expert panel, constituted by the government, would be able to convince the public that the third generation plus class Kudankulam power project was completely safe and vital to meet the energy requirements of the country.

“The answers of the experts to a set of 50 questions relating to the safety of the plant and other issues are likely to be circulated to the public this week,” he said.

Stating that the Kudankulam project was in the interests of Tamil Nadu, the southern States and India as a whole, Mr. Srinivasan said it was very much conceivable that the State might welcome more nuclear energy projects, once the two reactors at Kudankulam started generating and supplying power at less than Rs.3 per kwh.

Stressing that the public's legitimate fears over safety and the local community's livelihood concerns had to be addressed, Mr. Srinivasan said the snowballing protest against the plant was the result of a failure on the part of the project authorities to explain to the people the safety features adopted at Kudankulam.

The “double containment” feature that enhanced protection against even the eventuality of an air crash against the structure, the extra heights provided to reactor and diesel generator consoles to safeguard against raised water levels and over 150 hydrogen recombiners to thwart the potentially explosive merger of hydrogen with air were among some of the safety aspects of Kudankulam, he said.

Mr. Srinivasan pointed out that the mock drill carried out in April without prior safety awareness campaigns among the local community had fuelled a mistaken perception that residents would be evacuated and lose their land to the project. On the contrary, there was enough land for the project to commission four more reactors to the current complement of two reactors, he said.

Asked for his view of developed countries like Germany and Belgium phasing out nuclear plants, Mr. Srinivasan said unlike these nations that required relatively less power as they had already put in place infrastructure, India had huge energy needs to meet its aspirations for growth.

These countries also benefited from generous gas supplies from Russia in addition to nuclear energy delivered from France.

“It is also quite possible that Germany and Belgium might revisit the nuclear energy option at a later phase; but in India if you kill it (nuclear power) now, you kill it forever,” he said.