Nuclear power plants cannot harm the environment, says Kakodkar

The recent social impact assessment report of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on the Jaitapur power plant is a people's report and not a scientific one, according to S.K. Jain, Chairperson and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) which is implementing the project. Addressing the media on Friday after the commissioning of the spent fuel reprocessing plant by the Prime Minister, Mr Jain took questions on the controversial Jaitapur project and said, “We have responded to all concerns.”

In reply to questions on the safety of the EPR which is proposed at Jaitapur, he said there was enough material to indicate their safety. However, he said that the Maharashtra Chief Minister has planned a meeting to discuss all the issues related to Jaitapur which will take place before this month end where all apprehensions will be cleared. “We will be in a position to satisfy all concerns,” he said.

In response to questions on the TISS report, he said that it was a compilation of people's opinions. He also said the company was committed to paying more compensation and there was a high level committee which was appointed to look into these concerns and have a consultative process. He said the company was in touch with local people and the tripartite rehabilitation package signed with the State government is an outcome of intense dialogue with local people. He said the package was in line with Centre's policy.

NPCIL has no compulsion to adopt any shortcuts, he remarked, adding that as government officials they can be hauled up for shortcomings even after retirement.

He also refuted a question that the French company Areva, which was providing the reactors for Jaitapur, was blacklisted and said in China of the 40 proposed plants, 16 were being built by Areva.

Convincing locals

Srikumar Banerjee, Chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said, “Its our job to convince the locals and involve them, and a major activity now was to gain their confidence.” Referring to the target of generating 20000 mw of nuclear power by 2020, he said it could be possible but he could not guarantee it. There is in principle approval for 10 Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors and work is underway in four of them. Two Light water reactors have been proposed in Koodankulam. He was confident that dialogue with people will enable the projects to be expedited. Dr. Banerjee also asked the media if they were not interested in development. “If there is a need for development, then is it possible without electricity.” He said there was much development in Narora, Koodankulam and even Tarapur. “We can boast that these projects are not producing electricity but getting the area developed. How can the poor in this country develop without primary energy?” he asked.

Anil Kakodkar, the former Chairperson AEC, pointed out that marine life would not be affected and the temperature of water released from the plant is kept under control. The sea has the ability to absorb the heat and the ocean represents an infinite heat sink. The temperatures come down to an ambient level and the maximum temperature allowed which is 7 degrees Celsius was not exceeded. “Remember these simple facts and don't get carried away by misinformation,” he cautioned.

As far as biodiversity was concerned, there was no release of chemicals or particulate matter and radiation was also low. There was absolutely no effect on the environment due to a nuclear power plant, he averred.

Even as Maharashtra is grappling with the issues around Jaitapur, rehabilitation issues at Tarapur have come to haunt the State. The project affected persons at Tarapur submitted a letter to the Prime Minister stating their grievances nearly 40 years after the first nuclear plant was set up here. Mr. Banerjee refuted these concerns by saying that in units 3 and 4 of Tarapur, 1136 houses were built in a township with basic amenities and all facilities were available. Direct employment was provided to 230 people and there was a training program.

However, Mr. Jain said NPCIL was not directly implementing the rehabilitation packages and it was the State government which should be providing the civic amenities. The NPCIL had paid Rs. 2.25 lakh per house and construction was done by a reputed company. Instead of the Rs. 10 crore rehabilitation package which was agreed upon, NPCIL had spent Rs. 88 crore and paid the State government's share as well, he clarified. From the original 800 project affected, the list grew to 1136 and not a single person has been left out, he said.

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