Health, environment as important as plant safety: Bench

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to spell out how nuclear waste/spent fuel will be handled or transported after the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu becomes operational.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra on Wednesday wanted to know from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), how it intends transporting the nuclear waste out of the plant and store it in a safe place without affecting environment.

“Where would the nuclear waste go and what impact would it have on environment and people’s health if it is transported to other places? How much and how long can such waste be stored?” asked Justice Radhakrishna. Even as Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman, appearing for the NPCIL, asserted that the plant was safe, the Judge told him, “Issues pertaining to health and environment are as important as [is] safety of the plant.”

Mr. Nariman, citing reports of various committees, said the petitioners, who raised safety concerns, had misinterpreted the Atomic Energy Regulation Board’s statement that 17 safety measures needed to be implemented before the Initial Fuel Loading (IFL) stage in the Kudankulam plant. Pointing out that the 17 measures were intended to be carried out in a phased manner, he said these were additional steps formulated after the Fukushima (Japan) nuclear accident.

Mr. Nariman said the AERB was satisfied that the 17 safety measures could be implemented in a phased manner and accordingly permitted IFL. The NPCIL was taking steps to implement the safety measures and the AERB had noted that seven out of the 17 had already been taken. .

On spent fuel, he said it was not a total waste and it could be recycled for use in nuclear plants. Only recycled spent fuel would become waste.

TNPCB clearance

To a question from Justice Radhakrishnan whether the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had given clearance for the plant, Mr. Nariman said clearance was issued subject to certain conditions.

The Bench then asked Additional Advocate-General for Tamil Nadu Guru Krishnakumar to submit the relevant documents.

Arguments will continue on Thursday.