The former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, A.P. Shah, on Friday criticised the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for their “half-hearted approach” to the ongoing public hearing on the safety, viability and cost efficiency of nuclear energy.
Mr. Shah is heading a ‘People's Tribunal' along with former Justice S.D. Pandit, which is conducting a non-governmental inquiry into the Jaitapur project.
Not having turned up in person to depose, the agencies have sent written submissions arguing their positions.
“This is supposed to be a democracy. If they don't want to face people's court, it is unfortunate. It is sad that the officials don't want to present themselves in the court. They must make themselves available and should answer all the objections raised. I don't understand the logic of sending documents and not coming before the tribunal. I don't know why this half-hearted approach,” he said. Also, documents related to radiation, health and safety seemed to be regular brochures, he remarked.
“What was not considered in the EIA [Environment Impact Assessment] is an important aspect,” he said after local fishermen told the tribunal that the EIA did not consider the impact on the two creeks in close vicinity of the project site.
A written submission from the AERB, Mr. Shah said, failed to address many points raised by civil society.
“There is no reply to many points raised by the objectors and civil society. Secondly, I don't find any research carried out by them on the effect of radiation on surrounding areas. I don't think they are really prepared to revisit and reinvestigate,” he said.
He also expressed surprise that merely two days after the incident at the Fukushima Daiichii plant in Japan, the nuclear establishment issued a statement about the safety of our reactors.
R Bhattacharya, Secretary, AERB, has said in the submission:
“In connection [with the hearing] it is to be noted that AERB has the mandate to ensure that use of nuclear energy does not cause any undue harm to the health of the workers and the public and to the environment. The issues related to the cost efficacy of technology and the decision of setting up a nuclear facility are outside the domain of the AERB. However, once a proposal has been made to establish a particular facility in a particular location, the concerned party has to obtain appropriate consents from the AERB.
“The AERB has evolved a robust regulatory process for the review and issue of consents, periodic surveillance, inspection and enforcement that ensures adequate safety throughout the life of the facility. The AERB has successfully deployed this regulatory process in the country as can be seen from the high level of safety performance of the nuclear facilities by AERB.”
The Board said it performs “multi-tier” safety reviews.
The AERB said that it “has been independent in exercising its decision making powers in matters of regulation and safety. However, activists and experts contested this. “The AERB reports to the Atomic Energy Commission whose chairman is the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy,” said Suvrat Raju.
Social analyst and activist Praful Bidwai said in his deposition: “The nuclear industry is in crisis world over. It is far too small, late, centralised, expensive, secretive and dangerous. Let us not go for nuclear power.”
Tagging Tarapur as the “world's dirtiest and most contaminated reactor,” he questioned the statements of nuclear scientists in India. “Serial denials are a tactic of the nuclear scientists. There are lot of lies that the nuclear scientists have spoken about nuclear energy,” he said.
There was no geological site in the world which could guarantee that the nuclear waste would remain safe from “sabotage and armed attacks.” Patterns of nuclear accidents indicated that a nuclear accident could occur once every eight years. “Is it a reasonable cost to bear? The answer must be an unambiguous ‘no',” he said.
Deponents also spoke on the impact of radiation on health. Shakeel ur-Rahman presented a study by the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development on the health status of indigenous people living around Jaduguda.
The Maharashtra government has so far shown no inclination of participating in the event although invitations have been sent out. When asked about the government's response, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said: “I have read about the hearing in the newspapers. Will seek information on this.”