Allays apprehensions about Kudankulam nuclear plant

If the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I had believed for a moment that his monumental structure will be brought down in an earthquake, would we have got the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple?

Or, if Homi Bhabha had decided that radiation is too harmful for citizens, will the country be running a safe and successful atomic power programme for the last 40 years, producing 4,700 megawatt of nuclear power?

Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam raised these rhetorical questions to rebut criticism based on fears that the plant would set off uncontainable levels of radiation in the event of a natural disaster, as part of his continuing pitch in support of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), which is facing determined opposition from activists, villagers and fishermen.

In a detailed report in Tamil, aimed at answering apprehensions about the plant, Dr Kalam, along with his advisor V Ponraj, argued in a report that nothing was possible if people chose to believe that something was too dangerous to be tried. Citing other instances, he said Karikalan, an early Chola emperor, did not consider it impossible to dam the Cauvery when he built the Grand Anicut.

He went on to contend that cancer treatment through chemotherapy would not have come into existence had scientists decided that radiation was an insurmountable risk, and cited the “sacrifice” of Marie Curie. “Words such as ‘danger', ‘impossible' and ‘fear' are a disease infecting many of us. History was not made by this band of ‘can't doers',” Dr. Kalam said.

Claiming that his own study had shown that the plant passed the most stringent safety tests in terms of nuclear criticality, radiation, thermal hydraulic systems and structural integrity, he said he could find no fault in the design or site of the nuclear plant. The fuel storage complex could withstand earthquakes of intensity up to 6 on the Richter scale and would automatically shut down even if it was hit by a quake. It had alternative power supply arrangements to the extent of 400 per cent. The spent fuel storage pond was built 20 feet below the earth, he said. He also said the location was not highly prone to quakes.

Dr. Kalam also said solid nuclear waste could be preserved safely for seven years, and could be recycled after that. Even liquid waste could be converted into solid waste and preserved and such waste matter from a reactor could not cause radiation, he claimed.