Andhra Pradesh

EAS Sarma decries ‘bid to conclude’ n-reactor pacts

E.A.S. Sarma

E.A.S. Sarma  

‘Both Westinghouse and EDF/Areva are financially fragile’

Social activist and former IAS officer E.A.S. Sarma has strongly opposed the reported attempts by the Department of Atomic Energy to conclude reactor supply agreements with American company Westinghouse for 6x1000 MWe reactors for Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh and EDF/Areva of France for 6x1600 MWe reactors for Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

In a representation to Rajiv Mehrishi, Comptroller and Auditor General, he stated that from public audit point of view, both Westinghouse and EDF/Areva were financially fragile. EDF/Areva's projects in Finland and elsewhere have undergone huge time and cost overruns that have resulted in electricity from such projects becoming highly expensive and unaffordable.

He said in the Indian context, since the generation mix already stands acutely skewed in favour of the thermal mode, addition of new nuclear (thermal) generation capacity to the grid further adds to the unit cost of electricity

Mr. Sarma said while the Three Mile Island (USA) and Chernobyl (Russia) nuclear plant accidents were disastrous, the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011 proved to be far more traumatic. He said according to pro-nuclear Japan Center for Economic Research, it has now been estimated the long-term costs of the 2011 Fukushima accident to be about $750 billion.

Cap on liability

“Globally, the nuclear reactor manufacturer lobby has succeeded in forcing the different countries to severely cap the liability that will devolve on the manufacturers in the event of a catastrophic accident attributable to deficient reactor design,” he pointed out.

Mr. Sarma said in USA, the Price-Anderson Act has imposed a cap of only $13 billion, which is minuscule compared to the Fukushima-like liability but the Act enables US Congress to intervene and modify the cap, if necessary. USA is a financially strong economy that can bear the brunt of a large nuclear accident liability, he said.

On the other hand, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010 in India has imposed a far lower cap of 300 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) which works out to a little more than $400 million, quite negligible compared with the liability that will arise even when a minor accident takes place.

He pointed out “if a Fukushima-like accident were to strike a project in any State in India, the liability that will arise, on the basis of this assessment, will not only wipe out the State’s budget but it will also impose a huge burden on the Union Budget. C&AG should apprise the Parliament of this.”

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 11:50:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/eas-sarma-decries-bid-to-conclude-n-reactor-pacts/article30966391.ece

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