NPCIL vouches for safety of spent fuel from Kudankulam reactor

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) on Wednesday asserted in the Supreme Court that no danger will be caused by spent fuel from the Kudankulam nuclear reactor.

Making this submission before a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman said the spent fuel, after being discharged, is reused for generating electricity.

“The discharged materials include uranium and plutonium, which constitute 96% and 1% of the spent fuel respectively. The remaining 3% cannot be recycled.”

He said the core focus of the fuel recycle management in India involved reprocessing and waste management to reclaim fertile and fissile elements for use as fuel and removal of minor actinides, long-lived fission products and noble metals from spent fuel, for reducing radio toxicity of the waste before final disposal. Reprocessing spent fuel was the key to the country’s three-stage nuclear power programme.

He said that the residuary spent fuel (after recycling) was stored as per Atomic Energy Regulatory Board guidelines. The spent fuels were kept in pools for years to ensure decay of short-lived radio active isotopes and reducing their heat generation and radioactivity.

Asked where these spent fuel was transported to, he said they were sent to deep mines places at Kolar.

In his reply counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners G. Sundarrajan and others, maintained that the Kudankulam plant should not be commissioned without the 17 safety measures being put in place. The AERB and NPCIL should not be allowed to take the recommendations of the expert committee casually. They should get them implemented before granting permission for starting operations.

He argued that the recommendations of the task force committee provided a crucial line of defence to ensure more reliable safety when the first line of safety failed. This could happen due to several reasons such as electrical or mechanical failure or human error in operation, vulnerabilities owing to ageing instruments and equipment, internal sabotage and lack of close coordination among those involved in operation and maintenance.

They should be considered as essential prerequisites for ensuring higher reliability of nuclear safety.

Mr. Bhushan said that the NPCIL and AERB wetaking chances with safety, putting to grave risk the health and lives of millions, in their hurry to commission the plant under international political pressure. Both the task force and the AERB had said that the 17 measures were essential and had to be implemented. “Why would they suggest measures that cost quite a lot of money, energy and time to implement, unless they felt they were necessary?”

Arguments will continue on November 27.

Solicitor General says they are reused for generating electricity

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