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SC to decide the fate of Kudankulam nuclear power plant today


Updated: May 6, 2013, 7:21 AM IST
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SC to decide the fate of Kudankulam nuclear power plant today
Sources confirm that the reactor has been fully loaded and tests are presently underway.

New Delhi: Ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the Kudankulam nuclear reactor, sources confirm that the reactor has been fully loaded and tests are presently underway.

The reactor is expected to start functioning sometime in May, but full production of 1,000 megawatts will take between six to eight months as the power generation will be in phases beginning with 50 megawatts which will then be gradually scaled up.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Monday is expected to pronounce its verdict on a plea seeking halt to the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant till the implementation of key additional safety measures suggested after an n-accident in Japan.

The petitioner, Chennai-based IT professional G Sunderrajan, wants the government to implement 11 of the 17 additional safety measures recommended for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) by a task force set up by the government in the wake of Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011.

The apex court bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra's verdict would come nearly two years from the day when residents of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu launched protests against the project. "The judgment will come on the 630th day of the people's protest against the project," M Pushparayan, one of the key figures in the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) spearheading the anti-KNPP stir, told reporters in Chennai.

The apex court's decision would come close to the admission by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) about four faulty valves in the first reactor of the project and also after the arrests of Russian officials over alleged corruption in sourcing sub-standard materials for the KNPP, said Pushparayan. Sunderrajan said in Chennai that he was not seeking the scrapping of the project.

"I have requested the apex court to enhance the safety features of the KNPP by ordering NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) to implement the 17 recommendations of the special task force formed after the accident in Fukushima," said Sundarrajan. "Changing of the government's policy decision will have to be fought in the people's court," he said.

He asked the court to ensure that the substandard equipments from the Russian company Zio-Podolsk were not used in the KNPP and a proper mock drill was conducted for the safety of the people living within the 25 km radius of the power plant.

He challenged in the apex court the August 31, 2012 verdict of the Madras High court, which while asking the AERB to ensure that all the safeguards were complied with by the NPCIL, India's atomic power plant operator, allowed it to go ahead with the operationalisation of the plant.

The NPCIL is setting up the project in Kudankulam, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made VVER 1,000-MW each reactors. The petitioner contended that the high court had given the go-ahead to the KNPP but by the AERB's own admission some of the recommendations of the task force would take two years for implementation.

The AERB said in April that four defective valves were replaced at the first unit of the KNPP which was undergoing pre-commissioning tests. Soon after the Fukushima tragedy, the government had constituted the task force to review, among other things, the "capability of the KNPP to withstand and mitigate earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural phenomenon".

The task force reviewed the safety measures of the KNPP in the light of inadequacies of Fukushima plant which suffered due to lack of alternative fresh water storage and want of back-up power system, and gave 17 recommendations for implementation before commissioning of units 1 and 2 of the project, the petition said.

Pushparayan said that on the apex court's judgment day, the fishermen in the Idinthakarai village on Monday will boycott fishing and school children will petition the district collector to ensure their safety.

Hinting at the continuation of the protest beyond the 630th day, Pushparayan said: "It is for the people to decide whether the protest against the project should continue or not."

The government told the Supreme Court earlier that the KNPP was a fully secured plant and the 17 additional safety steps were by way of abundant caution. Six of 17 additional safety measure suggested by the task force had already been implemented, the court was told.

During the hearing the judges said they would examine what steps the government had taken for setting up an independent atomic energy regulatory body in view of India being a signatory to the International Convention on Nuclear Safety.

The petition contended that the convention mandated that "each contracting party shall take appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organisation concerned with the promotion or utilization of nuclear energy". Sunderrajan also questioned the validity of the environmental clearance given to the project.

With Additional Inputs From IANS

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