Archive for December, 2010

Coastal zone regulations to become an Act soon?

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Priscilla Jebaraj in The Hindu

December 31, 2010

The much-amended coastal regulation zone notification could soon be replaced by an Act of Parliament, preventing frequent instances of one-off exceptions to the rules.

At a meeting with leaders from the fishing community on Wednesday, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh “agreed that the Ministry will start working on replacing the notification with an Act of Parliament,” according to the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF). The NFF had been holding consultations with the Environment Ministry this month following protests against the latest draft CRZ notification.

The CRZ notification of 1991 has been amended at least 25 times, often to allow a single industry or infrastructure project to bypass coastal norms meant to protect the vital ecosystem. A case in point is the Navi Mumbai airport which was proposed in 2000, in blatant indifference to the fact that an airport at the site would violate CRZ rules.

After the project was approved by the Cabinet, the government got around the environmental hurdle by simply amending the notification in 2009 just to allow the airport to be constructed there.

Unlike a notification, which can be amended endlessly by its nodal Ministry, any change to an Act of Parliament would have to be cleared by Parliament itself.

The NFF says that Mr. Ramesh has also agreed to make modifications in the draft CRZ notification of 2010 in order to increase the representation of the fishing community in various coastal authorities, improve the provision for fishermen’s housing and tighten the regulations for industries to be set up on the coast.

However, the NFF could not convince the Minister to remove provisions for installing nuclear plants on the coast, in spite of the current strong protests — by the fishing community, among others — against the Jaitapur nuclear plant to be set up on the Maharashtra coast.

Jaitapur project promoters can’t buy off villagers: study

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Meena Menon in The Hindu

December 30, 2010

Majority believe environment, livelihood are at stake

Region falls in seismic zone III, which is not suitable for nuclear plants

Villagers contest NPCIL claim that 626.527 out of 938 hectares acquired is barren

MUMBAI: It will be a mistake to construe the people’s struggle against the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project as an agitation for higher compensation, says a social impact assessment report prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

A majority strongly believe that the project will harm their environment and lives. The people are insecure about the location of nuclear plants in seismic areas, fearing they may lead to a major catastrophe, the report says.

In the first assessment of its kind of the project, the report says higher compensation and better packages will not pacify villagers. A large part of the land planned to be acquired at Madban in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district is being used for farming and grazing. With government support, horticulturists have spent lakhs on making the land cultivable.

Lack of transparency

Another matter of concern is the lack of transparency on the part of the government and the company that is going to execute the project. The issues are much more complex and the people’s concerns raise some fundamental questions about the so-called ‘development,’ the report notes.

Mahesh Kamble, assistant professor and officiating chair of the Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which has prepared the report at the behest of two people’s organisations, says the report was ready by November. A copy was sent to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan a few days ago, but there is no communication from his office.

Mr. Chavan has announced plans to visit Jaitapur to convince the people of the need for the project, but Mr. Kamble feels this is not the right approach: he wants the project halted, and Mr. Chavan to understand what the people’s concerns are instead of pushing for it.

Calling for a participatory method of studying impact, the report says the concerns at the development model and social equity have to be addressed. Among the key issues that are not addressed includes the fact that the region falls in seismic zone three — a fact acknowledged even by the government. All seven villages studied have frequently experienced minor seismic activities. One of the 123 villagers interviewed for the report sought, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, data on the frequency and severity of the seismic activities over the years. But there was no response to any of his queries.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), in charge of the project, has denied that it is a seismic area. According to an activist of the region, the report of the Vengurlekar Committee, submitted in 1972, sets forth the criteria for establishing nuclear reactors in seismic regions. Reactors can be set up only in seismic zones one and two.

The government had proposed a baseline survey for the social impact assessment and rehabilitation to be carried out by the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), but the study has not yet started what with local protests. The final Environmental Impact Assessment is not available to the people; there is no information either on a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA), the report points out. The people believe that the government is rushing the project through without proper impact assessments.

The report says the people’s concerns are related to the project’s possible impact on their health, livelihoods and environment, and their lack of faith in the government is evident. Instead of a conventional rehabilitation package, the report notes, the government could think of some innovative ways by making the people “partners” or shareholders in the project. The main occupations of the people in the area are farming and horticulture, especially mangoes and cashew, besides fishing. According to the report, the NPCIL said that of the 938 hectares acquired mainly in the villages of Madban, Mithgavane, Karel, Warilwada and Niveli, 626.527 hectares is non-productive. But the people maintain that this land is used for horticulture and rice cultivation, and as pasture. The data secured under the RTI Act showed that the government paid out Rs. 1,37,07,000 in compensation for the loss of mango production in the 2007 floods. In the Rajapur block, which includes Madban, Karel, Mithgavane, and Niveli, 33,283 farmers received compensation again in 2009.

The likely impact of the project on health is one of the prime concerns of the villagers. People are aware of Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Pokhran and Jadugoda, where radiation is believed to have harmed the people’s health and the environment.

There are fears of damage to the environment, too. The area lies in the Konkan belt that boasts a long seashore, creeks and dense deciduous forests, with more than 150 species of birds and 300 species of plants. Some rare species of birds and plants are on the verge of extinction. There are concerns at the cumulative impact of the more than 12 power plants proposed on the coastline. The region borders the tourism district of Sindhudurg; Ratnagiri has been declared a ‘ horticultural district’ by the State government.

The people are also afraid that the project will have a negative impact on fishing: heated water disgorged by the plant will impact the catch, forcing fishermen to migrate.

The experience from the other mega projects around the area in the past is an important factor that has led to protests against the Jaitapur project. The people expect the government to explore renewable and alternative sources of power such as tidal and wind energy, the report says.

But a small minority supports the project, but it too is not convinced that the health and livelihood of those living in the area would not be harmed. It believes that a mega project will have the potential to spark development in an underdeveloped Jaitapur.

A Non Political View on Jaitapur Nuclear Project

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Sudhinder Thakur in the NPCIL website

Debate over N plant in Jaitapur Turns Political – A Non Political View
(Sudhinder Thakur, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) <>

“TIMES NOW” TV channel has been carrying a story on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant. This article puts some misinformation in a non-political perspective.

Jaitapur plant is ten times Chernobyl – a safety concern

The unit size of power plants have, like elsewhere in world, shown  increasing trend. This is simple economics on account of economy of scale. The most important resource, land square km per MW, falls with increasing size. The land requirement for 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project is about 3000 acres giving 0.75 acre/ MW. Nuclear plant parks 0.18 acre/ MW. Coal based plants of 20-40 MW built  some 40 years ago are being shut down because the current tariff at about Rs. 4/ kWh is no longer viable. Tarapur Nuclear Plant units 1&2, also in service since 1969, current tariff is less than one Rs. / KWh.

The unit size of coal thermal plants has increased from some tens of MW to 660 MW and 800 MW; discussions are on for setting up 1000 MW thermal plants.  Same has been the case for nuclear plants which have seen a global progression from 220/500/1000/1300/1650 MW. The effort to built and operate a power plant does not increase linearly with unit size giving economy of scale for large plants for base load generation.

The Chernobyl accident happened more than two decades ago. The accident resulted in graphite burning and the reactor had no containment to prevent release of radioactivity in the event of an accident. Since then, considerable efforts have resulted in  significant improvement in the nuclear safety world over. The safety record of life cycle electricity generation in 30 years (1969-2000 Source OECD) is by an order of magnitude better than of thermal.0.597 fatalities per GWh of electricity generation for coal technology vs 0.048 for nuclear. The contemporary designs of nuclear power reactors have highest in-built standard of safety. There are many sites world over having multiple reactors and the total nuclear power capacity at a park has no relation
with safety which has to be ensured for each of the reactors separately.

EIA report does not address design/ safety concerns

While the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Study focused on the environmental aspects of the proposed nuclear power plant, the design and safety evaluation is the responsibility of the Atomic  Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Clearances of the Ministry of Environment & Forest from environmental angle and AERB from safety angle are two statutory clearances which a nuclear power project has to obtain. The design/ features of the project in the EIA report, like environmental aspects in AERB safety evaluation, are thus to be considered as for- the- sake- of –completeness only.

Temperature rise is as high as 5 deg

Energy consumption in the form of electricity is an inherently inefficient process but needs to be tolerated in  view of ease of transmission and cleanliness at the end use. Much to our disliking,  the energy to be put in the atmosphere, be it sea or air route is about twice the energy converted to electricity.  This is true for all power plants not only nuclear. Coastal locations
are preferred in view of availability of abundant cooling water. This considerably saves the consumptive use of water at in-land locations. Though direct cooling water requirement is about ten times the water requirement  in a closed loop, direct cooling is preferred because of low consumptive use of water another valuable resource.

MoE&F own stipulation in the Guidance Manual for nuclear plants is 7 degrees rise in temperature of cooling water. MoE&F have  in their clearance for the project further restricted the temperature rise to 5 degrees. Detailed scientific studies have been conducted on thermo ecological aspects of discharge dispersion with a view to restrict the temperature rise within 5 deg.

Expert Panel views not considered

As regards the timings of clearance of the project, it could have been only be before, during or after the visit of President of France. The timing has no sensitivity. Significant in this regard is  the fact that all activities prior to the clearance have been completed according to the timelines. The application to MoE&F after EIA Report for which TORs were approved in May 2009, public
hearing and inputs from expert organization was made much earlier and reports on bypassing the Expert Panel on Western Ghats constituted by MoE&F in March 2010 in a section of press are incorrect. The conditions on the clearance include activities to be completed in next 12 months, bio diversity conservation plan around the site, a robust monitoring mechanism and a comprehensive
environmental management plan assessment on putting  first two units on line with a view to feed into additional safeguards for remaining four units.

Strategic Considerations

The spent fuel after reprocessing in  a central reprocessing facility will be used only in the civilian nuclear power programme. India has abundant resources of thorium and the route for thorium utilization is through three stage programme conceived decades ago. There are possibilities of using spent fuel after reprocessing in fast reactors in  the civilian programme  at a future date;
however the suggestion to use in the strategic programme is misleading.

While we appreciate the Times Now slogan, let the countrymen & women of India decide, the facts need to be made known first.

‘We don’t sell our mother’

December 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Surekha Sule in India Together

December 25, 2010

There has been substantial resistance to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park being set up in Konkan region of Maharashtra, in Ratnagiri district. The political consensus for nuclear power has once against brushed aside legitimate local concerns, writes Surekha Sule.

25 December 2010 – As expected, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s India visit early December 2010 has materialized in signing of General Framework Agreement for building the European Pressure Reactors (EPRs) for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP) which is being set up in Konkan region of Maharashtra, in Ratnagiri district.. However, many issues remain unresolved as admitted by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who reportedly said “there are issues of pricing ..these are matters of negotiations” which is linked to insurance cost and which, in turn, is linked with nuclear liability concerns.

But there are many other issues which the officials don’t seem to be much concerned about. There are environmental concerns and safety risks besides displacing people and ruining their livelihood, says Dr Sulabha Brahme, renowned economist and environmentalist from Pune. As build-up to Sarkozy’s visit, the protests against JNPP had intensified last few months. On the eve of French President’s visit to India, project affected people led a ‘Court Arrest’ procession to JNPP site in Madban to express strong opposition to this nuclear project.

However, the peaceful march turned violent when the Police tried to stop the procession since protestors defied Section 144 of IPC. Some 3000 protestors including well-known people like former High Court Judge B G Kolse-Patil, Pravin Gavankar of Madban’s Janhit Sewa Samiti, Dr Vivek Bhide of Konkan Bachav Samiti, fisherfolk leader Amjad Borkar, Vaishali Patil of Konkan Bachav Samiti, and others were arrested by the Police. The Shiv Sena also jumped the bandwagon protesting “you can’t build a project breaking heads of the natives..”

To pave the way for agreement on JNPP during French President’s visit, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who had earlier accepted the environmental concerns about JNPP, was sort of forced to give environment clearance with 35 conditions. Even now Ramesh reportedly admits, ““It was not an easy task… It is a balancing act. I do not expect all environmentalists to be happy with this decision. I am prepared for quite a few brickbats.” Also he himself pointed out that his ministry has no jurisdiction over radiology emission — a major concern among locals and environmentalists. The Indian Express reported this on 29th November.

Ramesh voices the same concerns as environmentalists and reportedly said while announcing the clearance in Mumbai on November 29, 2010, “I am aware that the Jaitapur power project is coming up in an eco-sensitive area. There are other power projects coming up on a thin strip of coast of Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg with power generation adding up to 33,000 MW. There are port and mining projects also lined up in this area. It is absolutely essential to get an assurance from the Maharashtra government to study the cumulative carrying capacity of the region and prepare a report.”

And yet Narayan Rane, the then revenue minister of Maharashtra state had reportedly said, “Some outsiders who can’t tolerate progress are opposing the project, not local farmers”. In fact, it is these very farmers who, under the leadership of a Madban resident Pravin Gavankar formed Janhit Sewa Samiti in 2006 when they received notices of land acquisition from the government.

Stiff opposition

On January 22, 2010, 2335 farmers from four villages – Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane from Ratnagiri district of Konkan region of Maharashtra, refused to accept cheques of compensation for their 938 hectares of land forcibly acquired by the government through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. This was for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP). Only 56 landowners, most of who are settled in Mumbai-Pune for decades, accepted this compensation and got rid of their land.

Last October, the state government established a committee to revise the compensation and announced a rehabilitation package that includes Rs 2 crore with a recurring amount of Rs 25 lakh for each of the four villages; permanent job for farmer’s kin or Rs 5 lakh; and an amount equivalent to 375 to 750 days of agricultural wages for lifetime to compensate for the loss of livelihood.

The villagers burnt the copies of this package shouting slogans ‘we don’t sell our mother’ and ‘beggars accept money (for their motherland)’. On October 29, 2010 more than 2000 farmers and fisher folk assembled despite prohibitory orders, to court arrest to protest against the proposed nuclear power project on their fertile land.

The Enron fiasco of 1990s has had its impact on stirring opinion against ecologically disastrous power, mining and other polluting industrial projects that are being thrust on the narrow coastal strip of Konkan. The Janhit Sewa Samiti got in touch with the Enron protesters of Dabhol to learn from their experience as they had undergone the same fate in early 90s.

Almost as if it were to pave the way for an agreement during the French President’s visit, environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who had earlier accepted the environmental concerns about JNPP, cleared the project with 35 conditions.

Through them, the Samiti came to know about many experts and environmentalists like nuclear physicist Surendra Gadekar who informed them about possible threats of atomic energy and eminent economist Dr Sulabha Brahme who wrote scientifically well researched booklets to inform people and ran advocacy campaigns. Some activists are involved in awareness campaigns through street plays etc. “The role of so called outsiders is limited to these supportive activities. It is basically local people who are opposing the JNPP tooth and nail from day 1 since they know for sure that this project means end to their livelihood besides destruction of bountiful nature”, says Dr Sulabha Brahme.

Environmental impact assessment glosses over reality

Of the six nuclear reactors of 1650 MW each, two are proposed to be set up in the first phase at a cost of Rs 60000 crore. For environment clearance, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) was asked to prepare EIA. NEERI is a constituent of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi which conducts research and developmental studies in environmental science and engineering. For one of the impacts i.e. risk of ecological damage, NEERI asked College of Forestry, Konkan Krishi Vidyapith (KKV) to prepare a report.

Says Brahme, “After careful study of KKV report, we found that it was lacking in appropriate study design and careful scientific approach. For example, the floristic study was carried out without frequent field visits in all seasons to collect plant material samples.” Says Premanand Turalkar from Madban, “I recorded my objection on how KKV was entrusted a job for which they have never undertaken a survey of the region to be studied. Its report shows that there is not a single well in Madban village. Then what water we villagers drink, seawater?”

And then in the absence of methodologically sound survey and scientific data analysis, KVV, NEERI and hence NPCIL came to the conclusion that ‘Madban plateau is barren wasteland with no ecological value’. “Look at the collage of these photos of Madban and do you call this wasteland with no ecological value?” quips Dr Brahme.

“In fact, the NEERI-KVV team has not realized that the Madban plateau, green forests along the hill slopes, wetland habitat and thick mangroves along the creek, the Arjuna river and the creek waters rich in marine life together form an integrated and unique ecosystem supporting wide variety of flora and fauna. The NEERI-KVV study has not considered the essential part i.e. the plant animal interactions, ethnobotanical and anthropological studies” highlights an appeal for signature campaign by the Janhit Sewa Samiti. Parallel studies by the Bombay Natural History Society have shown that the project will cause substantial environmental damage. According to National Oceanography Goa, Jaitapur comes under earthquake-prone zone and hence a nuclear power plant is not advisable.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh admitted to the deficiencies in this NEERI’s EIA, when a delegation met him in May 2010 to bring to his notice the facts about Madban and ecological disastrous impact of a nuclear power plant there.

But political compulsions seem to have driven Ramesh to give green signal to the project just before Sarkozy’s India visit.

Policy drive to boost nuclear-based generation

Notwithstanding all this and people’s stiff opposition, the central government is going ahead with an agreement for nuclear reactors from the French company Areva during the French President Sarkozy’s visit to India, even when the design of the plant is not yet ready. Doubts are also being raised about its techno-economic viability and the former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, A Gopalakrishnan, questions the wisdom of India entering into a contract with Areva “for the EPR which is unproved and is plagued by delays and cost overruns.”

After 1978, no new Nuclear Power plant has come up in the USA. The 1986 Chernobyl accident almost put a stop to atomic energy projects in western countries (except France & Finland) especially in the face of stiff protests by their citizens on the issues of radiation. Thus American and Western companies turned towards Asian countries to palm off their technology and many nuclear power plants came up in China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Since India is not ready to sign NPT, USA found it difficult to transfer nuclear technology and hence brought in a special ‘Hyde Act’ to pave a way into Indian nuclear energy market. Under the garb of augmenting energy availability, Indian Government has decided to expand nuclear power generation in the country from 4120 MW to 63000 MW by 2032.”Coastal regions are natural choice for nuclear power plants since they require huge amount of water for cooling activities besides using sea route for imported machinery, fuel and other supplies” says Brahme. Accordingly, most of 31 new nuclear power plants have been approved along both the east and the west coastal belt in India.

This is how the largest ever nuclear power project in Asia of 9900 MW capacity was approved at Madban.

Public hearing turns farce

With such concocted EIA to suit the decision makers, the NPCIL went ahead to acquire the land during October 9-December 1, 2009 and started soil testing activities. Besides, land will be acquired for laying transmission lines which means yet another body blow to other villages along the transmission route, says Pravin Gavankar.

A public hearing on proposed project by the NPCIL on May 16, 2010 at Madban was a mere farce. Around 1000 people attended. The mandatory requirement of providing EIA report in local language to affected villagers a month in advance was not met. Only Madban Gram Panchayat received a copy a month ago in English and just four days before the public hearing in Marathi, thus violating the Environment Protection Act 1986 and Environment Protection Rules 2006 & 2009.

The officials present at this public hearing, Madhukar Gaikwad, the collector MPCB, Ratnagiri, project official Shashikant Dharane and project advisor Umesh Kilkarni were at loss when specific queries were made by the people. Dr Vivek Montero of Indian School of Social Sciences took on these officials saying, “You do not know cost of nuclear energy per megawatt of these reactors; you do not know cost of uranium, you do not know cost of storage facility. Then on what basis, you claim that the electricity will be provided at competitive rates? We have given you detailed calculation (which NPCIL officials agreed to) based on capital power cost of Rs 18 crore per MW i.e. Rs 9 per unit as against NPCIL’s current Rs 2.24 per unit! So NPCIL should do its homework first before taking any kind of hurried decisions.”

On question of nuclear waste, Dharane said that it will be encapsulated under the concrete cover for 100 years and the government is searching for such a site. Dr Monteiro noted that radioactive waste is highly dangerous for 10000 years. And America, France, Finland and other countries do not have such depositories now. Without these depositories, the Indian Government is putting future generation of the whole country to expose from nuclear radiations for thousands of years! He added that these plants are not designed for protection against terrorism.

Commenting on the environmental study at the hearing, Amjad Borkar of Fishermen’s Society said, “NEERI appears weak in study of fisheries. Sea water will be drawn in these six nuclear reactors and the same at higher temperature will be released in to the sea at 1.5-2.5 km distance which will cause sea water temperature to rise up to 5 degree Celsius. This will completely destroy fisheries. NEERI which wrote reports sitting on the table is completely oblivious of sea level and depth. The sea gets deeper as you move southward from Mumbai. The Maharashtra government has restricted fishing activities up to 10 fathoms which is within 2 km where the hot sea water from reactors will be released. So NEERI has not thought of fisher folk.” ?

NPCIL Response to Outlook article

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

N Nagaich of NPCIL replies to an Outlook magazine article of Dec, 2010

Link to copy on NPCIL website

Link to local copy

The Jaitapur nuclear project is courting too many risks

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Yogi Aggarwal in DNA

December 20, 2010

It might seem perverse to raise questions about a large industrial project that will bring ‘state-of-the-art’ nuclear technology to the country, will add 10,000MW to Maharashtra’s power generation capacity, and which, moreover, has been cleared by the recently cautious environment ministry in double-quick time.

But when one takes even a cursory look at the proposed nuclear power project at Jaitapur on the Konkan coast, south of Ratnagiri, one is confronted by unnerving facts.

The French company Areva will construct and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) will operate six reactors, each with a capacity of 1,650MW. It involves an untested and problematic design, is the highest costing power project so far, the risk of nuclear radiation is considerable, and the possible damage to a fragile ecosystem is immense.

The French have the most experience in operating nuclear power reactors and the 59 reactors there account for most of their power generating capacity. Their standard workhorse is the 1,000MW N4 reactor, whose design has been proven over several decades of operation.

The 1,650MW European Pressure Reactor, or EPR, is their new baby. Two plants are being built, one in Finland and another in France, and another two have been ordered by the Chinese.

The EPR in Finland is having cost over-runs, its cost almost doubling fromEuro3 billion to Euro5.7 billion, is behind schedule and has faced many quality and regulatory problems. The largely state-owned Areva suffered a setback earlier this year when it lost a $40 billion contract in the UAE to a South Korean consortium.

In June a government-sponsored report revealed that Areva needed about Euro2 billion more capital to stay in the game. France thus needs the big Indian order amounting to nearly Euro35 billion, to save its nuclear industry.

There is a risk that safety issues are being bypassed. First, there is no redundancy in the instrumentation and control systems of the EPR. This raises the chance of failure since there is no sufficient backup.

The higher burnup may result in a thinning of the fuel cladding, making it prone to early failure. A study by the French power utility EDF has reported that the toxicity from the radioactive waste of the EPR is four times that of ordinary reactors, and is especially high in radioactive iodine and bromine, which stay at dangerous levels of radioactivity for over a million years.

The costs of the EPR are also very high. While a tight wrap has been kept on costs in India, drawing from the Finnish experience, the cost per mega watt of installed capacity for the EPR is over Rs 20 crore, compared to Rs4 crore to Rs5 crore for a coal-based plant and Rs7-8 crore for Indian-designed reactors.

The cost of power generated is also over Rs7 per unit for the EPR, compared to Rs1.50-2.50 for a coal-based plant and Rs3.50-4.50 for an Indian reactor. After transmission distribution costs and losses, the consumer would pay another 50% more.

If the government wants to encourage zero-carbon technologies, it owes it to the citizens to explain just what the tradeoff is with a working of its cost to us. What has been totally missed out in the environment impact assessment (EIA) done by the ministry of environment is the risk of radiation.

The 10,000MW Jaitapur project, located in seismic zone III, is the first step in the plan to take a jump in nuclear power generation, from 4120MW to 63,000MW by 2032.

For a nuclear power plant, the dangers of radioactive contamination are central. These can arise from acts of terrorism or from accidents. The EIA has passed the project without taking the radioactive risk into consideration, leaving it to be determined later by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

In a memorandum to the ministry of environment, the Konkan Bachao Samiti has said: “Safety audit is a rigorous, scientific process. A mere formal exercise is not a bonafide safety audit.… The AERB is the only authorised body to certify safety in regard to radioactivity”, and without its approval there should be no environmental clearance.

There are further issues regarding the transport and disposal of high-level radioactive wastes after reprocessing which are missing in the EIA.

Nuclear waste remains dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years, and so far no country has succeeded in building a permanent storage for high-level nuclear waste so that ground water is not contaminated.

Of more immediate concern to local residents is the disruption in their living environment and the protests near Jaitapur reflect that.

The Madhban plateau on which the giant nuclear plants will be built is the largest coastal plateau in the Konkan with a unique biodiversity. This will be lost.

If the government continues with its hasty plans without a proper safety audit, the residents of the Konkan will pay the price at some later time.

‘Why is Maharashtra govt in a hurry to set up nuke plant?’

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Alok Deshpande in DNA

December 7, 2010

On Monday, the French company AREVA and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed a deal ensuring that the 9,900-MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project will proceed in New Delhi, which will have the evolutionary pressurised reactors designed by the said company.

The project will have six such reactors, each with a capacity of around 1,650 MW, for around Rs1 lakh crore.

After the ‘conditional’ clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), questions have been raised about the urgency showed by the government to go ahead with the project and anti-project activists had even accused French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India as the reason for the hurry.
Experts and scientists have raised doubts questioning the reactor design and the problem of radioactivity.

Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Dr A Gopalkrishnan has questioned the wisdom of entering into contract with AREVA for the reactor which is unproved and plagued with delays and cost overruns.

“The hurried clearance was given on political considerations only to meet the deadline of Sarkozy’s visit,” said Gopalkrishnan.

These reactors are currently not being used anywhere in the world.

“MoEF, NEERI, and NPCIL have accepted that the major environmental risk (70 to 80%) in a nuclear power plant arises out of the risk of planned or unplanned radioactivity release. However, MoEF, while giving the clearance, has not dealt with that issue and has asked the board to conduct that study. This is premature and illegitimate on the ministry’s part,” said Vivek Monteiro of Konkan Bachao Samiti.

No clear answer on issues such as fuel reprocessing and waste disposal is causing concern too. The fishing community of Sakhri Natye, near Madban, is scared of losing their livelihoods. “The sea water will be used for cooling reactors and that high temperature water will then be released in the sea. This will impact fish and other marine biology tremendously,” said Amjad Borkar Sakhri Natye fishermen association.

The report released by Bombay Natural History Society on ‘Diversity of Coastal Marine Ecosystems of Maharashtra’ states, “… Thermal discharge from the proposed power plant will have direct influence on the fishing in this region.”

Amid all the allegations and counter allegations, the government seems to be firm on its decision to build the plant.

Meanwhile, senior social worker Anna Hazare has extended his support to this project. “Country is facing a severe crunch of power, and through this project some of the power issues will be solved. So, I appeal to people to not oppose it. To complete this project somebody should sacrifice, but it is the government’s duty to make proper rehabilitation plans for farmers whose land they are acquiring for the project,” said Hazare.