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Cancel Jaitapur Nuclear Project!

Written By krishna on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | 6:45 PM

The proposed 9900-MW nuclear power park at Madban, situated near the port of Jaitapur in the southern part of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. It would be the largest single location nuclear power project in the world. It is based on the import of six nuclear power plants from AREVA. In the first phase, two plants are to be built between 2012 and 2017.

It has come to light that in the matter of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) a rigorous and scientific environment impact assessment and cost benefit analysis has not been performed.

Minister of Environment and Forests, in the presence of Chief and Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra officially announced “conditional” environmental clearance granted to Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park. The citizens of Maharashtra and India are demanding answers to questions regarding Approval, Rehabilitation and land acquisition, Costs, Radioactive byproducts, Reprocessing of spent fuel and disposal of radioactive wastes and Civil nuclear liability limits that remains unaddressed. It must be answered by the Indian government.It is widely felt that its a Vedanta and POSCO kind of clearance given in haste.

All the organisations and individuals campaigning against the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant have decided to have a Protest Morcha in the Parel- Lalbaug, Mumbai on 4th December, 2010.

Their slogans are:

Cancel Jaitapur Nuclear Project!
Struggle for a people-oriented development!
Imperialism destroys the environment!
Sarkozy Go Back! We dont need your nuclear plants!
Say NO to Nuclear Power!

Konkan Bachao Samiti (KBS) and Janhit Seva Samiti (JSS) have been spearheading a campaign against this nuclear power project. There is reliable information, it has been claimed, that the European regulatory authorities from three countries, Finland (STUK), France (ASN) and UK (HSE) have jointly written to Areva, raising certain serious objections to the current design of control and instrumentation for vital safety aspects of EPR plant.

It has also been learnt that only last month the US regulator (NRC) has written to Areva expressing similar concerns.

Local residents are opposed to the JNPP and have refused to accept any compensation, nor have they demanded raise in the compensation.

The biodiversity report prepared by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) formed the basis for the 35 environmental conditions set by the environment ministry while giving the green signal for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district on 28th November. The report recorded the presence of plant and animal life on land and marine both at and around the plant site. BNHS has also mapped 407 hectares of mangrove vegetation around a 10km radius of the nuclear plant as well in some of the affected villages.

BNHS report contradicted the official 1200 page environment impact assessment (EIA) report prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and made public in April, 2010.

The NEERI report had described the land surrounding the nuclear plant as “rocky and barren land with no habitation and vegetation” and hence ruled out any adverse ecological impact in the area. The same area was surveyed during the monsoon by BNHS, which found 134 species of plants on the plateau.

In July, 2010 the BNHS conducted a rapid impact assessment of the biodiversity of the region and found the Madban plateau to be rich in plant and animal diversity with very good marine diversity in adjacent sites of Ambolgad and Kasheli.

BNHS found 1,000 plant species, NEERI couldn’t find even 500 species. Indeed if the project proponents are assigned to conduct EIA, the report cannot be objective. Therefore, once again NEERI report is flawed. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the project proponent, an undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE had commissioned NEERI to prepare the EIA report for the Jaitapur plant in 2005.

Earlier, in a letter to the President of India dated September 1, 2010, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) pointed out that "the cost of a single nuclear reactor can be as high as Rs.30,000 crores as in the case of the reactor planned at Jaitapur by AREVA, a French public multinational industrial conglomerate headquartered in the Tour Areva near Paris. Consequently, the cost of a reactor can be 20 times the maximum amount of liability. It means that it might be cheaper for the operator to take the risk of paying the maximum liability than to spend, say, 10 per cent extra in adding safety features to the plant."

It is submitted that the preparations for the visit of Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France occupied Union Cabinet so much that it failed to consult the secretaries of ministries/departments of government of India on the ramifications in terms of liability from the nuclear plant. The Parliamentary Standing Committee referred to how secretaries of ministries of health & family welfare, agriculture, labour & employment, food & public distribution, etc. who were ignored in the drafting of the Nuclear Liability Bill was a very serious lapse of the Union Cabinet.

It has been found that NEERI's EIA Report is unscientific. This EIA report was made available only a month prior to the public hearing on May 16, 2010. It has been alleged on factual grounds that the EIA report reads as if it was authored by the Public Relations department of NPCIL or Areva.

It may be noted, “The accident at Chernobyl released into the atmosphere an amount of radioactivity equivalent to 400 bombs of the Hiroshima variety. The Nuclear Power Project of Jaitapur is about 10 times the size of the Chernobyl Power Plant. The huge radioactive accumulations at the plant site are the principal causes of concern which must be addressed.”

NEERI did not have the competence to assess the project. It entails issues of radioactive radiation. NEERI contends that the project meets Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) norms and standards without conducting any independent assessment, relying completely on the AERB. But AERB reports are not part of the EIA.

Unmindful of its admitted incompetence to assess radioactive risk, NEERI certifies the safety of the plant saying, “Through individual event sequence analysis for different initiating events, it is estimated that the plant is provided adequate safety features and measures to mitigate or minimise any unsafe consequences”.

The same EIA report reveals the following, “All the above scenarios explained, namely Design Basis Accidents (DBAs) and Beyond Design Basis Accidents (BDBAs) are thoroughly studied and detailed reports are generated as Preliminary Safety Analysis Reports (PSAR) and these reports will be submitted to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for review and approval for construction of Nuclear Power project at Jaitapur.” Clearly implying that the safety approval by the AERB is yet to be obtained and despite this it certified the adequacy of the safety of the plant against “any unsafe consequences”.

The threat of terrorist attack on nuclear plants in India is also considered credible is clear from the specific exclusion in clause 5 (ii) in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill (2010) which has been passed by the Indian Parliament and awaits President's assent. It reads: “An operator shall not be liable for any nuclear damage where such damage is caused by a nuclear incident directly due to – an act of armed conflict, hostility, civil war, insurrection or terrorism”.

After the 9/11 terrorist attack in the USA, the possibility of terrorist attack on nuclear power plants is considered quite
credible and substantial by US authorities. DAE has ignored the complete text of a 2009 report presented to the US Congress: on “Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities”.

Consequently, amendments were made in US law to require nuclear plant design to address this risk but the Indian legislation on Nuclear Liability does the contrary.

Misplaced expression of satisfaction by NEERI with NPCIL's claim of safe storage for 100 years for 100 years is shocking. This constitutes less than one per cent of the lethality lifetime of the spent fuel. There is no explanation as what will happen to the radioactive waste after 100 years. It is a known fact that India does not have a geological repository for nuclear waste and there are no sites in India suitable for building one.

The EIA report is flawed because of the absence of a specific plan for decommissioning as well. No new nuclear plant can be built in Europe or the USA without such plan. The EIA report is untenable.

The cost of electricity generated from JNPP would be in excess of Rs 9 per unit. This does not include the costs of managing radioactive waste and decommissioning. The current cost of electricity is about Rs 4 per unit.

In its last report in 2010, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests, had recommended that “the government should consult all such ministries/departments which are even remotely concerned with the provisions of a proposed legislation", the same has not been done. This recommendation has been ignored in the case of Jaitapur nuclear plant as well.

It nay be noted that Secretary, Union Ministry of Health said, “Since the response system to deal with any kind of emergency of such type, the hospitals are not well-equipped, it is natural that mortality and morbidity due to multiple burn, blasts, radiation injuries and psycho-social impact could be on very high scale and medical tackling of such a large emergency could have enough repercussions in the nearby areas of radioactive fallout. She also mentioned that in the entire bill, there is not a single clause which speaks about taking health care during radiological emergencies. It reflects only about payment of compensation due to health impacts of such radiation. She suggested while setting up nuclear plants consideration may also be given to the fact that there should be a hospital having trained doctors near such establishments and arrangements should also be made for free treatment of people who are affected by serious nuclear fallout." She confessed that “her ministry is nowhere to meet an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies.” Similar testimonies from secretaries of other ministries provide a chilling and prophetic forewarning.

In compliance of the suggestion of Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee during my testimony on August 3, 2010 and pursuant to a written submission dated July 7, 2010, TWA had specifically drawn the attention of the committee with regard to the narrow definition of the word 'installation' and conflict of interest ridden existence of the AERB. In a letter to the committee dated August 12, TWA has highlighted the backdrop of the deliberations on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill. TWA has questioned the merit of centralised power stations given 35-40 percent transmission and distribution loss from power grids.

The Secretary, financial services, ministry of finance submitted before the committee that "any increase in premium of insurance will lead to increase in the cost of production of electricity for nuclear power. It is argued that higher the liability limit higher will be the insurance premium and subsequently higher will be the cost of electricity production." It has been noted in the Rajya Sabha that as far as the cost difference between hydro, thermal and all the available options vis-à-vis nuclear electricity is concerned, the cost difference is 1:3. If the objective of wanting to generate 40,000 MW of nuclear power in the next two decades is considered, the cost difference between conventional and nuclear electricity would be more than Rs. 3,00,000 crores (Rs. 3 lakh crores) . This amount can build 20,000 hundred-bedded modern hospitals all over the country and 2.5 lakhs of Navodaya Vidyalayas with boarding facilities for 100 students all over the country.

Testimony after testimony before the committee had asked for deletion of the word terrorism from the bill but the same is not reflected in the committee's report despite the fact that Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar categorically stated, "under different layers of protection, nuclear assets including nuclear installations are being protected through defence. However he admitted that absolute and fool proof protection cannot be guaranteed for any nuclear or other assets in the country during peace or war." Exceptions for acts of terrorism can easily be used by the supplier and the operator to wash their hands off any nuclear disaster.

The groups which will participate in the Protest Morcha to oppose Jaitapur nuclear power plant are: Konkan Bachao Samiti, Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Kruti Samiti, Jan Hit Seva Samiti, CITU, TUCI, Prerana, CRBS, Janvadi Mahila Sangathana & some others.There are hundreds of such groups who oppose nuclear plants and have expressed solidarity with the Protest Morcha.

P.S: The total installed generating capacity in India as on June 30, 2010 was 1,62,367 MW, comprising 64% from fossil fuel, 23% from Hydro, 3% from nuclear and balance 10% from renewable energy sources.
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