06 May 2011

CRZ clearance deferred for new reactors at Kudankulam

CRZ clearance deferred for new reactors at Kudankulam 

The Hindu Wednesday, May 04, 2011
B. Aravind Kumar 

Chennai: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has deferred the proposal for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to four new nuclear reactors at Kudankulam.

Raising five pertinent points during a discussion of the proposal at its 99th meeting in April, the Expert Appraisal Committee (for CRZ, infrastructure and miscellaneous projects) has asked the project proponent to submit more authorised studies, including a risk assessment and disaster management plan, considering the recent radiation disaster in Japan.

The new proposal involves setting up of four additional reactors in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) as Units 3 to 6 (each of 1000 MW) similar in design and to be located adjacent to the first two units, which are to be commissioned in a few months.

The plants were constructed under an inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia.
Noting that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report contained data of the period prior to 2004, the committee asked for an updated report, including marine EIA.

Already, the NEERI has carried out the EIA and environment management plan (EMP) study for the expansion of the Kudankulam nuclear power complex.

As per the EIA, EMP, there should not be any national park, sanctuary, biosphere or reserve forest in the zone of 15 km. The reserve forest of Thadakamalai, Poigaimalai and Mahendragiri are within 15 to 30 km of the proposed site and the Gulf of Mannar Bio Reserve is 150 km from the site.

Rejecting the proposal for the construction of an open channel for outfall as it would have an adverse impact on marine life due to various environmental problems, the committee advised the proponent to consider a pipeline for disposal.

The committee also noted that an earlier study by Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) related to 70C variation in ambient temperature, whereas the project proponent's report states that the temperature rise of the ‘reject water' was limited to 30C. This must be clarified and, if necessary, another study should be carried out by CWPRS to meet the requirements in force.

The proponent was also asked to submit a high tide line/low tide line map prepared by authorised agency in the 1: 4000 scale superimposed with the layout.

Overall, the reports submitted were not readable/legible and far below the basic requirements for consideration of CRZ clearance, the expert appraisal committee said, and deferred the proposal. It will reconsider the issue after its observations are addressed.

For Kudankulam villagers, it's a catch-22 nuke puzzle

ET Bureau, Apr 20, 2011, 09.44pm IST

KUDANKULAM (TIRUNELVELI): As lathi blows rain on protestors in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra for opposing the idea of a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, down south in this Tamil Nadu village the local populace is stoically eyeing an uneasy future: A few weeks from now, their little hamlet will witness the commissioning of perhaps the first nuclear plant in the world after the Fukushima catastrophe.

At street corners of wind-beaten Kudankulam, a once-barren landscape that featured goat herds and little else, villagers are huddled in conversation about what could be in store.

They have all the reasons to be concerned, if not petrified, over the disaster in Fukushima and the nervousness in Jaitapur: The two gigantic nuclear reactors of 1,000 mw capacity each that dominate the Kudankulam landscape are awaiting their hot run, and the village will soon be on the nuclear map, a qualification that now seems more scary than satisfying.

The pros and cons of having a nuclear plant in their backyard are being discussed threadbare in Kudankulam, but the long and short of it is that they are caught in a classical Catch-22 situation: Allow the nuclear plant to be commissioned and enjoy economic prosperity along with the risk of a meltdown, or scrap the plant to enjoy safety but re-embrace the impoverished days of goat-herding and beedi-rolling.

It is a tough call alright, agrees Brahma Chellaney, senior research professor at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research: "Nothing can be done at this stage when the commissioning of the plant is near. At least the plan to have a cluster of reactors should be avoided, keeping in mind the Japanese experience", says he, pointing to the fact that there has been an in-principle clearance for the next two reactors at Kudankulam, which will lead to the unit being a nuclear reactor cluster.

Chellaney is also not impressed by the technology in use at Kudankulam, stating that the VVER 1,000 reactor at Kudankulam is one that the Russians have phased out in favour of the VVER 1,200 type reactor. He is also critical of the fact that nuclear power projects have generally witnessed delay in implementation, owing to the monopoly situation that has prevailed among equipment suppliers. This situation, he says, may change because of the scare created by the mishap in Japan.

Local people in Kudankulam are not so nuclear-savvy but they are apprehensive after the Fukushima disaster. Selva Kumar, a tailor who has caught the headwinds of the village's development and invested Rs 2 lakh in a tailoring shop, catering to the ever-increasing demand for well-stitched clothes, takes care to stress the positive aspects. "Business has been good for me... at home we discuss the developments in Japan, and are worried. But come to think of it, death can happen whenever – tsunami, earthquake or nothing at all," he says.

Such indifference would be cruel were it not for the fact that the villagers have endured tough times for a long time and seen little signs of prosperity. Agriculture here is hardly an option because of sparse rainfall and there are no other industries. This village of 20,000 is known to the outside world only because of the nuclear power plant.

From what was a desolate village where people were forced to migrate in search of jobs, KKNPP has transformed the village's economic profile. "In the past, people used to migrate to Mangalore, Mumbai and the Gulf countries in search of jobs, but now many are returning," says Ezhil Arasu, president of the Kudankulam village panchayat for 15 years.

The upturn in fortunes is evident, with almost every family in Kudankulam and the nearby Chettikulam village having a kith or kin holding a job related to the project, either as one of the 940-odd permanent staffers, or as one of the thousands of contract workers.

Such prosperity has manifested itself in the form of shops selling everything from flat-screen televisions to branded clothes from either side of a dusty and narrow road that obviously was not made for a nuclear-power town. Welders like Jebadas and Resul Raj now command monthly earnings of over Rs 30,000, and the village itself has benefited from the infrastructure development. The local panchayat's income from professional tax receipts runs into lakhs of rupees each month, and schools in the village have been renovated, some of them sporting computers, too. The district had a population of over 27 lakh in the 2001 census.

Textile owner Baburaj feels the villagers should have listened to the anti-nuclear activists in 2001 when the project was first proposed. But his answer, to a query on what needs to be done, is confusing: "Now we realize the danger. I sometimes wish the project continues like this, without ever being commissioned, so that the jobs are there and there is no threat to our lives," he says.

Such thinking is not helping activists like SP Udayakumar of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), based at Nagercoil. The organisation has held silent processions against the plant at Nagercoil and other towns in the neighbourhood. The anti-nuclear activists have also taken their protests to neighbouring towns like Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala to highlight their logic about the lurking danger in having nuclear plants.

"Our prime minister and government go on saying everything is safe, but the Japanese said so, too, about their reactors. Fukushima has shown what Japanese technology and American management could do and Kudankulam could reveal what Russian technology and Indian management could lead to," adds Udayakumar.

In the backdrop of such fears, KKNPP officials are assiduously keeping villagers informed on the issue. "The Kudankulam reactor has Gen 3+ safety features, which is the latest technology available," says M Kasinath Balaji, site director of KKNPP, making it far superior to what is used in the Fukushima reactors.

"The significant aspect is the passive safety systems that back up the active safety systems. The steam generator water is cooled by a passive air cooling system, which works on the principle of natural convection, needing no external power," says Balaji, pointing out that this ensured that long-term cooling of the reactor-core would continue even in the event of power supply to the coolant pumps being snapped, as was the case in Fukushima.

"In the most unlikely event of a core melt, there is also a core melt catcher to contain the core melt," says Balaji, whose team is in constant touch through representatives of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, about developments at Fukushima. KKNPP officials say that a comparison of the Kudankulam reactor with those at Fukushima is out of place, considering that the six reactors at Fukushima belonged to a different generation of technology, and the first of the six was established as early as in 1971.

Goat herds are still visible in Kudankulam village and a few women are at work rolling beedis, but when you spot dozens of Russians scientists around and villagers talking of the hot run of the nuclear power project, it is evident that Kudankulam has been transformed from a beedi-rolling village to a nuke township. Going back is not an option, Fukushima or not.
KKNPP facts

KKNPP is an Indo-Russian project, with an estimated outlay of Rs 13,170 crore. Conceived in 1988 during the time of Rajiv Gandhi and Mihhael Gorbachev. Kudankulam village was chosen from among 13 locations identified in TN for the project. Hot run of the project is expected within a month, about four years behind schedule. Capacity of the two reactors at KKNPP is 2,000 mw. This will enhance India's nuke power gen capacity by 50% from the present level of 4,000 mw.

Environment nod for part of Kudankulam nuke project reserved

Piyali Mandal / New Delhi May 01, 2011, 0:39 IST

A committee of the Union environment ministry wants more information before it grants clearance under the Coastal Zone Regulations (CRZ) to four of the six proposed reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu.

At a meeting earlier this month, the Environment Appraisal Committee on the CRZ had declined to grant permission to construct four reactors of 1,000 Mw each, telling the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to provide more information. Kudankulam is being jointly constructed with the Russian government.
The other two reactors were approved earlier and are to be commissioned this year. The ministry gave in-principle environment clearance to the other four reactors in 2009; the pending clearance was being sought under the CRZ Rules of 1991.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is under review.” He declined to answer when asked if the additions could be shelved permanently due to environmental concerns.
A senior official of NPCIL said “The EAC has asked us to provide more details on the additional four reactors in Kudankulam. However, this will not have any effect on the existing two reactors at the same site.”
Adding: “We have got all the clearances for the first two reactors. They are in the final stages of the completion and are expected to be commissioned this year.”


The Fukushima nuclear disaster has put pressure on the Indian government to review nuclear safety. At present there are 20-odd nuclear power plants in India, with a generating capacity of 4,780 Mw. After the Tsunami in Japan, Ramesh had formed an Expert Group to suggest additional safeguards for existing projects, given the need for assessing tsunami-type risks.

Six committees were formed to review nuclear safety after the Fukushima happenings. To maintain transparency, the government has said the would be made public.

The government is already facing stiff opposition in one of the proposed nuclear power plant sites, at Jaitapur, Maharastra, where locals are raising safety concerns.

The Prime Minister had a meeting this week with Ramesh, the National Security Advisor, representatives from the Department of Atomic Energy, NPCIL and others, where he underscored that safety of nuclear plants was a matter of the highest priority.

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