SC moved to seek halt to Kudankulam plant’s commissioning

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court was moved Tuesday, seeking a direction to the government not to take steps for commissioning the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu till allegations of use of sub-standard equipment and the impact on the reactor and the public safety were probed.

The application by G. Sundarrajan has sought directions to the government not to bring the nuclear power plants reactors to initial criticality till the issue was examined by the independent experts and a status report of the same was submitted to the apex court.

A bench of Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra had Dec 6, 2012, reserved its verdict on Sundarrajan’s plea seeking to stall the nuclear plant from being operationalised on grounds of safety.

Sundarrajan has sought court’s direction to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to file a fresh status report on the status of implementation of the post-Fukushima safety measures and direct that commissioning and initial criticality of these reactors shall be done only after the implementation of all the safety measures.

He has also sought directions to the Tamil Nadu government and the NPCIL to conduct mock-drills in the vicinity of the plant and comply with all the guidelines of the National Disaster Management Authority and submit a comprehensive status report to the apex court.

The issue, the application says, concerns the use of sub-standard equipment imported by NPCIL from Russian nuclear suppliers in the said plant.

It says that the government and NPCIL as well as the AERB were refusing to share any information on the above aspects even though it vitally concerns the public, especially the safety of millions of people living in that region.

Referring to the reports in international media, the application has said that “one of the major reasons for non-commissioning of the plant is the failure of sub-standard equipment and components which have been used in the plant”.

Pointing to the delay in the plant’s commissioning, the application has said that the Indo-Russian commissioning team at Kudankulam was apparently facing some serious problems that they never anticipated.

The application referred to the arrest of procurement director of Zio-Podolsk – subsidiary of Rosatom – Sergei Shutov in February 2012, by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) allegedly for procuring sub-standard steel blanks from Ukraine instead of the prescribed quality of steel. Zio-Podolsk, a machine works company, is the sole supplier of steam generators and certain other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide.

Equipment manufactured with cheap Ukrainian steel, the application said have been used in nuclear reactors built by the Russians in Russia, Bulgaria, Iran, China and India.

The dangers of such substandard equipment and construction became evident on July 17, 2011, when the containment building of the Leningrad NPP-2 reactor that was under construction collapsed exposing the crumbling of steel structures, it said.

“Since the Russian security agencies”, the application said, “are convinced that the Zio-Podolsk Company had all along purchased poor grade, low-priced steels and other materials and passed them off in their documents as high-grade, high-priced materials, all such supplies from Zio-Podolsk to Kudankulam plants have to be viewed with great suspicion and as being of dangerously low quality, until proven otherwise through an independent verification by exper not belonging to DAE/NPCIL or Russian entities.”

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