‘India’s n-establishment answerable to people’

Chennai, May 7 (IANS) India’s nuclear establishment is answerable to the common people of the country, said activists who took the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) issue to the apex court.

Activists disagree with the Supreme Court Monday giving the green signal to the controversial nuclear plant near here and also made the nuclear establishment realise that they are like any other sector answerable to the people and cannot hide things under the pretext that the sector is of strategic nature.

As for the lessons learnt from the KNPP struggle, officials of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) told IANS that they have realised the importance of communicating with the public and the media.

“For the atomic energy establishment in the country, it will not be a cake walk in the future while setting up the projects. They have been shown their position that they are also answerable to the common man and not hide everything citing secrecy,” G. Sundarrajan, the person who filed the case against the KNPP told IANS.

He said the KNPP case has laid a sort of a road map for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) with regards to other projects.

“The KNPP is a learning exercise for everybody. Perhaps is the first time where a nuclear power project was taken to the court and other fora. Many of the documents pertaining to the project that were kept under wraps were made public because of the case and the people’s struggle,” said D. Nagasaila, an advocate for one of the litigants in the case.

“We now have the experience as to what to look for in a nuclear power project case. The one major disadvantage for those against the KNPP is that the first unit was almost complete and the court might not have been inclined to scrap the project totally,” she said.

Nagasaila said the court too asked several questions and the country’s nuclear establishment was forced to answer and share documents.

“Such questions were not asked earlier by anybody,” Nagasaila said.

Sundarrajan said a decision is yet to be taken on the future course of action, whether to file a review petition in the apex court or petition the Supreme Court to order constitution of an independent committee to certify the quality of various components and systems in the plant before its commissioning.

The court had directed that KNPP should not be made operational unless the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the NPCIL and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant, ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance.

The court also directed the AERB, the NPCIL, ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to oversee each and every aspect of the project including safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before its commissioning.

A report to that effect should be filed before the court before commissioning of the plant, the court said.

“The NPCIL is the purchaser of the equipments and there will be a conflict of interest if it has to certify the component quality,” Sundarrajan said.

The NPCIL is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of generating capacity 1,000-MW each.

Fearing for their safety in the wake of nuclear plant accident in Fukushima in Japan, villagers in the vicinity under the banner of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) are protesting against the project for the past 631 days.

The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction only began in 2001.

The project majorly suffered delays due non-sequential supplies of components from Russian vendors.

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