TN should suspend consent given to build 3&4 1,000 MW N-power plant at Kudankulam: Activist

Tamil Nadu government should suspend the consent given by the state pollution control board to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to build the third and fourth atomic power reactors at Kudankulam, demanded anti-nuclear activist G.Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal.

He also urged all the political parties and other organisations in the state to stop NPCIL from construction of spent fuel storage facility or Away From Reactor (AFR) spent fuel storage facility at Kudankulam for the third and fourth 1,000 MW units under construction.

The NPCIL has issued a tender for construction of AFR at Kudankulam for the third and fourth nuclear power units.

According to NPCIL, the last date for the submission of the bids is 24.2.2022 and the bids will be opened on the same day.

The NPCIL had earlier extended twice the last date for bid submission.

Sundarrajan said the NPCIL had listed the AWF as part of the third and fourth units and got the consent from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

He said power generating reactor and AWF are different and cannot be considered as one.

Sundarrajan had filed a case against the setting up of a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district by the NPCIL.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which in turn issued 15 directions while allowing the plant in 2013.

One of the directions of the apex court was the building of a deep geological repository (DGR) at the earliest so that the spent fuel could be transported and stored there.

The NPCIL had then told the Supreme Court that it would be done within a period of five years.

The apex court had directed that effective steps should be taken by the Union of India, NPCIL, AERB, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and others to have a permanent DGR at the earliest so that the apprehensions voiced by the people of keeping the nuclear spent fuel at the site of Kudankulam nuclear power plant could be dispelled.

As the five-year time limit ended in 2018, the NPCIL had applied to the apex court stating that it did not have the full technology and got a further five-year time which would end in 2023, Sundarrajan said.

The AERB had issued the siting consent for AFR for the first two 1,000 MW nuclear power units in May 2021 and later for third and fourth units.

“The public hearing for the setting up of the AFR for the first and second units is yet to be held,” Sundarrajan said.

The NPCIL has two 1,000 MW plants (Units 1 and 2) at Kudankulam, while four more are under construction (Units 3, 4, 5 and 6).

All the six units are built with Russian technology and equipment supplied by that country’s integrated nuclear power operator, Rosatom.

Rosatom has already started supplying equipment for Units 3-6.

Last month to a question raised by DMK Lok Sabha member T.R.Baalu, the Union Science and Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement of 2010 facilitates storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel generated at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).

“India has adopted a ‘closed fuel cycle’, where spent nuclear fuel is regarded as a material of resource,” he said.

“Given the very small quantity of high level waste generated post reprocessing and technologies for separation, partitioning and burning of waste being developed by the country, there is no need of deep underground geological disposal facility in the near future,” Singh said.

On the issue of construction of a spent fuel storage facility at the KNPP, Singh said: “The scheme of storage of spent (used) fuel in a nuclear power plant is two-fold. The first place of storing spent fuel is located within the reactor building/service building, generally known as the spent fuel storage pool/bay and the other is called the ‘Away From Reactor’ (AFR) Spent Fuel Storage Facility, within the plant premises.”

He said these facilities are designed with a comprehensive approach to safety to withstand extreme natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis with provisions of large operational safety margins for safe, sound, and reliable performance.

“These are designed to ensure that there would be no adverse impact on plant personnel, general public or the environment. AFRs are also already constructed and functional at other sites like Tarapur, Maharashtra and Rawatbhata, Rajasthan,” Singh said.

The Kudankulam site will be the country’s largest nuclear island with 6,000 MW of atomic power capacity once the remaining four units get commissioned.

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