Koodankulam Update: Reaching Criticality

Statement from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace:

In a shocking development, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has announced that the first nuclear reactor at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu has reached criticality, or the beginning of a fission chain reaction.

This is an important step in the plant’s commissioning and towards making the fission process irreversible. But it violates the spirit of the Supreme Court’s May 6 order, which asked that NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board “oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant. A report to that effect be filed before this Court” prior to its commissioning.

Implicit in the order is not just the formal filing of such a report, but its perusal and approval by the Supreme Court. However, the agencies concerned merely filed the report in a sealed envelope, but the Court confirmed on July 15 that it has not even seen, let alone approved, the report.

This is part of a pattern followed by the nuclear establishment in cutting corners and bypassing essential procedures in matters of safety. It amounts to a breach of public trust, ans shows contempt for democratic and judicial processes.

The Koodankulam reactor was made critical despite the massive and sustained peaceful popular protests against the plant, and despite numerous warnings by nuclear experts, including former AERB chairman A Gopalakrishnan, about the plant’s vulnerability to hazards and the use of substandard equipment supplied by Russian company Zio-Podolsk.

This is profoundly anti-democratic and totally unacceptable. Ironically, the Koodankulam reactor reached criticality on the same day that China bowed to public protest by announcing the abandonment of a nuclear processing project in the Southeast.

We demand that the commissioning of the Koodankulam reactor be immediately halted and an independent safety review be initiated at the earliest into the plant.

The authorities must revoke the criminal charges filed against the protesters in Koodankulam with immediate effect in keeping with the Supreme Court’s order.

Achin Vanaik
Praful Bidwai
Lalita Ramdas
Abey George
P K Sundaram

Summary from Koodankulam Criticality: Tickling the Dragon’s Tail, Dianuke: 

The Commissioning of the first VVER-1000 reactor at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant [KKNPP] has been delayed by 66 months. According to a report dated 19 June 2013 by Dr A Gopalakrishnan, formerly Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board [AERB], the instrumentation and control cables in the reactor are giving out spurious signals which is the operator’s main headache now. KKNPP’s Station Director had appointed a committee of scientists to clarify this issue. The clarification has not been given so far. Instead, the authorities have decided to go for the first act of criticality [FAC]. There are eight other reactors in the world – 6 in South Korea and 2 in the Czech Republic, which have had cable-related problems. The problems in the Korean reactors have been due to counterfeit cables which the Korean regulator has decided to replace. Studies have shown that the KKNPP reactors have counterfeit equipment such as the reactor pressure vessel, polar cranes and safety-class valves. Taking the reactor to FAC without clarifying the safety issues is a high risk operation.

Dr. V. Prakash, Dr Joseph Makkolil, K Sahadevan, VT Padmanabhan, Dr R Ramesh, V Pugazhendi

Chennai Desalination Plant Draws First Blood

10:08 p.m. Many of you may have read about the ill-advised Nemmeli desalination plant set up in Sulerikattukuppam village, Kanchipuram district. This 100 mld desalination plant was set up despite and overriding the objections of local fisherfolk who feared that the plant’s marine structure will erode their beach and render them without a means to practice their livelihood. More problematically, they feared that the erosion caused by the plant will make them more vulnerable to the vagaries of the sea. Their protests were met by police action. On June 23, 2013, as the nation was awash with stories about Uttarakhand, 19 fishermen begged their way to bail after spending a month in jail. Their crime: Voicing their fear that the desalination plant will pose a danger to their lives and livelihoods.
Read: http://kafila.org/2013/06/30/the-greater-common-omelette/

Today, July 10, 2013, R. Chittibabu, aged around 26 and recently married, was the first casualty in Chennai’s new and mindless quest for water. The beach around Sulerikattukuppam has virtually disappeared because of the erosion triggered by the structures constructed in sea by Chennai Metrowater’s desalination plant. Over the last two years, nearly 75 metres of beach has disappeared from Sulerikattukuppam. This morning, Chittibabu’s boat capsized over the rocks dumped into sea by Metrowater at around 7.30 a.m. Chittibabu was grievously hurt after he hit the rocks and is now awaiting an expensive operation in a private hospital.

This October, if any cyclone strikes this part of Tamil Nadu, Sulerikattukuppam would be badly hurt. Let’s not blame the killer rain or climate change. Chennai’s media has celebrated the setting up of the desalination plant in Nemmelikuppam as a technological feat. Our experts at the Ministry of Environment and Forests have approved the plant and stated that the illiterate fisherfolk’s fears are unfounded. Now, we’re beginning to see casualties.

Koodankulam, Cheyyur, ILFS, SRM, Nagapattinam, Thoothukudi — I don’t believe the experts. They may be educated. But they lack spine. And they lack integrity.

– Nityanand J. 

Green Clearance Watch

Centre for Science and Environment

Centre for Science and Environment recently launched a public information system to track environmental and forest clearance of industrial and development projects in key sectors in India from 2007 till date: Greenclearancewatch.org 

Begin by going through “Facts about Environmental and Forest Clearances – 2007 & Beyond” which lays out some important statistics on the number of environmental clearances granted, the kind of developmental projects, the land and water requirement of these and so on.

Following the pressing need for increased transparency in the environmental and forest clearance regime in India, the GCW portal aims to be a one-stop resource base that can help communities access information and statistics, and participate in the decision making process.

A selection of public hearings for developmental projects have been release out in the public domain by GCW. They perceive this will help “develop a clear understanding of the community’s involvement in the decision-making process of a given industrial project.”

Information that can be obtained through GCW include:
  • Facts about environmental clearances granted since April 2007 for major industrial sectors viz., Thermal Power Plant, Cement, Iron and Steel, Coal Mining, Bauxite Mining, Limestone Mining, Other Minerals, etc.
  • Information on environmental clearances, that can be tracked by specific company name (the project proponent), industrial sector, state, district or village name.
  • A main component on the GCW is the map, which gives a visual understanding of the spatial distribution of industries.

  • Videos of public hearings that have been covered by CSE and partners.
  • Information of upcoming public hearing that CSE (or the organization’s partners) plans to cover.
  • Latest judgements of the National Green Tribunal.
  • Major news updates and reports on environmental clearances, public hearing or related topics made available through their fortnightly magazine Down to Earth and their clearinghouse India Environment Portal.
The information that you see on GCW has been obtained from environmental clearances available on the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) website.
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