KKNPP: Nuclear Power in a predicament?

KKNPP: Nuclear Power in a predicament?

Chennai : India | Sep 20, 2011 at 9:55 PM PDT
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Mission to biuld confidence on Nuclear Power

KKNPP: Nuclear Power in a predicament?

( Madan Menon Thottasseri)


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order the halting of the Koodamkukam Power project at Idinthakararai, a fishing hamlet in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, until concerns and fears about the plant's safety were addressed. Prime Minister had immediately deputed the Minister of State in his office V. Narayanasamy to meet the protesters and allay apprehensions of people at Koodamkulam. It is to be noted that more than 100 protesters are been campaigning against the project and have been fasting on the project site voicing apprehensions on the safety of the nuclear plant on the back drop of the disaster of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear Plant in Japan in March, 2011.

Unfortunately the minister was not permitted to the venue of fasting by campaigners against the nuclear plant . Co-ordinator of the protesters- S.P. Udhayakumar submitted a memorandum to him which had accused that the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) was incorporated without any public consent and had not conducted any field tests and environment impact assessment trials and thus it entails to be scrapped!

V. Narayanasamy had met protesting people on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 and had assured m that the government will not compromise of the paramount issue of safety and security of the people in the region. It is heartening to note that the minister had remarked that in order to break the impasse and arrive at an immediate solution, even a meeting between the protesters and the Prime Minister can also be arranged. He will be meeting the Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa today.

When there were quake-tsunami-triggered explosions in nuclear reactors of Japan, It had caused tremors in the minds of public in and around the Koodankulam project. Dispelling their fears, the Site Director of the KKNPP, M. Kasinath Balaji had declared then that the state-of-the-art safety measures in the 1,000 MW capacity pressurised water reactors of KKNPP had made the reactors the safest units. According to the design of the reactors, safety is ensured against any sort of natural eventualities including tsunami and earthquake.

In fact Koodangulam project had incorporated lot of novel safety measures and probably it will be the nuclear station with the thrust for latest technological development clubbed with the most advanced safety provisions. The design of buildings that house the reactor and its auxiliary equipment, reactor safety systems, safety diesel generators, the control room and other power generating equipment are compliant for safe operation under seismic activity while fortunately “Koodankulam falls in a Very Low Seismic Category Zone 2 as per the seismic classification. Further designers have adopted a ground elevation of all the buildings to be starting from 25 feet above the Mean Sea Level (MSL) to preclude flooding due to any reason whatsoever, including tsunami. These design features got testified when tsunami struck the coast of Tamil Nadu in 2004. The Koodankulam site has been provided with a shore protection bund to a height of 25 feet from MSL.

In the meantime a report prepared for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by state agencies concerned with the safety of Russia’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had revealed that Russia’s reactors are found to be under-prepared for both natural and man-made disasters. The report evidently claimed that Russia’s nuclear plants lack relevant regulations for personnel to know how to deal with large-scale natural disasters or other serious contingencies. It established that electrical and safety-significant systems do not receive the attention they need, resulting in a lack of required protection. The report questioned on capabilities of Russian reactors to remain safe for extended periods of time if cooling systems fail. Russian reactors are vulnerable to the kinds of hydrogen explosions that tore through three reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi. In fact the people’s movement demanding the termination of the ‘hot run’ and the closure of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project was commenced then.

It is unfortunate that social activist Medha Patkar had commented negatively on the free land and assistance given by the state government for a project that will meet the energy demands for the next century. Antagonist of Jayalalithaa government really takes advantage of the situation. The comments of social activist must have further intensified the apprehension of the local residents while they were already frightened on hearing a lot on the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima catastrophes. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa must carefully handle the situation and should overcome the situation tactfully. The state government must position its stand in favour of the project and join with the Central government in taking all efforts to make the people understand the importance of a nuclear plant for abundant quantum of power needs in future.

Of course it will be a very challenging task to educate the people that it will be imprudent to get discouraged on the project due to lack of confidence on all excellent vigilance being taken up so as to empower the project with the most advanced accident-free safety measures!

I have seen many Political leaders, activists and other readers advocating for Solar and wind Energy as a substitute for nuclear Plants. We know that the Copenhagen summit and there afterwards the Cancun Summit had helped us to position India's long-term plan for combating global warming. Making a strong pitch for the country to shift towards renewable energy sources from fossil fuels, India should bargain for large-scale resources to finance a Solar Mission, at least to mitigate dependence of conventional energy.

Actually a global initiative by the Basic Nations including India must emerge out to create an exclusive fund for SOALR PROJECTS will be worthwhile around the globe which can be implemented on a war footing at all tropical nations. Sufficient funds are to be earmarked to nations as per globally accepted parameters of UNFCCC.

Our Central government must offer direct cash-subsidies to industries that come forward to install SOLAR POWER PACTS. It is even desirable to make SOLAR compulsory for giant industries beyond a stipulated level of power consumption. India being a tropical nation must consider the optimum utilization of scorching sun-light available for a period of 8 to 12 months through-out the nation at various levels, right from the peninsular tip of Kanyakumari to Northern states. The technology has to be made less costly prompting entrepreneurs to venture for Solar Projects at large industrial establishments, universities, Airports, Railway terminals, big hospitals, Pilgrim centers, tourist locations etc. It will take few years for India to take off to venture in solar projects. Even then it cannot compete with nuclear stations for production of large quantum of power which will be comparatively less costly. Solar or Wind energy will contribute only as a secondary source of power in the years to come.

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Power Plant under Power politics?
P.M -Rajeev gandhi and Soviet president Mikhali Gorbachev signed an inter-govt.agreement on November 20, 1988 for the Kudankulam Power plant. During the political upheavel, the project remained in limbo for 10 years after the post-1991 Soviet disintegration, and also due to objections of the United States on the grounds that the agreement does not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).There are negotiations over the possible addition of a naval base at the site, both safeguarding the project and as a presence in the southern tip of the country. A small port became operational in Kudankulam on January 14, 2004. This port was established to receive barges carrying over sized light water reactor equipment from ships anchored at a distance of 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi). Until 2004 materials had to be brought in via road from the port of Tuticorin, risking damage during transportation.
madanmenon is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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