In a press conference in Chennai recently, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman has not openly levelled baseless charges of ‘foreign hand’ in the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam, but has also mislead the nation by claiming that Koodankulam reactors can not be stopped now. We are publishing Dr. V T Padmanabhan’s response on the issue: 

V T Padmanabhan 

V T Padmanabhan 


VT Padmanabhan is a researcher in health effects of radiation. He has led epidemiological investigations among people exposed to high radiation in Kerala. He has also studied the occupational radiation hazards among workers of Indian Rare Earths, genetic effects of children exposed to MIC gases in Bhopal, health hazards to workers in a viscose rayon unit in Madhyapradesh and reduction of birth weight of babies near a beverage bottling plant in Kerala. He has visited several contaminated sites in Belarus and Japan and had extensive interactions with the survivors.

His papers have been published in International Journal of Health Services, Journal of American Medical Association, International Perspectives in Public Health, the Lancet and Economic and Political Weekly.  He is a member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk, an independent body of experts appointed by the Green MEPs in Europe.

The AEC Chairman is absolutely right when he says that a nuclear power plant is not like a factory.  It cannot be switched on and off at will.  More so because the reactor VVER 320 is a new version and Kudankulam is the first test version.  At the same time, NPCIL CMD’s statement that the fuel has not been loaded as yet is reassuring.  Even if there is a station black out (SBO), there will be no harm to the people or environment.

Once the fuel is loaded, the reactor will have enough uranium that will generate 1000 MW of electricity for 28,000 hours.  Equivalent to some 16 million tons of coal. In normal times, the reactor will burn (or fission) 48 milligrams of uranium.  Under abnormal circumstances, it can burn hundreds of grams in a few seconds.  This will lead to increase of the core temperature to 3000 C – ten times the normal temperatures.  This leads to melting of zirconium and uranium and to a metal water reaction and generate tons of hydrogen and oxygen inside the core.

The computers and all other stuffs are important, but water is ultimate security.  If there is no enough water in the core, the reactor will behave abnormally. That is why the post Fukushima task force appointed by SK Jain paid great deal of attention on the water reserve in the reactor campus.  And their reports show that for every MW of electricity generated there is about 5 cubic meters of water in reserve at Kudankulam.  The reserve at Kalpakam is 75 cub meter per MW and this according to the task force report is sufficient to run the reactor for 7 days.  They recommended to add another 750 cub meter of water at Kalpakam.

Before educating the people about the safety features of NPCIL plants, the authorities should study the task force reports and the AERB stipulations regarding the sources of water for Kudankulam.  In 1998 AERB decreed that besides the pipeline from Pechiparai reservoir, a backup source from Upper Kodayar should also be ready. These pipelines have not been constructed.  Currently the campus has a capacity to produce 10,000 cub mitres of water a day in their four desalination plants.  If these plants malfunction, the station will start dehydrating on the third day.