A panel of eminent citizens – A Gopala Krishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Regulatory Board would panel comprise Dr EAS Sarma, former Union energy secretary, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas and activists Lalita Ramdas and Dr K Babu Rao – is visiting Kovvada and Somapeta today in Andhra Pradesh where reactors imported from US are proposed for construction.

Yesterday, the citizen’s panel addressed a press conference in Vishakhapatnam,where the members raised issues specific to Kovvada, the environmental and social costs of the proposed reactor project and the absurdity of India’s massive nuclear expansion after Fukushima.

Times of India has reported:

[warning]Addressing newspersons here on Thursday, Dr Gopala Krishnan called for a review of the nuclear power policy and said all current nuclear projects must be put on hold. He said he did not understand the UPA government’s attitude towards nuclear technology and their disregard for the know-how and expertise developed by the likes of Homi Bhaba and Vikram Sarabhai.

Speaking on the Kovvada issue, Dr Gopala Krishnan made it clear that though he was a nuclear scientist he feared the new found approach of the government for acquiring nuclear technology to meet the increasing power needs and said that one cannot procure six different types of reactors from various sources without them being scanned or screened.

“The government’s policy of disregarding the checks and balances imposed by the regulatory body could prove to be dangerous,” he said and also criticised the manner in which the Centre had allegedly succumbed to pressure from countries selling technology that may not have takers in their own nations.

Lalitha Ramdas, wife of former Indian Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas and an anti-nuclear activist, lambasted the government for failing to harness alternative sources of energy like solar and wind. “As on date only 2.4 per cent of the country’s total energy requirements are being met by nuclear technology, and despite the promises being made, nuclear plants will not make up for the deficit in the future either,” said Ramdas, who also demanded that the environmental impact of such projects be studied properly and NGOs and representatives of concerned people be roped in too at the time of reviewing the policy.

Admiral Ramdas, on the other hand, pointed out that no matter what, the project, displacement and loss of livelihood cannot be justified and no matter how fool-proof a technology is, the man-machine interface needed to be taken into consideration before adoption. Dr EAS Sarma of Forum for Better Visakha said that the complete lack of transparency and haste with which these projects were being taken up had galvanized them into seeking the truth. “We should know what will happen if there is a catastrophe and also whether the land acquisition is being done without taking into consideration the environmental impact.”

Observing that in stark contrast to the government’s claims nuclear technology does not come cheap, Dr K Babu Rao said that a plant like the one at Kovvada (600 MW) would cost nothing less than Rs 3.5 lakh crore, which was not cheap by any measure.[/warning]

A detailed update on Kovvada will be published on DiaNuke.org soon.  Here is a report on major issues in Kovada.