Koodankulam: Dr. EAS Sarma’s Letter to the PM

Dr. E A S Sarma


Former Union Power Secretary, Govt of India

Know more about Dr. Sarma HERE.

14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Visakhapatnam 530002

Dr.Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Subject:- Safety of nuclear technology- Further studies in Germany confirm the accident risk: Disturbing reports on the safety of Kudankulam nuclear power plant

This is in continuation of my letters of December 11, 2011 and May 1, 2011 on the high cost and the accident risks associated with nuclear power technology and my letter of May 23, 2012 on a research study carried out by Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany on the potential dangers of the technology for the planet.

I wonder whether the PMO has seen the enclosed news report (authored by Sam Rajappa) on “Experts overlooked the welds in the Kudankulam reactor”. I am not sure whether the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has responded to the concerns expressed in the report and briefed you on the same.

The report highlights the following:

The reactor pressure vessel supplied by Russia for Kudankulam is of a vintage design, dating back to 1980.

Though one would not like it to be true, there seems to be a problem with the Russian nuclear industry itself, as described in the enclosed article by Dr. Rousseau (“Russia’s nuclear industry is a disaster waiting to happen”). I would not be surprised if this applies not only to the Russian nuclear industry but to the global nuclear industry as well!

The original understanding on the basis of which AERB had apparently approved the design of Kudankulam reactors was that the core of the pressure vessel should not have any welds whatsoever, since it would constitute the most critical part of the reactor system. It carries about100 tonnes of enriched Uranium and water at very high temperatures. The incessant impact of the radiation on the pressure vessel walls could cause “embrittlement’ of the vessel material and 50% of it will occur during the initial years of operating the reactor. In other words, if there is any structural weakness in the pressure vessel, it will most certainly lead to rapid embrittlement and a serious pressure vessel accident accompanied by reactor meltdown that could cause widespread life-endangering radiation exposure all around.

NPCIL’s contract with the Russian supplier was evidently based on this understanding. If there are welds in the pressure vessel, therefore, it would pose a serious threat of an accident, apart from the breach of the contract it involves.

Probably, the reactor suppliers are complacent in the belief that no liability will devolve on them as the Kudankulam contracts preceded even the diluted liability law. One can understand the complacency on the part of the reactor suppliers but not the subjugation, if it is true, on the part of DAE/ NPCIL!

Many of these facts, if they are true, are a matter of serious concern for the people of Tamil Nadu and the public at large. If it is so, why have DAE and NPCIL not divulged this to the public and the Parliament? How did the “experts” including Abdul Kalam give open-ended certificates on the safety of Kudankulam reactors? Perhaps, they were in far too much of a hurry to pause a little and look minutely into details such as the safety of the pressure vessel!

How is it that the Prime Minister who heads DAE has failed to respond to the previous letters written by several concerned citizens like me and how is it that he has failed to direct DAE and NPCIL to investigate our concerns comprehensively, knowing well that nuclear technology could pose a serious accident risk, as corroborated by Fukushima?

I feel disturbed that, instead of earnestly addressing the genuine concerns of the people, your government has chosen to brush aside their arguments summarily as “motivated” by foreign agencies. I feel distressed that your government has even gone to the extent of questioning the mental health of the Kudankulam agitators and asking medical institutions in the country to look into it, a response that is clearly incosisent with a healthy democratic tradition. On the other hand, neither you nor the PMO has thought it fit to question the hesitation on the part of DAE and NPCIL to divulge all the facts to the Parliament and the people of the country and take them into confidence. The assurances given by PMO last year, that DAE would make a public disclosure of all the pre-Fukushima safety audits and the action-taken reports, have not been complied with.

If what Sam Rajappa has reported is true, it is a matter of grave concern for all of us. It is all the more disturbing that your Ministry should keep the facts from the knowledge of the public and the Parliament.

Mr. Prime Minister, I appeal to you to step out of the narrow domain of DAE and take immediate action on these well-intentioned reports with a public spirit so that there may not be any untoward incident taking place at Kudankulam. I hope you will accede to this appeal.


Yours sincerely,

Former Secretary to GOI




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