Koodankulam: proving our worst fears true?

Dr. E A S Sarma

Former Union Power Secretary, Govt of India

Know more about Dr. Sarma HERE.

Post-Fukushima, there is worldwide concern at the possibility of occurrence of major nuclear disasters and there are sincere and serious efforts to step up the standards of emergency preparedness around nuclear project sites.

For example, during May 26-28 this year, the Canadian authorities are carrying out one of the largest nuclear disaster drills in Ontario to test the emergency preparedness of the system around the Darligton nuclear power plant. Similarly, the Chinese officials are shortly simulating, for the second time, the responses of the authorities and the people in the event of a major nuclear disaster in Guangdong. All these emergency drills involve the local communities and the local officials so that the exent of coordination among them can be fully tested.

I am not sure whether NPCIL has carried out similar comprehensive drills around its nuclear power plant sites to instill public confidence. It is ironic that this should be the case even after Fukushima.

In para 89 of their order of August, 2012 on Kudankulam nuclear power project, in W.P.No.24770 of 2011, Hon’ble Madras High Court had expressed concern at the need for emergency preparedness on the part of NPCIL and observed that “even though it is stated that the said exercise was done in only one village, namely Nakkaneri village, which is stated to be nearer to the KKNPP, as we are informed that nearly 30 to 40 villages are within 30 Kms radius of KKNPP, such event must take place in all villages and more importantly, apart from the officials, as stated above, the people in the area must be made to participate and an awareness programme must be made to infuse confidence in the minds of the local people that the project is for the benefit of the country and there is no need to alarm”. To the best of my knowledge, NPCIL is yet to comply with this direction and carry out such a comprehensive and meaningful disaster management drill to be able to deal with a serious accident at Kudankulam. This is indeed a matter of serious concern.

There seems to be lack of transparency on the part of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and NPCIL in the matter of taking the public into confidence on accidents taking place at nuclear power plant sites, as it was the case with the series of accidents at Kakarpar plant in June-July, 2012 and with the latest accident at Kudankulam on May 14, 2014. I am afraid that this does not instill public confidence in NPCIL’s ability to be in a state of preparedness to deal with major nuclear accidents.

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI
May 14, 2014

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