Koodankulam: the State Government’s non-solution

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.

(Please also read PMANE’s press release expressing its reservations on the Tamil Nadu State Govt’s recent move to appoint an Expert Team on Koodankulam)

Dear friends,

The people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have serious doubts about the safety of the nuclear reactors being built at Kudankulam, 30 km from Kanyakumari and 95 km from Trivandrum. The main concerns are:

(a) Incidences of sub-volcanic intrusions in and near Kudankulam since 1998, after the site selection

(b) Three karst events within 20 km of the plant in 1998, 2007 and 2011

(c) Unusual and unexplained withdrawal of sea in Bay of Bengal coast since the 2004 tsunami.

(d) Slumps in Gulf of Mannar that can cause near-zone tsunami with wave height of 30+ meters.

(e) The absence of a natural source of fresh water for cooling the reactors and the spent fuel pools.

(f) Absence of a backup/reserve of fresh water in case the Israeli built desalination plants break down.

(g) Other well known effects of environmental release of radioactivity and waste heat.

As a result of the people’s resistance, works at the nuclear campus have been halted since second week of September 2011. An expert committee set up by the Central Government has not answered to any of the above issues raised by the Independent Expert Committee in its 77 page report dated 15 Dec 2011. This report had established that the campus was constructed in violation of the IAEA safety standards and conditions laid down by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

The full report is available here.

On 9 Feb 2012 the Government of Tamil Nadu has constituted a four member expert committee headed by Dr.M.R. Srinivasan, the former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission. He was a member of the KKNPP site selection committee and claims credit for reviving the project after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since the impasse, he has been actively campaigning for commissioning of the plant without looking into the hazard potentials to the reactors. The other three members of the newly constituted Tamil Nadu expert committee are persons from the fields of energy, nuclear physics and administration. In other words, the committee does not have the expertise to look into then safety issues raised by the Independent Expert Group. There is also the question of conflict of interest in having an Ex-AEC chief to head the committee. Hence, an unbiased assessment is very unlikely.

The hasty commissioning of the reactor without addressing to the serious safety issues is not good for the well being of people and eco-systems in the entire peninsular India. Hence, I request you to set up a committee of experts with no conflict of interest and from the fields of geology, oceanography and hydrology and decide on the fate of the reactors on the basis of its judgment.

Yours sincerely,

VT Padmanabhan,
Member Independent Expert Committee




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