Chennai: The Kudankulam Nuclear Power project located in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district is again in the news after former Union Minister and senior leader of DMK, T.R. Balu wrote a detailed letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention on the Spent Nuclear Fuel of the plant.
The DMK leader cited the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster and pointed out that the accumulation of Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) was one reason for the disaster and called upon the Prime Minister to direct the Atomic Regulatory Board to request Russia to take back the SNF of Nuclear Reactors 1 and 2.
The senior leader also wanted the Government of India to withdraw the consent granted to Spent Fuels of plants 1 to 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). The DMK leader requested the PM to also set up a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) where SNF from KKNPP and other plants could be safely stored.
Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker M. Appavu, who is a legislator from Radhapuram where the plant is situated, also raised serious concerns over the matter and even stated that with China having business interests in Sri Lanka and the island nation being closed to KKNPP, there has to be extra cautious regarding SNF and the plant.
The sudden opposition to the KKNPP from the DMK has come following the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) giving a ‘sitting clearance’ for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to construct an Away From Reactor (AFR) spent fuel storage facility for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) units 3 and 4.
While the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board officials and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) have assured the protesters and lawmakers that all is safe, around 100 nuclear accidents have occurred around the globe with five of the major ones leading to major losses of human lives and money.
Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Kyshtym Nuclear Disaster, Windscale Fire Nuclear Disaster, and Three Mile Island Nuclear Disaster are the five major nuclear disasters that led to the loss of lives, property, money, and displaced people.
Chernobyl was the worst nuclear disaster in history in which 30 people lost their lives immediately after the accident and radiation and other after-effects led to the deaths of 30 more that took the total loss of lives due to the Nuclear disaster to 60.
Fukushima happened on March 11, 2011 due to a massive earthquake leading to Tsunami that led to the power failure and three nuclear meltdowns. Around 2,000 people lost their lives due to evacuation as around 1,00,000 people were evacuated from the place.
While the other three nuclear disasters were also major ones, according to the scale of measuring nuclear disasters, there were not many recorded casualties. As the Kyshtym Nuclear disaster was wrapped under the secrecy of the Soviet Union’s iron curtains, the number of casualties was not known except for the fact that 10,000 people were evacuated from villages near to the plant a week after the mishap.
The Windscale Fire nuclear disaster which took place on October 10, 1957, was the biggest ever nuclear disaster in the UK and the release of radioactive substances from this disaster is believed to have led to several hundreds of people turning into cancer patients.
The Three Mile Nuclear disaster that happened on March 28, 1979 in Pennsylvania was the most serious nuclear accident in the history of the US but no casualty was reported as well as health hazards following this nuclear disaster.
The social activists and the political leaders have pointed out the major five Nuclear disasters witnessed by the world and are worried that the Away From Reactor (AFR) which is a transit facility may be converted by the Government into a permanent Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) and that building an AFR within the KKNPP campus would be dangerous in the long run.
Anti- Kudankulam activist, G. Sundarrajan who had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for shutting down the Nuclear plants at Kudankulam till the Away From Reactor( AFR) facility is built while speaking to IANS said, “Considering the above major disasters, anything can happen and the precaution has to be taken by the Government properly. If the Government turns the AFR which is a transit facility to permanent DGR, then it is dangerous especially after the Fukushima disaster.”
However, scientists and officers of both the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and the ROSATOM its Russian partner, which has a 36 per cent share in the enriched uranium industry in the world have vouched that the KKNPP is safe and secure and all post-safety measures following the Fukushima nuclear disaster were taken into account at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP).