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Kudankulam goes critical

The Hindu: The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) has demanded an immediate halt to the commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) and initiation of an independent safety review.

In a statement here on Tuesday, the CNDP described the announcement of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) that the first Kudankulam nuclear reactor had attained criticality, or the beginning of a fission chain reaction, as a “shocking development.” This important step in the plant’s commissioning, which would make the fission process irreversible, violated the spirit of the Supreme Court’s May 6 order, it said.

Report to be filed

The Supreme Court had directed that the NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board should “oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant.” A report was to be filed before the court prior to the commissioning of the plant.

Implicit in the order, the CNDP said, was not just the formal filing of such a report, but its perusal and approval by the Supreme Court. However, the agencies concerned merely filed the report in a sealed envelope, but the court confirmed on July 15 that it had not even seen, let alone approved, the report.

Bypassing procedures

The CNDP viewed the development as part of a pattern followed by the nuclear establishment in cutting corners and bypassing essential procedures in matters of safety. It also amounted to a breach of public trust, and showed contempt for democratic and judicial processes.

The statement said the Kudankulam reactor was made critical despite the massive and sustained peaceful popular protests against the plant, and despite numerous warnings by nuclear experts, including the former AERB Chairman A. Gopalakrishnan, about the plant’s vulnerability to hazards and the use of ‘substandard equipment’ supplied by Russian company Zio-Podolsk. “This is profoundly anti-democratic and totally unacceptable,” it said and added that, ironically, the Kudankulam reactor reached criticality on the day that China bowed to public protest by announcing the abandonment of a nuclear processing project in the Southeast.

The signatories — Achin Vanaik, Praful Bidwai, Lalita Ramdas, Abey George and P.K. Sundaram – also wanted the authorities to revoke the criminal charges filed against the protesters in Kudankulam with immediate effect in keeping with the Supreme Court’s order.

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