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Centre scotches talk of dumping N-waste at disused KGF mines

NEW DELHI, Nov 22, 2012, DHNS 2:03 IST
The government has clarified that it has no plan to dump radioactive waste from Kudankulam nuclear power plant at the disused mines at Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka.

Though some TV channels and newspapers reported that the Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL) had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that spent fuel will be dumped at abandoned mines at Kolar Gold Field, prompting a bandh call in the town, it was denied by both NPCIL and petitioners’ advocate Pranav Sachdev.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, while hearing the issues related to the nuclear plant, directed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the NPCIL to file an affidavit at the next hearing before it about the steps taken to implement the safety measures in the plant.

With baseless reports by a section of media fuelling apprehensions among residents of Kolar and KGF, some of the employees unions of the erstwhile mining company BGML, threatened to go on protest. The BJP and some outfits called for a “bandh” in KGF on Friday.

Reacting to news reports, S K Malhotra, the spokesperson for department of atomic energy told Deccan Herald: “This is complete falsehood. The department of atomic energy has no plans to dump any nuclear waste either from Kudankulam or any other nuclear plant anywhere near Kolar.”

Minister for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises K H Muniyappa, who represents the Kolar Lok Sabha constituency, dismissed the rumours of nuclear waste dumping at KGF.
Urging the residents not to hold protests or participate in “bandh” based on “false” news, the minister said the public should not panic as no such decision had been taken by the Centre. The Union Cabinet in 2006 had taken the decision to revive the BGML and it will expedite the process, he added.

Urging the residents not to hold protests or participate in “bandh” based on “false” news, the minister said the public should not panic as no such decision had been taken by the Centre. The Union Cabinet in 2006 had taken the decision to revive the BGML and it will expedite the process, he added.

In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on November 7, the NPCIL stated that it had not yet identified any “deep geological repository” (DGR) for nuclear waste as the amount of waste currently generated was too small and a DGR would be required after three-four decades.

But research is on for the past several decades to study various scientific parameters before such a repository is created. One such research laboratory was set up in KGF mines in the 1980s. “In India, the need of DGR will arise only after a few decades from now. However, research and development work is in progress for over three decades in the field of in-situ experiments, natural barrier characterisation, numerical modelling, conceptual design and natural analogue of waste forms and repository processes,” NPCIL said.

Keeping in line with the international developments, the initial focus of work in 1980s
mainly centred on setting up generic Underground Research Laboratory (URL) in one of the abandoned mines in India and resulted in the development of an underground chamber in Kolar gold mine located in South India,” it informed the court.

Sources said NPCIL affidavit was misunderstood and misinterpreted as a result of which protests are being held in Kolar and nearby areas. In its affidavit, NPCIL informed the Supreme Court about its immediate and long term plans to handle nuclear waste. Close to 97 per cent of spent fuel from functional nuclear power plants is reprocessed to extract more fissile material, required for electricity generation as well as strategic programmes.
After reprocessing the spent fuel, the final waste is immobilised inside glass matrix. The vitrified glass matrix is then kept in a chamber for 30-40 years for further cooling and inactivity. Subsequently, they will be kept in a DGR.

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