SC to hear PIL on construction of proposed nuke plants Monday

SC to hear PIL on construction of proposed nuke plants Monday

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia will take up the joint petition urging the apex court to declare as "unconstitutional" the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 and "appoint an expert independent body to conduct a thorough safety reassessment of all existing and proposed nuclear facilities across the country".

The petitioners, including former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian, former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, K R Venugopal - former Secretary to the Prime Minister, and nuclear scientist P M Bhargava, have said an expert nuclear regulator, independent of the government be set up to conduct comparative cost-benefit analysis vis-a-vis other sources of energy.

They submitted the apex court should declare that in the case of a nuclear accident, all nuclear operators and nuclear suppliers would be jointly and severally, and absolutely liable for civil damages, and their financial liability would be unlimited.

"Issue an appropriate writ cancelling clearances given to proposed nuclear power plants and stay all proposed nuclear power plants till requisite safety assessment studies, thorough comparative cost-benefit analysis and meaningful public hearings are carried out by or under the supervision of an independent expert body," the petition said.

The members have also pleaded the apex court to quash all the agreements signed between the government and private companies for supply of nuclear reactors and equipment based on private negotiations, without any competitive process and safety evaluation.

"The government's plans for expansion of nuclear power programme and construction of newer and huge nuclear power plants without undertaking a thorough safety and comparative cost-benefit analysis, clearly made under the influence of foreign countries and multi-billion dollar nuclear industry, shows arbitrary decision-making, based on extraneous considerations and non-application of mind," the petition said.

"The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 by capping the financial liability of operators and by making suppliers not liable, violates the polluter pays principle and the absolute liability principle which have become recognised as part of the law of the land and puts to grave and imminent risk the right to safety, health, clean environment and life of the people," it said.

It pointed out Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is planning to construct 36 imported reactors by 2032.

Four 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, two each at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan and Kakrapur in Gujarat are under construction. Two reactors each in Tamil Nadu's Koodankulam district and West Bengal's Haripur district are under construction based on Russian design, the petition said.

The Koodankulam plant has met with stiff opposition from people in the area and the project work has come to a standstill since last month as the agitators intensified their protest by blocking roads leading to the site.