Soviet role in K'kulam land clearance: RTI

Last Updated : 27 May 2012, 19:05 IST

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As the first 1,000 MWe unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district is racing towards meeting its new commissioning timeline of August 2012, replies to a recent RTI query has revealed that the Soviets, too, had a role in the site clearance of the Indo-Russian joint project.

A 12-page Site Evaluation Report shared by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) building the plant jointly with Atomstroyexport, now of the Russian Federation, in response to an RTI query by SP Udayakumar, heading the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has brought interesting facets to light.

While the Site Evaluation Committee has clearly held that the Kudankulam site, “meets the major criteria for setting up two units of 1,000 MWe each VVer type (light water reactor) units”, using enriched uranium as fuel, Soviet authorities were also involved in the site selection.

In the remarks column of the report, which has been released by PMANE coordinator Fr Pushparayan, it makes it abundantly clear that the “seismic evaluation report was finalised after discussions with the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Soviet specialists.” Further ground checks have confirmed the “assumptions” on the seismic activities there.

“Reprocessing is not planned at this site,” the report further asserted, allaying a major apprehension of the anti-KNPP activists that spent fuel from the plant could go to make small nuclear weapons.

Once both the units go on stream in full, about 50 tonnes of spent fuel will be discharged annually from the two reactors, said the report. After adequate cooling inside the spent fuel pool inside the reactor containment building, “it will be shipped to the Soviet Union by a sea route in hermetically sealed casks,” it said.

“A special jetty provided within the plant area will be used to transfer the casks to the Soviet ships, so that the spent fuel remains within the plant boundary at all stages during the process of shipment of the irradiated fuel,” noted the details in the Site Evaluation Report.

There is no resident-population within two km radius of the KNPP exclusion zone, affirms the report. Further, a “Tamil Nadu Legislation to control population growth beyond the natural growth within the sterilised zone to be implemented,” noted another observation in the report.

Published 27 May 2012, 19:05 IST

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