Kudankulam project gets Madras High Court's green signal

The Madras High Court Friday gave its nod to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to load the fuel in the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district, a lawyer for the petitioner said.

Disposing a batch of petitions filed against the setting up of the two 1,000 MW reactors, the court, in its 283-page order, said that after examining all the relevant facts, it is of the view that the plant does not suffer from any infirmity for want of any clearance from any authority, lawyer M. Vetriselvan told IANS. 

According to the court, there is no impediment to proceed with the commissioning of the two atomic power plants, said Vetriselvan, a junior to advocate M. Radhakrishnan representing G. Sundarrajan, who had filed the petition challenging the consent given by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to NPCIL to load the fuel.

The court said it has no reason to suspect the expertise of AERB in the matters relating to nuclear safety.

On the issue of implementing the safety measures as recommended by a task force set up in the wake of nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan, the court said the AERB would stipulate when these should be implemented.

Sundarrajan, meanwhile, said he would appeal the decision.

"I will go on appeal against the court decision. I did not ask for scrapping of the project. My point of contention is that the nuclear authorities should follow due process," Sundarrajan told IANS.

The court also said that there is no need for getting the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and environmental clearances once again for the project, and asked NPCIl to implement all the safety measures at KNPP.

It also asked the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to monitor the environmental aspects and also the temperature of the trade effluents discharged into the sea.

The state government was also asked to to take construct and upgrade the fishing infrastructure, good quality schools, hospitals and conduct safety mock drills regularly so that the people get conversant with the safety measures.

Meanwhile, a senior NPCIL official told IANS that the fuel would be loaded after a team from AERB inspects the KNPP and give its green signal.

Work at KNPP had come to a standstill in August last year after local villagers, fearing for their lives in case of a nuclear accident, mounted an intensive protest under People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy banner.

The Tamil Nadu government had last year passed a resolution asking the central government to halt work at the plant and to allay the fears of the locals.

To resolve the issue, the central and state governments set up two committees. The central panel submitted its final report on January 31. Another expert committee set up by the Tamil Nadu government also favoured the project.

In March this year, the state government gave the go-ahead to the project and announced Rs.500 crore for local area and infrastructural development.

Following that, work at KNPP was restarted with police protection.

The central government recently said the first unit of KNPP is scheduled for operational in October. The two 1,000 MW units of KNPP were initially scheduled to be completed in December 2008, but delayed to late arrival of equipment from Russia and then the local from September 2011 to March 19, 2012.

"The reactor will attain criticality in two weeks time from the date of loading the fuel. In two days power generation would go up to 25 percent (400 MW) of the reactor's capacity," a senior official of NPCIL told IANS.

Gradually the power production will be increased and full power generation is expected to happen January next year.

Even 400 MW power from the KNPP will be of great relief for Tamil Nadu suffering from severe power shortage, a senior official at Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp Ltd (TANGEDCO) told IANS.

He said if 400 MW power comes from KNPP, then the state capital would be free of power cuts.

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