Govt to build KNPP nuke fuel storage despite opposition

Jitendra Singh

The Government is set to go ahead with its plan to set up a facility for storing spent fuel of the first and second units of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu – brushing aside opposition by political parties in the state.

Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (MoS) in charge of Department of Atomic Energy, on Wednesday informed the Lok Sabha that the designing of the “Away From Reactor” (or AFR) Spent Fuel Storage facility for the first and second units of the KNPP had been completed and the process to obtain environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was currently underway.

He was replying to a question by S Gnanathiraviam, a Member of Parliament (MP) of the Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam (DMK), in the Lok Sabha. He did not reveal the exact location of the proposed AFR Spent Fuel Storage Facility, citing “security reasons”. “I may not be able to identify (the exact location of the proposed facility) for security reasons, but certainly this is at a reasonable distance from the reactor. The reactor gets filled up and this is then stored for as many as, maybe, 40 years deep down below the surface of the earth by nearly 15 meters and then it can be used for recycling,” said Singh.

The DMK, which is the principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu, and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) are among the political parties opposing the proposal to set up a AFR Spent Fuel Storage Facility for the first and second units of the KNPP.

The AFR storage facility has been designed for storing spent fuel discharged by the first and second over a period of 40 years. “The actual storage at any given time would depend on the amount of fuel discharged from the reactors and drawn from the AFR for reprocessing,” Union Minister said during the Question Hour.

He sought to allay the concerns of the MPs, underlining that the proposed facility had been designed with a comprehensive approach to safety to withstand extreme natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis with provisions of large operational safety margins for safe, sound and reliable performance. It had been designed to ensure zero adverse impact on plant personnel, general public or the environment.

Singh also made it clear that the Union Government did not have any plan to build a Deep Geological Repository as demanded by the politicians in Tamil Nadu. “Considering the small quantity of radioactive waste, there is no need for Deep Geological Repository in near future,” he told the Lok Sabha.

The DMK MPs from Tamil Nadu were not convinced though. “I feel that it is unfair to decide about the necessity of repository considering the quantity of radioactive waste. Any day, an atomic reactor is like a Damocles Sword hanging over you,” Thamizhachi Thangapandian, the MP from Chennai South, said.

The minister called upon the MPs to help the Government raise awareness among local people near the KNPP and allay apprehensions.

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