View Full Version : India's First and Largest nuclear power plant..

13 May 05,, 10:58
TAPS unit four to be synchronized to grid soon

Mumbai, May 12 (PTI): The country's first and largest nuclear power plant -- unit four of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) -- will be synchronized to the Western grid in a couple of days, chairman, Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar said here today.

The 540 MW plant at Tarapur, near here, which went critical on March 6, would be synchronized to the Western Grid in a couple of days after the clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Kakodkar said on the occasion of Technology Day celebration at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre here commemorating the anniversary of Pokhran II nuclear tests in 1998.

The Nuclear Power Corporation would slowly increase the power (from zero power at present) and get the certification from the AERB in stages, and in a couple of months go commercial, he said.

Being the largest nuclear power plant, we will take all possible care to increase the power and so far the physics experiments and other tests conducted have showed positive behaviour of the reactor as envisaged, he said adding, "This clearly shows the level of maturity our scientists and engineers have perfected in the technology."

Technologically, the Department of Atomic Energy has achieved several milestones including the manufacturing of shamless calendria for the first time in the world for TAPS's unit four and carbide fuel technology for country's first fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, he added.

India will be in a leading position in the world in several more technologies like closed fuel cycle, thorium technologies also, Kakodkar said.

The unit three of TAPS is expected to go critical by the end of this year or early next year, he said.

Simultaneously, two units of 220 MW plant each at Kota in Rajasthan, two units of 220 MW plants in Kaiga and two units of 1,000 MW each at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu are also getting ready and would go critical by the end of next year, he added.

The first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor of 500 MW, which is under construction, will be commissioned by 2010, Kakodkar said.

Regarding the newly developed and installed teletherapy machine of BARC -- `Bhabhatron', Kakodkar said there is a great demand for the instrument as it is the first indigenised teletherapy machine.

BARC has transferred the technology to a company in Bangalore and it would meet the demand of the hospitals in the country.

India has 248 cobalt-60 teletherapy units -- all of them imported -- out of which 33 are more than 25 years old and have to be replaced, BARC sources said.

During the occasion, Kakodkar felicitated two Padma awardees of the Department of Atomic Energy -- BARC Director Dr Srikumar Banerjee and former director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) (Kalpakkam) S P Bhoje.


13 May 05,, 12:46
Well BARC and the NPC have a very impressive record on nuclear safety.

There's undoubtely going to be more nuclear plants on the anvil.

I just hope that this record continues, even as an increasing share of our energy demands are met by nuclear power.

We need to manufacture Co-60 units on our own. The importing of this makes radiation therapy very expensive for a lot of people.

13 May 05,, 13:39
I guess we already have the tech to make it now...

From the above report...

Regarding the newly developed and installed teletherapy machine of BARC -- `Bhabhatron', Kakodkar said there is a great demand for the instrument as it is the first indigenised teletherapy machine.

BARC has transferred the technology to a company in Bangalore and it would meet the demand of the hospitals in the country.

13 May 05,, 17:28
I thought India had nuclear power plants before this one, the Canadian reactors. :confused:

13 May 05,, 17:48
Tarapur plant to feed MSEB
By: Ram Parmar
May 6, 2005

Palghar: Just when there seemed no hope for Mumbai, a ray of light has appeared. The Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) will be supplying around 210 MW power to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) from the first week of June.

Commercial power generation in the newly-commissioned plant will begin from June 1.

A senior official of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) at Anushakti Nagar, Mumbai, said that to tide over the current power crisis in the state, TAPS had agreed to sell the power by the first week of June, as currently the synchronisation process is on at the plant.

The MSEB will be purchasing the power at around Rs 2.70 per unit, the official said.

As per an agreement between the NPCIL and MSEB, the latter will be getting 39 per cent, Gujarat 19 per cent, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh 17 per cent, and Goa, Daman and other Union Territories will share 32 per cent of the total 540 MW to be generated in the first phase.

The plant, located 100 km north of Mumbai, is the 15th nuclear power plant in the country, built at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore, said S N Ahmed, executive director, NPCIL.


I think BARC built this plant on its own... :)

13 May 05,, 18:07
I guess we already have the tech to make it now...

From the above report...

Hey, thats good news then.

BTW, I think there was a proposed nuclear plant planned at Mangalore ( about 350 kms away from Bangalore).

But all the leading literary giants here in Karnataka are'nt too impressed with the plan. They are sorta less eloquent when you ask them about the other ways by which we can meet the state's energy demand. They have voiced their bitter opposition to the idea, and my lethargic CM wont bother to look at it till the next state elections. :)

26 May 05,, 08:54
big advance for India.

540MW is still too small at today's standard.

26 May 05,, 09:04
Thank you. % wise we generate more nuclear power than many in Asia. :biggrin:

Again, we have bigger nuclear reactors that Russia is helping us out, thats twice the size of this one..

26 May 05,, 09:34
Thank you. % wise we generate more nuclear power than many in Asia. :biggrin:

Again, we have bigger nuclear reactors that Russia is helping us out, thats twice the size of this one..

That's great.

How about Nuclear electricity production? Let me show you the data.


Mainland China produced 23.4TWh(1.2%) in 2002 and 41.6TWh in 2003(2.2%).
India produced 19.6 TWh(3.7%) in 2002 and 16.4TWh in 2003(3.3%).
That means China used almost 4 times of electricity as what India used in 2003?
Also the trend is obvious.



26 May 05,, 14:26
well, as I said % wise India generates more nuclear electricity than most of the countries in Asia.

Also, if you look at the plants in construction, India's capacity will rise to 6600 MWe while for China it'll be aound 8500 MWe (xcluding the ones that are planned).So its not a big difference...

And if Thorium reactors in Kalpakkam becomes operational as shcheduled, you can see a rise in India's capacity.

27 May 05,, 05:15
No one has answered my question.

27 May 05,, 06:53
I have already answered, check above.

This is India's 15th power plant, but it was entirely desighned and implemented by BARC.

28 May 05,, 04:13
No one has answered my question.

India has currently 13 reactors operational for power generation, with addition of this one, # of comercial operational reactors is 14.

There are 8 research reactors run by Barc.

India has currently 7 (including the current one 8) under construction. They are under variuos stages of competion and all them will be online by end of 2007. Two of the reactors are 1000 MW varreity.

Once the current lot of reactors are completed, India will immediately start building 8 more. Thus by 2007 India will have 22 comercial reactors, and by 2012, it will have 30 comercial reactors.

Yes, India has more commercial nuclear reactors for power genration than China.

India I believe is 5th or 6th in the terms of # of operational reactors.

USA is #1 with 104, Japan #2 with 55, France also had 55 but it has shut down many.

28 May 05,, 04:34
I have already answered, check above.

This is India's 15th power plant, but it was entirely desighned and implemented by BARC.

Actually the company which runs comercial reactors is NPCIL (Nuclear power corporation of Inda Ltd). They are th people desiging and building the reactors. Out of 8 currently under cinstruction ( well now 7 ) the 2 big ones ( 1000 MW) are Russian design and Russia is helping with the construction of those, the rest 6 are Indian desined and being built by UCIL.

I am sure NPCIL works with other nuclear organizations including BARC.

checkout their website for pics of all the reactors under construction.

28 May 05,, 15:02
More reactors, less capacity.
Less capacity, more percentage.

China to quadruple nuclear power
Posted: 19 May 2005

As China played host this week at the world's top nuclear conference - the International Conference on Nuclear Engineering (ICONE) - the government made clear that it has major plans to nearly quadruple its nuclear generating capacity by the year 2020.
"To meet the need of energy supply and environmental protection, nuclear power will play a more active role in China," said Rixin Kang of China National Nuclear Corporation and conference chair of ICONE 13. "Recently, 10 new nuclear power units have been approved by the Chinese government and this is just the beginning of China's ambitious nuclear power programme."

According to a report by the Environemnt News Service, China has become the world’s second largest consumer of energy and is one of the fastest growing producers of nuclear electric power in the world. Eight new large reactors are currently under construction, which will almost double the country's existing nuclear generating capacity.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group recently signed contracts to build the Lingao II project, the country's first 1,000 megawatt-level, domestic-built nuclear power plant, the state news agency Xinhua reported. It will be the third commercial nuclear power plant in South China's Guangdong Province, where China's first Daya Bay nuclear power plant began operation in 1991. It is due to be in operating in 2010.

Chinese companies will take a larger role in the construction of Lingao II than they have in past nuclear projects, according to Qian Zhimin, head of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group.

'Safety first'

China now operates nine nuclear power plants with a total installed capacity of 7,000 megawatts, about 1.8 per cent of the country's total installed power generating capacity. The government is planning to boost nuclear power development to meet the country's demand for electricity, especially in the eastern provinces that are experiencing severe power shortages.

According to government plans, a total of 32 new 1,000 megawatt reactors are expected to be brought on line by 2020.

The first generating unit of the Lingao nuclear power plant began commercial operation in May 2002, with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. The second generating unit began operating in January 2003.

A new 6,000 megawatt nuclear complex is planned for construction at Yangjiang in Guangdong province, to begin commercial operation in 2010. A second generating facility also is planned for Daya Bay, site of China's first nuclear power plant.

Commenting on the safety problems in running nuclear installations, and handling its waste, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan emphasized the industry must be built on "safety first, quality first."

"This is the premise and the safeguard on which our entire nuclear electricity enterprise develops," Zeng said. "If it does not have this, development of the nuclear industry is just empty talk."

China is one of six countries involved in international efforts to produce electricity from nuclear fusion. Rather than producing electricity with today's technology of splitting atoms, the ITER reactor would fuse atoms at temperatures of over 100 million degrees Celsius. The project includes the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Source:Environment News Service

For more information on ICONE click here.

28 May 05,, 18:54
If you havent noticed, we are discussing about Indian nuclear power plants here, so please remove your post and if you wish open a new thread.

Rani Lakshmibai
28 May 05,, 20:05
Why isn't India among those countries that are jointly trying to develop nuclear fusion as an energy source? Does it have anything to do with the India not signing the NPT thing?

China is there, but India isn't?

28 May 05,, 23:58

Do you know what the shame is?

Who is the guy to start to compare India with other Asian countries?

29 May 05,, 00:54
Why isn't India among those countries that are jointly trying to develop nuclear fusion as an energy source?
Possible reasons: not enough resources to take on the project as a full partner, lack of intrest knowing it will not be secret technology, they may not have been invited, or maybe they just don't care. What's the difference?

29 May 05,, 14:47

Do you know what the shame is?

Who is the guy to start to compare India with other Asian countries?

Pfff...if you canonly comprehend English. I just said India is producing more energy thro nuclear power station as a % wise. I didnt name one specific country, and my arguement was throughly oriented towards India.

But your post has nothing related to Indian nuclear power generation, it was blatently Chinese. Get a life and post it in a new thread like the ones you have through out the forum.

29 May 05,, 14:59
Possible reasons: not enough resources to take on the project as a full partner, lack of intrest knowing it will not be secret technology, they may not have been invited, or maybe they just don't care. What's the difference?

Actually India has been pioneering in Thorium fuel based reactors. So instead of spending bulk of its resources on a Fusion projects, Thorium makes much more sense.

Just becoz China invest in it, doesnt mean that India has to follow suit as well.

India may join project on nuclear fusion

By P. Sunderarajan

NEW DELHI, MARCH 20. India is likely to join the highly ambitious project promoted by a select band of countries in the developed world to build a plant to demonstrate the technical viability of nuclear fusion as a source of energy.

The possibility of India's participation in the project has brightened after the Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government, David King, made a proposal here on Thursday that instead of joining as a full member, India could become a partner of Britain. This would help reduce the financial commitment for India.

Speaking to The Hindu , the Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, V.S. Ramamurthy, said the offer, which has been made for the first time, was interesting. The Government would consider it. It would engage in further discussions with the U.K. since the financial aspect was not the only issue and many other points have to be sorted out. For instance, the project envisages sharing of information among the participants on technical know-how involved in the setting up of the plant. It remains to be discussed how much information India would be entitled to if it chose to be just a partner of Britain.

The Centre, he said, would also not rule out the possibility of joining the coalition as a full member. The financial commitment required may be high. But, it may be worthwhile, particularly considering that the amount would be spread over about 20 years and part of the payment could be made in kind such as scientific and technical expertise. India had a rich base of manpower, well-versed in nuclear science and technology.0Earlier speaking to a group of reporters, Sir King said that his country was keen that India joined the coalition and strengthened it, as nuclear fusion had the potential to become an important source of energy for mankind in the near future, especially in the context of global warming which was largely due to the use of coal for energy production.

As per current estimates, the project could help make energy generation through fusion a reality in 30 to 35 years and if more money flowed in, the timescale could be furthered shortened. It is also expected that fusion power can provide energy for the next two millennia, given the amount of lithium that is available on ground and deuterium in seawater. (Lithium and deuterium are two key raw materials for nuclear fusion).

Already, scientists have been able to generate 10 times more energy as output compared to input through fusion reaction. But the experiments have all been on a small scale. The international project called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) seeks to have a facility that would be able to demonstrate the viability on a commercial scale.

The joint committee meeting also discussed the possibility of India participating in an international project, under which a computer-based grid is being set up to help scientists from the countries involved to exchange scientific information. The U.K. is the leading country in the project called `E-Science.' India would need to contribute about £300 million to participate in the project.


29 May 05,, 19:34
Actually India has been pioneering in Thorium fuel based reactors. So instead of spending bulk of its resources on a Fusion projects, Thorium makes much more sense.
Then I would go with the lack of intrest. ;)

30 May 05,, 13:37
big advance for India.

540MW is still too small at today's standard.

India is currently two 1000 MW reactors under construction ( in addition to 5 more reactors of lesser capacity). All these will come online sometime next. That is, by end of next year India will have 22 comercial nuclear reactors in operation.

check out the pictures of construction sites if you like:


The Chap
07 Feb 06,, 20:25
No one has answered my question.

If I may ...

I mentioned yonks back in another (now doubtless ancient) thread that Indian CANDU reactors have an appalling safety record and leak tritium into the water supply due to shoddy engineering tolerances (mainly in the thermal cycle and containment vessel).

I assume that this thread is referring to an first all-Indian design/build. :)

08 Feb 06,, 03:36
rediff (http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/21nuke.htm)

Part 1

'A failure on all fronts!'
George Iype

Two weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in India, senior officials led by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited Chairman and Managing Director V K Chaturvedi visited Moscow.

Their mission was to finalise the multimillion-rupee pact with Russia for setting up India's largest nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

When they returned to their offices at Anushakti Nagar, Bombay, they were excited. They had waited 12 years for the Kudankulam project to materialise. It was in 1988 that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had signed the energy pact with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Putin's visit was a cause of celebration at NPCIL and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. After years of official apathy and indifference to a programme that was conceived as the torchbearer to India's energy needs, it was finally moving forward.

Despite five decades of research and development, planning and execution, India's record in producing electricity from nuclear plants remains abysmally poor. Today, India is in the select league of nuclear nations. But the electricity it produces from nuclear reactors is less than 3 per cent of the installed capacity.

Contrast this with the production levels in other nations. In France, nuclear plants produce 75 per cent of the country's electricity. In the United States, it is 19.8 per cent, the United Kingdom 28.87 per cent, and Russia 14.41 per cent.

In 1944 Homi Jehangir Bhabha, prime architect of India's atomic energy programme, had predicted that we could become a powerhouse of nuclear energy. But successive governments lacked the vision and enthusiasm to achieve his dream.

The installed capacity of nuclear power in the country today is just 2,280 MW. Or, to put it in perspective, just 2.65 per cent of the total electricity produced in India. After a couple more projects are completed, the capacity is expected to touch 3,000 MW.

INDIA'S nuclear energy production cost is the highest in the world. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission was set up in August 1948, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But when the government felt the nuclear programme was going nowhere, it set up NPCIL in 1987.

According to NPCIL's balance sheets (1994-95 to 1998-99), the corporation has spent Rs 92.43 billion. If we take this as the total cost for producing 2,280 MW of energy, we have spent Rs 450 million for one MW of nuclear energy in the last five years.

The DAE and the NPCIL have now redrafted India' s nuclear energy target. According to their Vision 2020 document, India will have an installed nuclear capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020.

But there has never been any dearth of such papers. Experts say it is not lack of vision or expertise, but skewed government policies that have let down the country's nuclear energy programme.

"The programme certainly should not be left to be run the way it is run at present by the Department of Atomic Energy," says Dr A Gopalakrishnan.

Dr Gopalakrishnan should know. He headed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board from 1993 to 1996. According to him, if India's nuclear power programme remains choked, it is because we have not divided our nuclear activities into civilian and military components.

"Now that India has declared itself a nuclear-weapon power, it is high time we separated our nuclear activities clearly into civilian and military components. Let the civilian work on nuclear power plants be scrutinised and funded like any other power project in terms of investments and returns on investment and, more importantly, on the basis of per kilowatt-hour price for nuclear electricity and what it means to public safety," he says.

Officials put forward various reasons for the malady that has affected the energy programme. Some say that even though the government supported the cause of nuclear power, there has been an acute lack of long-term plans.

"There has been not much budgetary support for the programme. Whatever the government allocated us was just enough to meet the salaries of employees and the maintenance of offices," says a senior NPCIL official.

The budgetary allocation for the nuclear power programme continued at Rs 3 billion annually till 1999. But last year, the government allocated nearly Rs 9.5 billion to the NPCIL.

The change of heart, officials say, was mainly because the Bharatiya Janata Party government was bolstered by the Pokhran nuclear blasts in 1998.

EXPERTS cite two compelling reasons for the stagnation of the energy programme. First, the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1974 and 1988. Second, the hackneyed Indian Atomic Energy Act.

According to NPCIL MD V K Chaturvedi, after the Pokhran tests in 1974, the energy programme suffered because India was isolated.

"The tests stopped the technical aids for setting up nuclear power plants and purchases of reactors. We were forced to prepare everything on our own. It significantly delayed our projects," he says.

Officials say the 1974 tests affected the energy programme even more. International sanctions against India at a time when the country was on the threshold of completing some major projects held it up badly.

"Financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank did not give us aid. So our projects went into the doldrums," Chaturvedi points out.

But what throttled the programme most was the Indian Atomic Energy Act of 1962 (Click for an external link). It prohibits private and public equity from within and outside the country.

The act prescribes that the nuclear programme should be shrouded in secrecy. It provides the DAE enormous powers and the right to withhold any information. The programme, it says, should be run by the DAE with limited participation from private industries.

Thus, the role of industries is limited to that of just vendors, not participants.

Critics call the DAE an 'unaccountable organisation'. "It is neither accountable to Parliament nor to the government," says an official.

"It is only in India that the nuclear power programme is being implemented as a departmental programme by the DAE. Nuclear energy projects should be a national programme like in other countries," he adds.

In the United States, France and Britain, private industries serve as partners in nuclear power generation.

"Our Atomic Energy Act needs to be changed because it does not allow us to attract private industries. Instead of facilitating, the act has stunted the growth of nuclear power projects in the country," Chaturvedi says.

Lack of political will added to the problems hindering energy generation. Particularly, officials point out, the Congress government under P V Narasimha Rao from 1991 to 1996 showed no interest in the projects.

"The Rao government stopped all funding for energy projects. We could set up no plants during this phase," says the NPCIL chairman. "It was total stagnation."

This led to a disastrous result: migration of qualified manpower from nuclear industries to other sectors. In the last two decades, many brilliant scientists and researchers from NPCIL and BARC have joined the private sector.

"Our nuclear energy programme has been a failure on all fronts. We have wasted millions of rupees on a project that is yet to give us any satisfactory results," says Dr A S Cheema, a Madras-based expert.

There are many like him who say the programme can succeed only if it is planned and controlled more tightly, under careful parliamentary and financial scrutiny and adhering to international safety norms.

"Our nuclear power programme lacks transparency," Dr Cheema adds.

What worries experts is not the fact that an ambitious programme has become a white elephant, but the reality that some plants are disasters-in-the-make.

08 Feb 06,, 03:37
rediff (http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/22nuke.htm)

Part 2
A Chernobyl can happen in India anytime
George Iype

Bombay, India. 1430 hours, Thursday, April 14, 2001.

An explosion in Trombay rocks the city. Tremors are felt at the Bombay Stock Exchange, the city's financial hub, some 25km away.

Minutes later a ball of fire engulfs parts of Bombay. The wind whips it about. Pedestrians fall down. The sea swells angrily. There is chaos like never before...

This reads very much like the nuclear apocalypse that Humphrey Hawksley describes in Dragon Fire. But it can come true.

A Chernobyl-type accident can take place at India's nuclear power plants. Anytime.

The threat is real because India is the only country in the world where nuclear research and plutonium production occur near crowded areas.

Some reactors operate beyond danger levels. For instance, the emergency cooling system at the atomic power plants in Madras and Rajasthan are inadequate. The reactors in Tarapur are outmoded and, according to experts, should be closed down immediately.

The country's first nuclear power plant, the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, has two reactors -- TAPS 1 and 2. These were constructed with technical assistance from the United States in 1969. Nowhere in the world do such outmoded reactors function.

Adequate cooling systems and tube failures have forced the authorities to lower the load on the TAPS reactors from 210 MW to 160 MW. They have also discontinued the use of nitrogen to make the containment safe.

With such blatant violations of safety norms, experts warn the reactors could melt down and explode anytime.

For proof, look at what happened at Narora in 1993. The Narora Atomic Power Station was commissioned in 1991. But the failure of two steam turbine blades resulted in a major fire in one of the heavy water reactors, which nearly led to a nuclear meltdown.

The US-based General Electric, the manufacturers of the turbines, had warned about the problem and offered a revised design. But neither the government nor the Department of Atomic Energy found it prudent to effect these changes.

LIKE Tarapur and Narora, the other nuclear power reactors across the country have dangerous flaws. Which is why experts say that nuclear accidents like those at Chernobyl in Russia in 1986 and at Tokaimura in Japan should be lessons for India's nuclear establishment.

"There could be lesser accidents which could still release moderate amounts of radioactivity into the crowded areas surrounding some of our less-safe installations at Madras, Trombay or Tarapur. It could be devastating to a large number of people," says Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

For instance, says Dr Gopalakrishnan, the Madras Atomic Power Station reactors at Kalpakam, situated just outside the city, are operated without proper emergency cooling systems.

For their part, the authorities claim that Indian nuclear power plants abide by international regulations on radioactive emissions and safety standards.

The debate today is whether India should promote nuclear energy production when the rest of the world is closing down reactors in view of safety and environmental concerns.

According to S P Udayakumar, research associate and co-director of programmes at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota in the United States the stress has now shifted from nuclear power plants.

For instance, Commonwealth Edison, the largest private operator of nuclear plants in the US, has just announced the closure of two of its plants in Zion, Illinois, because of economic reasons.

The company's Quad Cities plant near Molline, Illinois, was shut down late last year due to safety concerns. Only four of the company's 12 plants currently generate electricity.

Northeast Utilities, another nuclear generator that owns three nuclear plants at Waterford, Connecticut, also recently suspended the efforts to reopen its oldest unit.

"If cost considerations and safety concerns oblige the wealthy and highly advanced American nuclear industry, one can imagine the predicaments India could face on both these fronts," says Udayakumar.

IN India, the nuclear power industry faces the problem of storing spent fuel. The threat to life and environment too is great.

It is not that India is not addressing the safety concerns. After the Narora accident in 1993, the government entrusted the AERB to study the issue. In 1995, the AERB, then headed by Dr Gopalakrishnan, produced a secret report, Safety issues in DEA installations.

It contained 134 safety suggestions and was accepted by the Atomic Energy Commission, which passed it on to the DAE for corrective steps.

The report, which is still a classified document, had identified many serious deficiencies in our initial installations, the plants that were set up in 1979 and 1987 by the DAE.

Shockingly, these deficiencies are yet to be rectified.

According to Dr Gopalakrishnan, the 1995 report find the safety levels in some of India's installations well below the international norms.

"The DAE is postponing the repairs because of several reasons. In some cases, it will necessitate very long shutdown of a facility. In certain others, spare parts and equipment are denied to India," he says.

DESPITE such concerns, NPCIL officials say India has a very good safety record. They rule out a Chernobyl anywhere in India.

"The Chernobyl accident occurred due to the negligence of operators who violated safety procedures," says NPCIL Chairman and Managing Director V K Chaturvedi. "Besides, the reactor was a totally different type. It employed graphite as a moderator. Graphite is a form of carbon and its combustible property contributed to explosion in the reactor core.

"In our nuclear plants explosion in the core is ruled out as it is cooled and moderated," he adds.

He is of the opinion that the safety features in India are adequate. "We have given paramount importance to the safety of the staff, public and environment. Safety experts and regulatory personnel are associated at all operations of nuclear power plants," he says.

Chaturvedi may be confident, but there are many other experts who are not. They warn that explosions and meltdowns are waiting to happen in our plants. And then, they say, the Indian nuclear establishment's confidence of being "the bomb-maker" will not help.

08 Feb 06,, 03:38
rediff (http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/23nuke.htm)

Part 3

The Russian Connection
George Iype

Russian President Vladimir Putin attracted considerable international attention when he visited the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay, the nerve centre of India's nuclear establishment.

The first Russian president to do so, Putin's gesture and public announcement that Moscow is willing to extend co-operation in this sphere to New Delhi virtually broke the international nuclear blockade against India.

The reverberations of Putin's visit can be felt far away, down South, at Kudankulam village in Tamil Nadu. It is here that India's largest nuclear power plant is coming up -- with technical aid from Russia.

It is for the 2,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Station that India has signed a US $ 3.1 billion (Rs 114 billion) deal with Russia. Russia will deliver two standard high-pressure VVER 1,000 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors that will produce 1,000 MW power per unit.

To begin with, Moscow will extend a US $2.6 billion credit to India at four per cent annual interest to be paid back over 12 years, after the first reactor is commissioned. The credit would be returned in hard currency and clearing dollars. Both sides are yet to decide on the exact proportion of the repayment scheme.

Twenty-three atomic energy institutions in Russia are now working on the Kudankulam project. According to the agreement, Russia will supply all equipment and material, including fuel for the entire life of the power station. India need only construct access roads and buildings and take care of other support activities.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited will manage the Kudankulam project.

IT was in 1988 that then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi signed the deal in Delhi. Since then, Russia has been lobbying to finalise the pact. But a section of officials at the Department of Atomic Energy had sternly opposed it.

"It is incredulous that India had the courage to ink the deal in 1988, just two years after the nightmarish Chernobyl accident," says S P Udayakumar, an anti-nuclear activist who founded the Group for Peaceful Indian Ocean in 1988 to educate the public against nuclear weapons.

Critics argue that the nuclear energy pact will only boost the Russian nuclear industry. "Nuclear power generation in India has not succeeded because it requires stable grids. The existing grids in the country cannot handle the output of a 1000 MW unit from Kudankulam. So there is no logic in going ahead with the deal," says a senior DAE official.

They say the Kudankulam project will harm India's autonomous nuclear programme, break the country's control of the nuclear fuel cycle and create unnecessary dependency.

The deal had dragged for the past 12 years because a section of DEA officials and successive governments at the Centre cold-shouldered it. Another reason was pressure from the United States.

And the Americans have been open about it. In 1997, US President Bill Clinton pressured his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin at the Helsinki Summit to refrain from building the reactors in Kudankulam. The same year, American Vice-President Al Gore took the issue up with then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during a session of the bilateral joint commission.

Again, in June 1998, soon after India exploded the nuclear bombs, the US publicly said that the Russian decision to build nuclear reactors in Kudankulam was not good news, that it sent the "wrong signal at the wrong time".

Then US state department spokesman James Rubin said: "Even before the latest test, we urged Russia not to proceed with the reactor sale to India, as it is not consistent with Russia's obligations as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group [which should] not to sell reactors to countries that don't have the so-called full scope safeguards on all facilities."

THE Indo-Russia deal has, thus, stirred up a heated debate. Many ask a crucial question: Why is India depending on Russia for nuclear power reactors? Why Russia?

Official sources claim India agreed to purchase the technology not because of its superiority but because Russia has smartly linked the nuclear reactor purchase with other defence deals. This includes purchase of T-90 tanks for the Indian army, the SU-30 planes for the air force and the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian navy.

A top-ranking defence official said that India is planning to purchase a nuclear submarine reactor and that the purchase of the reactors would help in this.

But experts see no technical merit in India going for the VVER 1,000 reactors. When the idea of the purchase came up a decade ago, the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had expressed misgivings. In the past, many European countries have abandoned the VVER 1,000 reactors because they have problems with pressure vessels, emergency shutdown systems and team generators.

"The reactors that Russia is going to export to us will be difficult to maintain," says a senior AERB official.

The official adds that in 1997, Dr Alexy Yablokov, Chairman of the Russian National Ecological Security Council, had admitted that the Russian reactors were 'highly unsafe.'

BUT proponents of the Kudankulam project are confident that the two reactors would add substantially to the southern grid and promote social and economic development in the region.

"The Russian reactors are superior in quality and safety standards," says S K Jain, director of the Kudankulam project.

Immediately after the Chernobyl accident, Jain continues, European countries had shut down the reactors supplied by Russia saying its nuclear power programme was very secret, full of defects and had many grey areas.

"But then the Russians opened up and presented their reactors to the international community. Now there is no need for us to worry about the safety and health aspects," he concludes.

But while Indian officials go ahead with such claims, Russians themselves admit that they do not have the money and resources to manage some of their outmoded reactors.

In April last year, Sergei N Ivanov, director general of the Russian Electric Power Company that operates 29 nuclear power plants, said his enterprise "lacked money to pay workers, perform maintenance and repairs, inspect crucial pipes and even buy fuel."

"At times the plants have only two or three days of fuel on hand," he said.

The New York Times reported on April 12, 1999: 'The Russian company would like to close nine of its older reactors, but it says it has no money for decommissioning them. It says its best prospect for earning that money is build additional reactors and sell the power.'

If Kudankulam is an example of that, India is at the receiving end of Russian nuclear business.

08 Feb 06,, 03:39
rediff (http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/24nuke.htm)

Part 4

'India's interest is not electricity, but
nuclear bombs'
George Iype and S P Udayakumar

Newcomers attract immediate attention in steaming Kundankulam. Enquiries about the nuclear power project pull a good crowd.

Everyone is willing to talk. And, justifiably, anxious about their future.

It is in this village in Tamil Nadu that India's first nuclear power plant in more than a decade will come up. The Kudankulam Atomic Power Station, a $ 3 billion project, will be built in five years using the Russian VVER 1,000 reactors.

The people are bitter about how the government acquired land for the project. Compensation, they say, was pathetically inadequate -- just Rs 2,000 per acre and another Rs 100 for each cashew tree on the land.

There were tamarind trees too, which used to fetch them "approximately Rs 2,000 every year". The plots were taken in the 1980s -- and with it went the only asset that many families had.

Did the locals know what they were getting into when the land was taken? No. Many say they were not even told about the hazards of radiation.

Some were hopeful of swapping their land for government jobs. A decade later, they are slowly waking up to the reality that there won't be any jobs -- and worse, they might be evicted from the area.

THERE are, of course, people who are very enthusiastic about the project.

The reason could be that they have their eye on winning some contract or the other when the construction begins. The tension between these would-be-entrepreneurs and the anxious landless is very much visible.

Then there is a third group that continuously leaks Didn't-I-tell-you-so rhetoric. Hadn't they, they say, warned their fellow villagers to be careful about selling their land? Hadn't they said that no good would come to them out of it? Of course they had! And now look what is happening!

In the face of such divisions and confusion, civic courage gives way to superstition and resignation. The 'believers' point out that then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who signed the deal with the Soviet Union, was killed, and that H D Deve Gowda, who revived the project, lost his prime ministership immediately thereafter.

Besides the confused and the contended, there are a few groups in Kudankulam that are now actively opposing the project. Thangathurai Swami, who manages the Narayanaswami temple on his family land that lies inside the project compound, has steadfastly refused to sell his land.

As he puts it, "I cannot sell my God and the temple."

Muthukumaraswamy, a retired schoolteacher, has also said 'no' to the government. He filed a suit in the Tirunelveli district court. Besides highlighting the inadequate compensation, Muthukumaraswami says farming land and burial grounds should not be taken for industrial initiatives.

There is a group called the Nuclear Power Opposition Group in Kudankulam. Their activity, however, is limited to publishing occasional handbills.

IF Kudankulam is indecisive, the surrounding villages and towns are not any better.

There are many social service organisations in Meignanapuram, Nanguneri and in Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Madurai districts, but they are not fully into the fight against the plant.

In Kanyakumari district, the Social Action Movement carries out awareness campaigns. D Mathias of SAM and Reverend Y David of the Samathuva Samuthaya Iyakkam, loosely translated as Social Equality Movement, have been educating the public about the dangers of nuclear power projects since 1988.

The Palmyrah Workers' Development Society of Dr Samuel Amirtham and the Peace Association for Social Action of Dr Gnana Robinson are two other organisations that are in the fight.

The fear of radioactive contamination is what figures prominently in these groups' campaigns. Environmental dangers, health risks and nuclear waste disposal issues are also raised. The impending diversion of water from the Pechipparai Dam for the project is also a grave concern among the farmers of Kanyakumari district and adjacent areas.

The people are more or less certain that the government will go ahead with the project -- and if there is an accident, it would eventually be closed down.

"It is the general trend of our times that people ignore warnings but feel sorry and make amends when disasters strike," comments Dr S Thasan, a retired Tamil professor of Marthandam Christian College.

One reason why the movements have not really been successful is because they have failed to debate the alternatives to nuclear power in the larger framework of national development. Numerous windmills that produce electricity profitably surround the proposed site. Unfortunately, the protesters have not focussed upon the rewards of such renewable energy systems.

IT is true that the southern districts of Tamil Nadu are industrially backward and could use some economic boost.

But what do the people want? Do they want to depend on industries instead of the traditional agricultural? Are they interested in a modern 'big-bang' solution for the intractable problem of underdevelopment?

Ask these questions and you will get deafening silence.

Even as anti-nuke activists mount pressure on the authorities, many commoners say that some good will come out of it -- like, they will get continuous electricity, will they not?

"We have frequent power cuts here. The nuclear plant coming up there will make our fans run," says Murugappa Devan, looking at the motionless fan in his medical shop.

Residents like Devan have another hope -- that "the electricity factory" would bring jobs to their children.

In the past three years, officials of the Atomic Energy Commission have been educating the villagers about the benefits of nuclear energy. But doubts remain -- the VVER-type reactors are dangerous, claim anti-nuclear activists.

Project Director S K Jain, however, does not believe so. After a recent visit to Moscow, Jain is working hard to ensure that construction commences early in 2001.

Talk about the Chernobyl accident and Jain says: "It is not fair to always mention Chernobyl whenever we plan a nuclear power plant in the country. Environmental safety and people's health are our utmost priority. Kudankulam power project will bring us glory and lots of electricity."

Despite such claims there are questions that the Atomic Energy Commission has not answered.

Questions like why did the government opt for a multi-million nuclear power project when electricity could be produced safely from alternative sources from across Kudankulam and the neighbouring villages?

"India has given away Kudankulam to Russian experimentation because our government's interest is not in electricity but in promoting the country's secret nuclear designs," says Mallika Rajendran, a social activist in Kudankulam.

Rajendran says the authorities never conducted any study on the environmental impact of a nuclear project in a place like Kudunkulam, which is close to the sea.

"Radioactive contamination will spread like wild fire because Kudankulam has the largest number of windmills in the country," she says.

Rajendran and her colleagues are now making their final stand. Every day, they hold roadside public meetings in Kudankulam to present their case.

Work on the project, meanwhile, is expected to commence on schedule.

08 Feb 06,, 03:42
rediff (http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/25nuke.htm)

Part 5
Is a Chernobyl imminent in India?

Senior Associate Editor George Iype discussed that question with two proponents of nuclear energy and an anti-nuke voice. They had diverse views.

Dr A Gopalakrishnan, chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board from 1993 to 1996, holds the apex Department of Atomic Energy responsible for all the ills plaguing India's nuclear power projects. Read his views.

The credit for whipping up a people's movement against the controversial Kudankulam project should go to S P Udayakumar. He is a research associate and co-director of programs at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota. A native of Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, he is engaged in an unorganised struggle against the project. He terms the nuclear power programme a "money-wasting disaster". Read his views.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited Chairman and Managing Director V K Chaturvedi is responsible for all nuclear power plants in India. Chaturvedi scoffs at the allegation that our plants do not conform to safety norms.Read his views.

This is the last part of this series.

'I do not think nuclear plants are polluting and a threat to people's health'
V K Chaturvedi

Rediff: How do you assess India as a nuclear power producing country?

Chaturvedi: India was one of the few countries that started work on nuclear power at a very early stage. We started work in 1955. Some five decades back we developed the technology for uranium processing, making of the fuel, waste management, reprocessing and taking out plutonium. By 1965, we were ready with the basic technology to sustain a close-cycle nuclear power programme.

But when the implementation stage came, a number of difficulties cropped up. Our industry was not ready to take up the manufacturing of sophisticated equipment, which were required. The standard to which they had to raise their manufacturing expertise was too much. So we started giving them lots of assistance, financial and technical.

But despite all our efforts, today we are producing just three per cent of the power of the total installed capacity in the country. It is too less in comparison to the time that went in working on developing the nuclear energy.

Rediff: In 1985, the Indian government released a plan to produce 10,000 MW of nuclear power by 2000. But today it is nowhere near the target. What happened?

Chaturvedi: After our first nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1974, we were isolated. The international community imposed so many sanctions on us that nobody wanted to give us any transfer of technology for nuclear energy. The technical aid suddenly stopped. So we were forced to prepare everything in our own country. Even financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank did not give us any aid. So our nuclear programme had to depend on the government.

Then there was another problem. The Indian Atomic Energy Act of 1962 prohibits us from going for any private or public equity for the nuclear programme. So we had to depend solely on the government for money. In 1987 we found that the government was unable to give us the needed money. Therefore, a new company, the NPCIL was set up.

NPCIL was allowed to go for borrowing through bonds and loans from financial institutions. Our nuclear power programme in fact started to expand only after the setting up of NPCIL, which has installed eight nuclear power units across the country.

But we had also to face many problems at NPCIL. For instance, the P V Narasimha Rao government stopped all funding for nuclear power projects because of some strange reasons. The years from 1991 to 1996 were a period of total dryness and stagnation. No nuclear power plant came up during this period.

Rediff: Were the nuclear power programmes affected after the second Pokhran tests in 1998? Has the government renewed its interest after Pokhran II?

Chaturvedi: Yes. Now the government is showing tremendous interest in the programme. But after Pokhran II, we had to face many problems because of sanctions and international ban on the transfer of technology.

Rediff: Has the government increased the budgetary allocation for the nuclear power programme?

Chaturvedi: Yes, yes, it has. The allocation for us used to be around Rs 300 crore [3 billion] annually. It was just sufficient to pay the salaries. But last year, the government allocated nearly Rs 1,000 crore [10 billion]. This money is also nothing considering the fact that our aim is to add at 700 MW of power every year. For that we require a budgetary allocation of Rs 4,000 crore [40 billion] every year.

Rediff: World norms of nuclear reactor sizes are of 1,000 to 1,500 MW while India's reactor capacity is between 220 MW and 500 MW? Don't you think we are far behind in harnessing nuclear power because we still use the old technology?

Chaturvedi: You are correct. There are two reasons for that. One, our grids are very slim. Our grids used to have a capacity of just 8,000 MW. Now they have increased to 18,000 MW. So we could not attach a big mega watt of electricity to the grid. If we did that, it would collapse. That is why we went in for smaller reactors, which are good for our grids. Another problem is that in India heavy water reactors cannot be made more than 600 MW capacity. We do not have the infrastructure in our country to go for bigger reactors. Fabrication and transportation problems are always nagging us.

Rediff: Do you think nuclear power is a safe and environmentally clean source of power generation? Will it be the largest source of energy for India in the future?

Chaturvedi: Under normal operating conditions, the nuclear plants are safe and environmentally sound. I do not think nuclear plants are polluting and a threat to people's health. A plant generally emits two to three per cent radiation to the people living in the surrounding areas.

But that is nothing. You get that much radiation from the nature every day. You go to Rajasthan, the radiation that you would get from rivers and sands is much more. See, once you go to New York and come back, whatever radiation dose you get in the journey will be the same as the radiation that a man who is sitting 24 hours just outside our plants.

A Chernobyl-type of accident is impossible in a country like India. The heavy water reactors in India have been made in such a way that they have a number of layers of water around the fuel. Adequate safety features in the plant are provided to ensure its safe operation. Paramount importance is given in setting up of nuclear power installations, to the safety of operating staff, public and environment. Safety experts and regulatory personnel are associated at all levels.

Four hundred and forty-four reactors are operating today in the world. In all the countries, the types of accidents and safety norms are reviewed by the United Nations. We never had a major accident at our plants.

Rediff: Some proponents of the nuclear energy programme have expressed reservations about the nuclear plants in the country. For instance, they say the two reactors at Tarapur are unsafe and should be closed immediately.

Chaturvedi: There are reasons for this statement. The Tarapore reactors are very old. But I should say they are not dangerous. These reactors were checked by an international team of experts and were found safe. We are implementing most of the safety recommendations from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Rediff: Don't you think there is too much secrecy surrounding our nuclear energy programme? The AERB's safety recommendations still remain a secret.

Chaturvedi: There is no secrecy in our nuclear power programme. But I do not know why the safety recommendations are not made public. We are transparent. You go to our site on the Internet and you find all the details about our projects and specifications. Critics claim our plants are unsafe because they take out minor incidents and exaggerate.

08 Feb 06,, 03:47
'What is appalling is that the safety recommendations are yet to be attended to, even in September 2000'
Dr A Gopalakrishnan

Rediff: Do you think India's nuclear power plants are money guzzling? Is it not a fact that after spending so much money in the past three decades, the energy produced is just three per cent?

Dr Gopalakrishnan: 'Money guzzling' is a poor definition. If you mean, "Do you feel it is a waste of taxpayers' money to expand the nuclear power programme", that can be attempted to be answered.

My answer is that the nuclear programme needs to be much more tightly planned and controlled, under the careful financial and parliamentary scrutiny before large amounts of additional public funds are committed. It certainly should not be left to be run the way it is by the Department of Atomic Energy.

Now that India has declared itself a nuclear weapons power, it is high time that we separate our nuclear activities clearly into civilian and military components and let the civilian work be scrutinised and funded like any other power sector project in terms of investments and returns on investment, and more importantly, on the basis of per kilowatt-hour price for nuclear electricity and what it means to public safety.

In doing so, there should be transparency in the details of costing of all inputs for nuclear power. All subsidies coming indirectly into this programme will have to be included in the costs. Then only one can make a choice on how much of nuclear power to set up, as against how much coal-based power NTPC should be funded to set up, and how much hydropower NHPC can be funded to set up.

After all, the NTPC, the NHPC and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited are all public sector power companies. The limited amount of taxpayers' money that is available for investment in power must go to these three organisations in proportion to their overall economic and environmental merits, and not with a step-motherly attitude to NTPC and NHPC alone, as it is today.

Rediff: Last year you had said that the threat of a serious nuclear accident at our nuclear plants is real. Can you elaborate?

Dr Gopalakrishnan: I was chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board from 1993 to 1996. In 1995, the AERB under me brought out a comprehensive document on the safety of DAE installations. It was subsequently accepted by the Atomic Energy Commission and passed on to the DAE to take corrective steps. The contents of the report were all based on earlier analyses and committee findings of the DAE and their organisations, and not any new evidence generated by the AERB.

What this report brought out is the fact that many serious safety deficiencies in our early-stage installations were identified as far back as in 1979 and 1987 by the DAE. But these deficiencies had not been rectified even at the time of the report in 1995.

Rediff: Has the government or the DAE now implemented the safety suggestions?

Dr Gopalakrishnan: What is appalling is that the more crucial of the safety recommendations are yet to be attended to, even in September 2000. The deficiencies pointed out and prioritised in the 1995 AERB report have certainly placed the safety levels of some of our installations well below the norms that are internationally applied for deciding on the continued operation of nuclear facilities.

The DAE is postponing the repairs because of several reasons. In some cases, it will necessitate very long shutdown of a facility, for tackling some of the problems well enough. Then there are technologies that have not yet been indigenously developed. In certain instances spare parts and equipment are denied to India.

But certainly the government will provide the funds needed, if only the DAE will come forward with a plan to do the urgent rectification. Theunderlying reason for the current state of affairs is a scorn on the part of the DAE for any independent view from outside. The total lack of awareness on the part of the public, a lack of effective media interest and activism, as well as the newfound strength of the Indian nuclear establishment as the 'bomb-maker' and the consequential influence they have on the current government have made the DAE pretend that it knows everything.

Rediff: Can a Chernobyl-type accident take place in Indian nuclear power plants?

Dr Gopalakrishnan: I have said earlier also that a Chernobyl-type accident is very unlikely in Indian nuclear power stations. What is not realised is that away from all the sensationalism of Chernobyl, there are lesser accidents which could still release moderate amounts of radioactivity into the very crowded areas surrounding some of our less safe installations at Madras, Trombay or Tarapur, which could be devastating to a large number of people.

The Madras Atomic Power Plant reactors that are operated without effective emergency cooling systems are situated right outside Madras. The danger is that unlike other countries, we have nuclear weapons work and plutonium-producing reactors operating right next to crowded areas of Bombay.

'What do the 400 million poor Indians get out of nuclear power projects? They are the first to die and last to gain'
S P Udayakumar

Rediff: Do you think India's nuclear power programme is money-guzzling?

Udayakumar: Yes. Take a look at the statistics which Dr Y S R Prasad, the former managing director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, gave in his foreword to the book, Profile of Power Utilities and Non-Utilities in India 2000.

According to him, India was producing a meagre 1,800 MW power in 1950 but in 1998-99 we generated about 90,000 MW. Almost all of this was thermal and hydropower. The share of nuclear power was an insignificant 1,840 MW -- a ridiculously low 2 per cent of the total energy production. As of June 2000, the Indian nukedom claims, their energy output has increased to 2,240 MW. It is hardly 2.5 per cent even if we keep the total energy output at the stagnant level of 90,000 MW.

On December 1, 1999 NPCIL presented a maiden dividend cheque of Rs 504.4 million to the prime minister. Now mind you, NPCIL itself was incorporated in 1987. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission was set up in August 1948 to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes. We can imagine the amount of money, time, energy, human and other resources that have gone into these institutions and their activities. Put all these facts and figures together and you get the classic picture of inefficiency and incompetence.

Take any of the 47 hydro or thermal power projects that had techno-economic clearance from the Central Electricity Authority as of December 1998 and compare their capacity and cost. Almost all the 47 projects cost much less than nuclear energy. This should be enough proof that the nuclear power projects are way too expensive and inefficient.

Rediff: Do you think the threat of a serious nuclear accident at our nuclear plants is real? Can a Chernobyl-type accident take place?

Udayakumar: Yes, I do think that the threat of a serious nuclear accident is real. Serious accidents are happening now. For instance, in March 1999, there was a leak of heavy water in the second unit of MAPS reactor at Kalpakkam, near Madras. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, another wing of Indian nukedom, dismissed the incident by saying that "the release to the environment is maintained well within the limits specified by the AERB."

But M V Ramana, an Indian scientist from Princeton University, estimated that the radioactivity released to the environment was "several times the permitted 300 curies per day per reactor and perhaps even exceeding the discharge limit of 10 times the daily quota." He further asserted that the dose to workers was likely to have been much greater than the AERB claims.

Indian government admitted in December 1999 for the first time that heavy water with radioactive tritium above limits set by the AERB got released into the Rana Pratap Sagar lake from the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station in May 1998. In December 1999 New Delhi also acknowledged that 21 issues relating to nuclear safety raised by the AERB as far back as 1996 have not yet been addressed.

In December 1991 Bhabha Atomic Research Centre reactor workers discovered a big radioactive leak from poorly maintained pipelines in the vicinity of the Cirus and Dhruva reactors causing severe soil contamination.

If an independent body were to look into these accidents and incidents and their after-effects, we would know the truth. And that truth would be ugly. Exempted from transparency and accountability and encouraged by secrecy and opacity, the Indian nukedom has been hiding things rather efficiently.

I also think that Chernobyl-type accidents can take place in Indian nuclear power plants. Let us consider our national track record on safety awareness and emergency preparedness. A cursory look at the Bhopal tragedy, numerous train accidents, airplane accidents, the assassinations of so many top-level leaders, and other such fiascos show that we, as a nation, are not good at averting disasters or at being prepared for unexpected emergency situations.

Let me give you a concrete nuclear-power-related example for this human negligence factor. In October 1999, one of the two reactors at the Narora Atomic Power Plant was shut down following the collapse of an 'airlock door' leading to the coolant section housing the reactor. In a characteristic manner, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission R Chidambaram dismissed the incident saying it was a mechanical problem and not a mishap. Dr Y S R Prasad, the then chairman and managing director of NPCIL, who was responsible for running the plant, was not even available for comment. Doesn't this attitude say something?

Rediff: Experts and anti-nuclear activists have said our nuclear plants are dangerous, outmoded and disasters-in-the-make.

Udayakumar: I am not an expert on nuclear physics and hence I have to go by what the experts say on this. I understand that Yorkshire Television in Britain did a secret documentary on our nuclear plants some two years ago that recorded the sorry state of our plants and their administration. John Hallam and others have expressed serious reservations about the VVER 1,000 design that is going to be used in the Kudankulam nuclear power project.

According to them, the specific safety problems include the integrity of the reactor pressure vessel, the reliability of the safety shutdown system, the reliability of the plants steam generators, and the possibility of broken steam-lines within the plant whipping around and destroying everything in their path including vital safety, electrical supply, and control systems. Ramana points out that there are no reactors in the world of the type that is used in Tarapur. All others using that particular design have been shut down.

Rediff: In 1995, the DAE prepared a safety issues report. But it is alleged that neither the government nor the DAE has taken any initiatives to implement the recommendations. Do you think our nuclear energy programme should be under stricter scrutiny and vigilance?

Udayakumar: Dr A Gopalakrishnan, who was the AERB chairman from 1993 to 1996, submitted the report in 1995. It is very strange that in a democratic country like ours, certain departments, projects and "scientific advisors" are treated as "sacred cows" with no need for any transparency and accountability.

They function like extra-constitutional authorities. I wonder even if our members of Parliament know the exact budget of these entities and their activities. The specifics of nuclear weapons and energy programmes that have such an enormous bearing on the lives and futures of the ordinary citizens of India are kept away from us. In fact, the Atomic Energy Act of 1962 (clause 18) states that we cannot ask, or gather or disclose any information about present, past or future or planned atomic plants.

Instead of facilitating closer scrutiny and vigilance, the Indian nukedom and officialdom are going in the opposite direction. In June 2000, the Indian government took away the authority of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the sole safety-monitoring agency, to oversee the safety of a large number of critical nuclear installations meant for the weapons programme in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

An internal safety committee to be set up by the BARC's director, Dr Anil Kakodkar, became responsible for ensuring the safety of the public and the workers from dangers that could emanate from these facilities. This move seriously undermined the AERB's responsibility for unbiased and independent safety regulations.

Take the Kudankulam nuclear power project. The nuclear authorities hide things and mislead people intentionally. In July 1998, there were reports that as many as six reactors could be built at Kudankulam. In November 1998, Dr Y S R Prasad said that "it was too early to think about" setting up a reprocessing plant at Kudankulam. Now in October 2000, Russian President Putin has announced that the spent fuel from Kudankulam project would stay in India contrary to the previous arrangement of taking it back to Russia.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman P Rama Rao said in November 1998, "The site evaluation for Kudankulam had been done." Who did the site evaluation? What was done exactly? Was it verified by an independent authority? What were some of the strengths and weaknesses of the site? Nobody knows. We all know that hydro and thermal power projects ought to get clearance from the ministry of environment and forests. Does it apply to the nuclear power projects? If so, was an environmental impact study done for the Kudankulam project. Why are these reports not made public?

Rediff: Who do you think should be held responsible for the slow progress of the nuclear power projects in the country? Has it been hit by a funds crunch?

Udayakumar: I have no complaints about the slow progress of the nuclear power projects. But it is rather amusing to see that they have taken 52 years to produce 2,240 MW power. After all, their nuclear energy has been for "peaceful purposes" until 1998 and maybe they all had too much peace up there.

So much money has already been spent on nuclear power projects and the funds crunch is mainly because nuclear power is much more expensive and capital intensive than most other energy sources. Top officials of Indian nukedom have expressed interest in inviting private investments. To reach their target of 20,000 MW power by 2020, they say they need Rs 800 billion.

In April 1999, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission welcomed private sector participation in nuclear power generation in India. Now, won't that be interesting? State-sanctioned secrecy, career-minded nuke scientists, and money-minded profiteers... what a combination can that be for ordinary Indians!

Rediff: Unlike other countries, we have nuclear weapons work and plutonium-producing reactors operating right next to crowded areas like Bombay.

Udayakumar: This is a serious issue. People of Kerala opposed the idea of establishing a nuclear power project in their state precisely for this reason. Of course, a highly populated country like ours does have an increasing need for energy. But that energy has to be economical, sustainable and environment-friendly for the very same reason of over - and dense -- population.

We need to spend less on energy because we have other pressing needs such as health, education, housing, transportation and so forth. We cannot afford the use and discord strategy as in nuclear power projects for obvious reasons of limited land availability, future generation's needs and so forth. Our energy projects have to be environmental-friendly because even a small inciident can harm, hurt or kill huge number of people.

Rediff: Do you think India should really embark on power production through nuclear plants? Is it environmentally sound? Does it really help social and economic development in the country?

Udayakumar: No, India should not embark on power production through nuclear plants when technologically advanced countries such as Sweden and Germany have decided to phase out the nuclear power option and the nuclear energy companies in the United States are closing down old units and not starting new ones. That nuclear power projects are not environmentally sound should be clear since we all know about the aftermath of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents.

And finally, these projects do not help the social and economic development of the country. Perhaps I should qualify this statement. If you are an upper class financier or power baron, the nuclear power projects add to your power, prestige and prominence. If you are a middle class scientist or engineer who cares only for your stable job, steady income, and your family's comfortable living with Godless consumerism, these nuke projects are "temples of science and technology" (to borrow the words of Putin) for you and you worship in them. Without these temples, you have no livelihood and you are good for nothing.

But what do 400 million poor people of India get out of these nuclear power projects here and now? As usual, they are the first to die and last to gain. This has been 5 part series from rediff, which bring imp Qs on our safety aspect of nuclear plants.

Kontakt Era
11 Feb 06,, 17:50
I wonder if the world will actually succeed on power being generated without any problems using fusion. How would they contain it? Is that possible? IDK, maybe we should just stick with fission.