NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to set up a facility for safe storage of radioactive spent nuclear fuel at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in by April 2022 and rejected a plea to shut down the plant until an Away From Reactor facility is built.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the submission of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the corporation, that the deadline for setting up of the storage facility be extended till April 30, 2022. The order came on a petition by the NGO Poovulagin Nanbargal.
In 2013 too, the court had directed the central government to construct an AFR facility and to ensure that all the safety precautions recommended by the apex court is followed within five years. The time limit granted ended in May 2018, following which the NGO approached the court seeking orders to shut down the plant citing environmental concerns.
The petitioner represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan enumerated the issues related to the storage of nuclear waste within the reactor premises and stated the example of Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan to show the damages caused to the environment because of not having a separate structure to store the waste.
Bhushan urged the bench to close the plant permanently or at least till the central government construct the AFR as per the specifications so as to ensure the safety of the people who live around the plant and said,
"The continued operation of the nuclear plant without a deep underground repository to store radioactive spent fuel is an open invitation to a catastrophe."
He said the running of the reactor largely depends on the storage facility. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had recommended cast-iron, fool-proof storage facility for spent fuel. Bhushan said the reactor has been shut down on various occasions for about 70 times for operational reasons since October 2013.
The Bench made it clear that the extension till April 2022 would be the last opportunity for construction of the AFR facility.
NPCIL, in February, had filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking five more years to set up the AFR facility to store spent nuclear fuel generated at the plant.