Preliminary nod for KKNPP spent fuel storage facility raises concern

However, activists as well as Speaker and Radhapuram MLA, M Appavu, have raised concerns on the same.

Published: 01st October 2021 05:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st October 2021 05:52 AM   |  A+A-

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (File | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI/TIRUNELVELI: The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has given a ‘siting clearance’ for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to construct an Away from Reactor (AFR) spent fuel storage facility for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) units 3 and 4. The units are scheduled to be operational in the next few years.

However, activists as well as Speaker and Radhapuram MLA, M Appavu, have raised concerns on the same. Like the AFR facility proposed for units 1 and 2, this site, too, falls within the plant premises. For the same reason, the previous project has been a non-starter till date. A public hearing called in July 2019 was postponed indefinitely fearing protests.

As per the Code for Regulation of Nuclear and Radiation Facilities, there are five stages of consent — siting, construction, commissioning, operation, and decommissioning — in the lifetime of a nuclear facility. Consent has to be obtained from the AERB after a detailed safety review. NPCIL had submitted an application to obtain consent for the first stage.

In a communication to NPCIL on August 23, G Nageswara Rao, AERB chairman, said based on a review, that was satisfactory, the consent has been granted to set up AFR facility for KKNPP units 3 and 4, subject to satisfactory compliance to stipulations and conditions. The consent is valid for five years.

The basic condition for choosing a site to build a particular facility is to ensure that the site-plant interaction does not result in radiological impact beyond the levels prescribed by the AERB, and the site is engineerable with regard to external hazards. AFR facility is proposed to be co-located within the main plant boundary of units 5 and 6, the communication stated.

NPCIL and its environmental consultant defended the site location saying, “AFR would be a component of operating KKNPP units 1 and 2, and will be integrated with it as one of the engineered features. It will not change the process/technology or generating capacity of units 1 and 2. The AFR is an operational requirement for units 1 and 2 to store spent fuel generated during its lifetime.” The spent fuel pool (inside the reactor building) can store spent fuel generated up to about seven years of operations. After that it has to be moved to AFR.

‘Don’t build power plant till Centre finalises DGR’

Anti -Kudadankulam activist, G Sundarrajan, who had filed a petition at the Supreme Court seeking shutdown of power plants until the AFR is built, said it should not be built until the Union government finalises Deep Geologic Repository (DGR), which would be the end point of management of nuclear spent fuel. The Union government, in the past, had expressed its intent to convert Kolar gold mines into nuclear waste dumpsite, but had quickly dropped the idea following severe resistance from Karnataka.

"There is every likelihood that the government may turn the AFR, which is supposed to be a transit facility, into a permanent DGR. So, building an AFR inside the KKNPP campus is dangerous, especially after the Fukushima disaster," said Sundarrajan. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker and Radhapuram MLA, M Appavu, on Thursday urged the Union government to construct the facility at a non-residential region. "The China-owned port in Sri Lanka is not far from the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

When the District Collector and I met with the site director of KKNPP to petition him against the AFR construction, he had said the site was safe. Even the twin towers in the US were not safe. Moreover, KKNPP is situated in a residential area. If any untoward incident happens, the people residing in the southern districts will be affected. Many here are already battling cancer.

So, I urge the Union government to construct the facility at some desert-like abandoned area," said Appavu. SP Udayakumar, coordinator of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, also made a demand to Chief Minister MK Stalin to stop the construction of AFR here.

‘If any untoward incident happens...’
M Appavu, Speaker and MLA of Radhapuram, where the site is located, said he had met with the
site director to petition against building the AFR. “If any untoward incident happens, people residing
in this region will be affected,” he said


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