A committee of the Union environment ministry wants more information before it grants clearance under the Coastal Zone Regulations (CRZ) to four of the six proposed reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu.
At a meeting earlier this month, the Environment Appraisal Committee on the CRZ had declined to grant permission to construct four reactors of 1,000 Mw each, telling the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to provide more information. Kudankulam is being jointly constructed with the Russian government.
The other two reactors were approved earlier and are to be commissioned this year. The ministry gave in-principle environment clearance to the other four reactors in 2009; the pending clearance was being sought under the CRZ Rules of 1991.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is under review.” He declined to answer when asked if the additions could be shelved permanently due to environmental concerns.
A senior official of NPCIL said “The EAC has asked us to provide more details on the additional four reactors in Kudankulam. However, this will not have any effect on the existing two reactors at the same site.”
Adding: “We have got all the clearances for the first two reactors. They are in the final stages of the completion and are expected to be commissioned this year.”
The Fukushima nuclear disaster has put pressure on the Indian government to review nuclear safety. At present there are 20-odd nuclear power plants in India, with a generating capacity of 4,780 Mw. After the Tsunami in Japan, Ramesh had formed an Expert Group to suggest additional safeguards for existing projects, given the need for assessing tsunami-type risks.
Six committees were formed to review nuclear safety after the Fukushima happenings. To maintain transparency, the government has said the would be made public.
The government is already facing stiff opposition in one of the proposed nuclear power plant sites, at Jaitapur, Maharastra, where locals are raising safety concerns.
The Prime Minister had a meeting this week with Ramesh, the National Security Advisor, representatives from the Department of Atomic Energy, NPCIL and others, where he underscored that safety of nuclear plants was a matter of the highest priority.