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Nod for Kudankulam prompted by need for power

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Reports by the experts’ panel, came in handy for the to give its approval for the downstate, it is learnt. The expert groups of both the central and state governments observed the proposed 2,000-Mw endeavour met current safety standards.

Besides, officials say, rising power deficit also forced the government to rethink its policy on Kudankulam. Tamil Nadu is reeling under power shortfall, recently prompting its government to seek the Centre’s intervention to overcome the crisis.

As far the burgeoning power deficit, the demand for power in Tamil Nadu is 11,500-12,500 Mw, while the supply is only 8,500 Mw. That is a deficit of 3000-4000 Mw. Further, the state electricity board has been reeling under a debt of Rs 50,000 crore.

SAFETY MATTERS
* A 15-member expert panel appointed by the central government in early February in its report had certified that the Russian reactors, VVER 1000, in the Kudankulam project are safe
* The panel observed that the project complies with all safety regulations
* The panel has also conclusively addressed all safety related issues to allay the fears in the mind of local people living around the project

Presumably, Tuesday’s Cabinet decision to give a nod to the project came as a major relief for the state’s electricity board (TNEB). The cash-strapped entity has now decided to focus on the enhancement of power generation, and chart out a comprehensive planning to upgrade the grid network and electricity distribution in order to meet an eight to 10 per cent rise in the annual demand for power.

Earlier, a Centre-constituted 15-member expert panel had last month given a report, certifying that the Russian reactors VVER 1000 in the project were safe. The body also observed the project complied with all safety regulations. The report said the project had “conclusively addressed all safety-related issues” to allay the fears in the mind of the people in the vicinity.

The panel said the project’s safety features included a passive heat removal system to provide cooling for removal of decay heat, besides higher redundancy for safety systems, double containment and larger numbers of control rods. Also, the project site is located far off from the tsunamigenic fault (where tsunamis originate). Therefore, even a tsunami would take time and lose some of its energy in case it strikes Kudankulam site.

Moreover, a four-member expert group appointed by the Tamil Nadu government in its report said the state-of-the-art safety features incorporated in the reactor had made it a ‘third generation plus' reactor. The panel also noted that the plant was equipped to deal with any situation such as earthquakes and tsunami strikes and its third generation reactors would shut down automatically in case of any problem.

Atomic Energy Commission’s former chairman M R Srinivasan, who headed the state experts group, said the body had held discussions with the state government, visited the plant site, spoken to the villagers and representatives of agitators and made all attempts to allay fears so as to remove doubts about nuclear energy and the project in particular. It submitted the report to the state government on February 28. Also, the 15-member expert panel appointed by the central government carried out an extensive exercise, especially by replying to the questions raised by the protesters, he told Business Standard.

According to Srinivasan, the state cabinet has given its clearance for the project after taking stock of the present power situation in Tamil Nadu and the findings of two reports.

Scientist Sudhinder Thakur, a fellow at the Nuclear Power Corporation, described as “positive” the Tamil Nadu government’s decision giving its go-ahead. “It is a great opportunity for the NPC to learn to do business in the new environment where the awareness of issues involving safety is increasing among people,” he told this newspaper.

“The project has incroporated additional safety measures which have been even vetted by experts groups,” he added.

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