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N-safety: Russian green group backs NGOs

Piyali Mandal  |  New Delhi 

Indian NGOs opposing the proposed nuclear power plant in Kudankulam have got covering fire from Moscow.

A Russia-based environmental group, EcoDefence, on Monday backed the Indian non-profit groups, saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark on foreign funded NGOs thwarting nuclear enterprises was incorrect.

“The protest in Tamil Nadu is absolutely justified because of great concern on low level of safety of the Russian-designed nuclear reactors established in Kudankulam NPP, its planned radioactive releases during normal operation and, in general, bad record on safety of Russian and other nations’ nuclear companies,” Vladimir Slivyak, a representative of EcoDefence, told Business Standard from Moscow.

Last week, the Prime Minister told the journal Science that NGOs funded by other countries were pushing foreign agendas and trying to put a brake on nuclear power projects and genetically modified crops.

Russia’s ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin has supported the PM’s stand on foreign-funded NGOs stalling the Kudankulam nuclear project. But the Russia-based environment group argued that the Indian protestors at the site were right in protesting due to the safety issues involved.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year, EcoDefence has been raising serious doubts over the safety of the Kudankulam reactors, which were supplied by Russian vendors. Indian and Russian governments are constructing the plant jointly.

EcoDefence is a Russian environmental group established in 1989, and has five branches across Russia to campaign against dangerous nuclear reactors and import of nuclear waste.

The reactors, EcoDefence’s Slivyak claimed, belong to VVER-1000 design. It was developed around half a century ago and cannot meet the highest level of modern safety requirements. Moreover, Russia never experienced big earthquakes and tsunami, so its technology may be poorly adapted to such types of natural disasters.

“This is an effort by Russian nuclear industry to sell outdated and dangerous technology to India while this technology is deeply opposed inside our country,” he had said earlier.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster has put pressure on the Indian government to review its nuclear safety. There are 20-odd nuclear power plants in India, with a generating capacity of 4,780 megawatt (Mw).

Indian NGOs want the Prime Minister to divulge more details on foreign funding. Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), an apex body of voluntary organisations, which has around 6,500 members, said that “the PM’s statements are notional in nature and they are bereft of any factual inputs. The PM should share data to substantiate his statement.”

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First Published: Tue, February 28 2012. 00:48 IST