The Fukushima effect

File picture of protests in Jaitapur , Ratnagiri , Maharashtra

Leading nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar said that Jaitapur was relatively secure from a tsunami or an earthquake, amid demands for the reconsideration of the power plant project in the wake of the accident involving a facility in Japan. Explosions were reported from two nuclear units at the Fukushima facility, along with a minor radiation leak, following a massive earthquake in Japan. The earthquake, which measured 9 on the Richter scale, triggered off a killer tsunami. Immediately after the tragedy, questions were raised about the safety of the proposed nuclear facility at Jaitapur. Opposition to the project from local villagers has intensified after the tragedy in Japan. Kakodkar, who addressed state legislators in the Vidhan Bhavan on the relevance of nuclear energy, said the possibility of a tsunami hitting Jaitapur was low. The scientist said Jaitapur was in the seismic zone III, while the Fukushima facility was in the seismic zone IV. The Maharashtra branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association had organized the meeting. Kakodkar played down the possibility of an earthquake near the Jaitapur site, owing to the lack of a mapped fault-line in close proximity in the Arabian sea. He expressed confidence about the inbuilt safeguards of nuclear facilities in the country. Reactors at the Kudankulam and Kalpakkam facilities were unaffected by the tsunami that hit Tamil Nadu in 2004, he said. He added, “There is, however, no room for complacency. A review of the safety of all nuclear facilities in the country, including Jaitapur, is imminent following the accident in Japan.” Officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the implementing agency for the Jaitapur plant, said the sustainability of the proposed plant’s design will be evaluated using the tsunami and earthquake in Japan as new data points. Kakodkar played down all concerns regarding radiation discharge, stating that it would be negligible and far below the permissible levels. He added that even the temperature of water in the sea near the plant would see a negligible rise. “There will be no effect on marine ecology,” he said.

Several NGOs, anti-nuclear activists and villagers held a demonstration at Azad Maidan and distributed pamphlets near Vidhan Bhavan against the setting up of the plant on Monday. “After the Three Mile Island mishap in the US, most nuclear projects were stalled. When European countries are thinking of renewable sources of energy, we are importing an untested European pressurized reactor from France,’’ said documentary maker Anand Patwardhan.

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