Panel calls Koodankulam nuclear power project world-class

The Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) may soon take off, overcoming the strident agitation by some locals, as the four-member state committee too has held it to be ‘world-class’, absolutely safe and capable of withstanding “even a tsunami and an earthquake’.

“The infrastructure is robust and is at an elevation of 25 ft from the mean sea level. The plant is safe even if a tsunami strikes. It is designed to withstand quakes of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale. And the sensitive reactor will switch off automatically even if a slight tremor occurs”, panel convenor Prof S. Iniyan, told reporters here on Sunday.

“We have found that the plant is completely safe. We visited the location where the seawater is fed into the condenser. It is working efficiently. Not even a single fish will die when the water intake happens”, he added, after a three-hour inspection of the plant by the team, which also met the anti-KKNPP members of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).

Prof Iniyan said the team reviewed the various safety measures at the plant on Saturday and found that all initiatives were in place for any contingency. The plant also had a passive heat removal system and high-power diesel generators even in case of power failure. Such safety devices were not present even in the Japanese Fukushima nuke plant, he asserted.

Iniyan said talks with the PMANE group, spearheading the protest against the KKNPP, were “cordial”. However, the committee could not meet with the PMANE demand that they talk to the public in the coastal villages “because such an exercise was not part of our agenda and we could know their feelings through the PMANE representatives’.

The chief minister had given the expert panel two tasks— reviewing the safety features in the plant and allaying the concerns of the local people. “We will go back to Chennai and study the documents provided by the plant officials and submit our report,” he said.

Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr M.R. Srinivasan, who is a leading member of the panel, expressed concern that all the essential maintenance measures should continue, even though the reactor was not yet commissioned.

“It is unfortunate that the maintenance staff were prevented entry (by the agitators). There is no nuclear fuel in the reactor and only dummy rods are there. Maintenance must continue, water supply must go on uninterrupted. The electronic equipment could deteriorate’, he said.

PMANE representative Udayakumar however appeared adamant, despite the state panel clearing the plant.

“There are serious geological, oceanic and water management issues. The committee did not meet with our own panel of experts. We want to meet the chief minister and discuss”, he told reporters.

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