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People's Tribunal Questions Safety of India Nuke Complex, World's Biggest

The massive Indian nuclear complex would comprise six controversial third-generation reactors and cover five villages in a known biodiversity 'hot zone'

By Ranjit Devraj, SolveClimate News

Jun 2, 2011

NEW DELHI, India—The Indian government has said it is determined to push ahead with the world's biggest nuclear power plant on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra in western India. But popular opposition to the project is unlikely to die down anytime soon.

In August, the People's Tribunal on the Safety, Viability and Cost Efficiency of Nuclear Energy will present its eagerly awaited findings on the safety of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. The roughly $12 billion complex will include six controversial Evolutionary Pressurized Reactors (EPR) built by French power developer Areva SA and generate 9,900 megawatts of electricity.

The independent people's tribunal has many notable members and could wield moral authority on the matter, but has no legal power to enforce its judgments and findings. Observers agree an uphill battle awaits opponents.

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh — who appeared to have a rethink over the project in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan — has in recent weeks reiterated an earlier position that constructing the plant is "not an environmental concern," perhaps under pressure from the prime minister's office.

Ramesh has said that, as far as he is concerned, the environmental clearance accorded to the nuclear mega-complex by his ministry on Nov. 28, 2010, stands.

But critics argue that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the plant was rushed through in time for a Dec. 4-7 state visit by French President Nikolas Sarkozy.

That meeting concluded a "framework agreement" between Areva and the state-owned (NPCIL) for the first two reactors in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy. No nuclear regulator in any country, including France's, has given final clearances for the third-generation EPRs, and none are operating today.

Call for a Fresh Enviro Review

The validity of the EIA is what the people's tribunal — headed by Ajit Prakash Shah, chief justice of the Delhi High Court from 2008 to 2010 — is challenging. Shah, who had a reputation as being pro-environment while he was in office, believes that a fresh EIA should be drawn up taking into account the concerns of stakeholders, local residents, farmers and fishermen. 

According to Vivek Monteiro, who leads the vocal Konkan Bachao Samiti (Save the Konkan Forum), there has never been a critical appraisal of the project. Perhaps most worryingly, he said, is that the existing EIA misses out on major safety issues such as how to handle spent nuclear fuel.

"For example, the very word 'reprocessing' is missing in the EIA," Monteiro told SolveClimate News, "although we all know that radioactive waste management spans many human generations." It is no coincidence, he added, that India's (AERB) has not yet approved the design and safety aspects of the plant.

Now, opposition to the Jaitapur project is coming from the prestigious (TISS), which presented its own report to the tribunal entitled "Refugees of Development" detailing the potential impact of the facility on local Indians.

According to the TISS report, the project, which would spread over five villages and nearly 2,400 acres, will negatively affect social and environmental development in much of the Konkan a culturally rich region known as a biodiversity hot spot.

Safety Concerns Won't Go Away

With a final agreement yet to be drawn up between Areva and the NPCIL, the government is being careful to address some of the concerns voiced by local residents and voluntary agencies.  

This has been so

This has been so enlightening. I´ve discovered your website today and i´m enjoying it so much. It is full of smart advices!

Office 2010

You will have access to stats which track


Nuclear power is the safest kind, bar none, for everybody.   


Deaths per terrawatt year [twy] for energy industries, including  Chernobyl.   terra=mega mega  [There are zero sources of energy  that cause zero deaths, but not having the electricity causes the  far more deaths because not having electricity is a form of poverty.]


fuel......... ........fatalities... .....who......... .......deaths per twy

coal......... .........6400...... ......workers........... .........342

natural gas..... ..1200...... .....workers and public... ...85

hydro........ .......4000..... .......public............ ............883

nuclear........ .........31...... ......workers............ .............8


Nuclear power is proven to be the safest.   Source:  "The Revenge of Gaia" by James Lovelock page 102.   As you can see,  psychological problems are preventing the wider use of nuclear  power.   Chernobyl is included.


I have no connection with the nuclear power industry.   I have never had any connection with the nuclear power industry.   I am not being paid by anyone to say this.   My sole motive is to avoid death in the collapse of civilization and to avoid extinction due to global warming.


The only deaths at Fukushima Daiichi were from the tsunami.   None were from the reactor or radiation.   Several workers got the equivalent of a sunburn on their ankles.   They would not have gotten sunburns on their ankles if they had worn galoshes.


The power plant at Fukushima Daiichi survived the earthquake and a 46 foot high wall of water. You couldn't do that. American containment buildings are even stronger.


Jaitapur is not as exposed to tsunamis as Fukushima is, but I would move the reactors inland anyway. Water cooling is not necessary for nuclear power. Air cooling works. Water cooling is cheap, convenient, efficient and easy to design. That doesn't add up to necessary. There are always tradeoffs in any engineering project. Coal fired power plants need cooling one way or another as well. The cooling may be hidden from you by releasing steam to the air. Then they require fresh water input. Solar and wind may not appear to need cooling but they do. It is just that solar and wind are dispersed rather than concentrated so that the cooling is not noticeable to you.


There are 13 federal agencies and 27 congressional committees regulating nuclear power. THAT and people who know nothing about it who object because of coal industry generated rumors are why coal has not been completely replaced by nuclear. Nuclear is the cheapest per kilowatt hour and nuclear produces less CO2 per kilowatt hour than wind.


Coal contains: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Thorium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using cinders and smoke as ore. Unburned Coal also contains BENZENE, THE CANCER CAUSER. We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.

If you are an underground coal miner, you may be in violation of the rules for radiation workers. The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas RADON, which you are breathing. Radon decays in about a day into polonium, the super-poison.


Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning in days, not years because Chinese industrial grade coal contains large amounts of arsenic.


Yes, that ARSENIC is getting into the air you breathe, the water you drink and the soil your food grows in. So are all of those other heavy metal poisons. Your health would be a lot better without coal. Benzene is also found in petroleum. If you have cancer, check for benzene in your past.


for most of the above.


Tell me what you think is dangerous about nuclear power and I will tell you why you are wrong.


"Would you help keep environmental journalism alive?" Not your journalism. You are working for the coal industry because coal is the only real competitor for nuclear. You really don't know what you are talking about. Go get a degree in either physics or nuclear engineering before writing another word about anything nuclear.


You can inform yourself on EPR safety.

Opinions vary, but the technical design is good. Apparently the only problem remains is to separate the four redundant safety systems completely.

Remember, of course, that the fair comparison is with fossil fuels, in terms of deaths per megawatt-hour.

If you don't know how to calculate that, perhaps silence and study is the proper course of inaction.

The EPR is called a

The EPR is called a "controversial reactor" by the author (in the second paragraph) but he doesn't say what is controversial about this particular design.

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