On May 20, Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), that the licensing and safety review of the plant would be carried out by India's own nuclear regulator instead of relying on vendors of the EPRs. About a month earlier, the prime minister's office announced legislation to create an independent nuclear regulatory agency to replace the existing AERB, long accused of lacking autonomy from the secretive AEC, which functions under the Official Secrets Act of 1923.
But the safety concerns refuse to go away.
Prof. M.V. Ramana, one of India's leading nuclear scientists, says he is especially concerned that nuclear suppliers successfully lobbied the Indian Parliament to pass a liability law capping compensation at around $462 million in the event of a mishap.
"This means that despite all the claims about safety, nuclear equipment manufacturers and suppliers know that catastrophic accidents are a possibility," said Ramana, who is currently a researcher with the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
"Areva itself claims unequaled safety levels for the EPRs being installed in Jaitapur, but the French are unwilling to accept unlimited liability in the event of an accident," Ramana said in a series of emails to SolveClimate News. "In fact, while in India, Sarkozy insisted on legislation that would indemnify Areva from the cost of a disaster."
Lessons from Fukushima
In a , Ramana said Fukushima has shown how "absurdly low" the $462 million cap really is. A new from the finds that dealing with the aftermath of the Japan nuclear disaster could cost between $70 billion and $245 billion.
Ramana further argues that Fukushima has revealed the potential folly of constructing nuclear mega-complexes of the type that India plans to build at Jaitapur, and at five other locations along India's long peninsular coastline.
"The potential damage from an accident at a mega-complex is much larger than that from an accident at a single reactor," said Ramana. "Also, a mega-complex accident at one reactor can damage co-located reactors and hamper emergency operations in the entire complex."
Marine Ecology and Biodiversity
For now the NPCIL has yielded to complaints that the EIA does not factor in possible damage to marine ecology and biodiversity in the Konkan area by announcing that it would undertake a separate study led by A.R. Rahmani, director of the venerable , founded in 1883.
The NPCIL study, to be completed within a year, has a budget of about $1.5 million and will include a "comprehensive marine and biodiversity management plan," according to the letter of intent submitted on May 16 to the environment ministry.
But the announcement of the study has been greeted with some skepticism.
"Why are they doing this now?" said Debi Goenka, a leading member of the well-known, Mumbai-based that opposes the Jaitapur project. "Normally all this should have been part of the EIA."
Water Temperature Debate