Thursday, November 17, 2011

Protests delay India's new nuclear build

Projects in Koodankulam and Jaitapur will be set back

Jaitapur_nuclear_plant_protestA series of protests that began in October have delayed the hot start of two Russian 1000- MW VVER reactors in the Tamil Nadu state on India's  southernmost coastline. Additional protests, some of them violent, have set back the start of construction of two French 1650- MW EPR reactors in the Maharashtra state on India's west coast some 400 km (250 miles) south of Mumbai.

In Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu, the provincial governor has supported protests by local villagers over perceived safety issues following the Fukushima crisis in Japan and also focused on the hot water discharge from the plant into shoreline fishing waters. In Jaitapur, area villagers have complained about what they say is inadequate compensation for land to be taken for the plant and displacement of their farms without having a new way to make a living.

In both locations, minority political parties have made common cause with the protesting villagers. The national government, however, has charged that anti-nuclear organizers from Greenpeace have been seen in Tamil Nadu.

Hot start-up stopped

The net effect of the protests is that all work has stopped on hot startup of the two Russian VVERs. Both reactors were to have entered revenue service in December 2011. Now the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL) says that the startup will be postponed to March 2012. At Jaitapur, the commissioning date for the first of two Areva EPRs has been set back by at least a year, to 2019.

The national government has been caught by surprise by the protests. In  early November, it engaged former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who is from Tamil Nadu and is a former defense official, to meet with the provincial governor and representatives of protest groups. Kalam toured the Russian built plant site and pronounced it safe, much to the disappointment of the protest groups.

The chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, Srikumar Banerjee, said that the local protests would not be resolved with scientific facts. He said that one-on-one contacts between nuclear officials and the villagers were needed to calm everyone down.

Elsewhere, other members of India’s nuclear energy establishment debated whether the country should be importing any new foreign technology but instead rely on an indigenous design based on AECL’s CANDU reactors.

Read the full story exclusively at ANS Nuclear Cafe online now.

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