Concern on N-safety not addressed: NGO to SC

The NGO Common Cause placed before SC the letters and representations made by some bureaucrats, defence officials and scientists on the issue.

New Delhi: An NGO seeking appointment of an independent regulatory body to oversee nuclear plants has told the Supreme Court that concerns raised by eminent citizens on nuclear safety have not been acknowledged by the government.

The NGO Common Cause placed before the apex court the letters and representations made by some bureaucrats, defence officials and scientists on the issue.

"Through this application, petitioners would like to bring on record scores of letters/representations that were made by petitioners and non-petitioners for the last several years. None of the letters/representations received any response. Only a couple of them received routine acknowledgement of receipt of the letter," it said.

The application was filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan in response to the November 14 order by which it was given two weeks time to show that NGO and those connected with it had earlier approached the authority concerned on the issue
and their grievances were not addressed.

The bench had asked them to show those letters they claimed were written to the prime minister, while expressing reservation in looking into the safety aspect of all nuclear plants for its lack of expertise.

It had during the last hearing observed that "these plants were constructed over the years. Every plant has its structure. We are not qualified to examine them. We cannot pass across the board norms" for all reactors.

"There are conflicting versions. We do not say that it (PIL) is not important," the bench said while questioning the petitioners whether they have approached the government on the issue.

The matter is listed for hearing tomorrow and the petitioners including former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian, former chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former
Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, former secretary to the Prime Minister KR Venugopal, and nuclear scientist PM Bhargava have placed copies of letters written to the Prime Minister and reports and articles highlighting the safety
concerns of nuclear plants.

The petitioners also placed before the court copy of statements issued by a group of 60 eminent citizens expressing concern over nuclear safety and India`s nuclear power policy.

Besides, it also placed the research studies and papers highlighting serious risks of catastrophic accidents, thefts, sabotage and terrorist attacks at India`s various nuclear facilities.

While also placing before the court letters written to the prime minister objecting to the clauses indemnifying suppliers and capping the financial liability of the
operators, the petitioners said, "None of the letters were responded to by the PMO and no steps have been taken to amend the law."

The PIL sought court`s direction for halting construction of all proposed nuclear power plants in the country till their proper security assessment is done by an independent body.

They said an expert nuclear regulator, independent of the government be set up to conduct comparative cost-benefit analysis vis-a-vis other sources of energy.

They urged the apex court to declare as "unconstitutional" the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 and "appoint an expert independent body to conduct a
thorough safety reassessment of all existing and proposed nuclear facilities across the country".

They said the apex court should declare that in the event of a nuclear accident, all nuclear operators and nuclear suppliers would be jointly and severally, and absolutely liable for civil damages, and their financial liability would
be unlimited.

On the last hearing, the members had also urged the apex court to quash all the agreements signed between the government and private companies for supply of nuclear reactors and equipment based on private negotiations, without
any competitive process and safety evaluation.

It had pointed out Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is planning to construct 36 imported reactors by 2032.

Four 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, two each at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan and Kakrapur in Gujarat are under construction. Two reactors each in Tamil Nadu`s Koodankulam district and West Bengal`s Haripur district are under
construction based on Russian design, the petition said.

The Koodankulam plant has met with stiff opposition from people in the area and the project work has come to a standstill since last month as the agitators intensified their protest by blocking roads leading to the site.


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