India`s post-Fukushima syndrome can backfire

The ongoing wave of protests over the construction of Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu could affect India`s ambitious nuclear energy generation.

Last Updated: Oct 28, 2011, 12:31 PM IST

Moscow : The ongoing wave of protests over the
construction of Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu
could affect India`s ambitious nuclear energy generation and
could backfire to deprive the South Asian giant of its
critical advantage over China, warns a top Russian expert.

"Public fears, fuelled by the Fukushima accident and
exacerbated by the regional politicians` populist slogans, may
provoke a chain reaction of problems, hampering power
generation development and depriving the Indian economy of its
critical advantages over China," writes Konstantin Bogdanov,
in a commentary released here by the government-run RIA
Novosti.

Kudankulam power plant with two VVER-1000 reactors, being
built with the Russian assistance is in the final stages of
its commissioning, which has been withheld due to picketing
and protests by the local population.

Bogdanov underscored that refusal to modernise the nuclear
industry could have far-reaching consequences for the whole of
India, such as growing system-wide disproportions in the
economy due to the hampered development of the power industry.

"The world`s nuclear corporations will lose a prized
client. What other country will have enough funds to build
several dozen power units? But a much stronger blow will be
delivered to India`s interests," he warned.

The expert notes that India`s goal of priority industrial
development, in particular in high-tech sectors, is impossible
without modern power generation, especially amid growing
rivalry with China for influence in South Asia and in the
global division of labour.

Bogdanov points at what he calls the "selective"
anti-nuclear sentiments and public wrath in Tamil Nadu.

Bogdanov said "It is highly selective people are
barricading the unfinished Kudankulam power plant but feel
quite indifferent about the Madras Atomic Power Station
(MAPS), which has been in operation in Kalpakkam since the
mid-1980s."

He claimed that the MAPS has two heavy-water CANDU type
reactors that are "not" as safe as Russia`s AES-92 pressurized
light water reactors built for Kudankulam.

The Russian expert suspects that the current protests in
Tamil Nadu are a chain reaction to Russian assisted atomic
power projects, triggered by the then West Bengal government
way back in 2009 against Haripur project in the state.

Bogdanov also notes that the situation is further
complicated by the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act,
which includes unusual provisions, in particular on the
division of responsibility for the plant`s hypothetical
operational accident between the operator and the general
contractor.

"In other words, reactor suppliers will have to pay
damages in case of a nuclear or radiation accident even though
they have no connection to the causes of the accident.

This provision has caused great irritation among foreign
operators on the Indian nuclear market, including Russia, the
US and French group Areva.

The three parties, once bitter rivals on the Indian
nuclear market that is too big to be serviced by any one
supplier, are now unanimous in their refusal to acknowledge
additional expenses, he states.

PTI