`Weak links in security of India`s N-plants`

Weak links have been pointed out in the security of nuclear power plants along India`s coastline, a top official involved in the country`s disaster management efforts said.

New Delhi: Weak links have been pointed out in the security of nuclear power plants along India`s coastline and these are being addressed, a top official involved in the country`s disaster management efforts said Friday.

"During our visits (to India`s nuclear installations post the March 11, 2011, Fukushima disaster in Japan), we observed areas that need to be strengthened. We drew the government`s attention to these and the issue is being addressed," said M Shashidhar Reddy, vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.

"The CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) and the Coast Guard are involved in the effort. There is a need to strengthen the Coast Guard and enforce the no-fly zone (in the vicinity of nuclear plants," Reddy said during an interactive session after a talk on "Nuclear Disaster Management in India: Capabilities and Constraints", at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think-tank.

"We need to be constantly upgrading as we can never be perfect," Reddy, a legislator from Andhra Pradesh`s ruling Congress party, added.

The reply was in keeping with his emphasis on the need for greater transparency on India`s nuclear power plans, on the Kudanlkulam plant in particular and on the demands of the people living in the Emergency Planning Zone in a radius of 16 km from atomic installations.

"We have to own up to the deficiencies and gaps that exist and find solutions. We have to win the confidence of the people. They have the right to make demands and it is for the government to address this," Reddy maintained. "There is need for transparency in our dealings."

On Kudanlkulam, Reddy said one of the concerns expressed was that the population in the Emergency Planning Zone was growing.

"But then, this is a worldwide phenomenon. There is a large population around (the) Tarapur (nuclear plant near Mumbai) and Narora (in Uttar Pradesh). The people have genuine concerns. Their development needs have to be addressed," Reddy said.

As for the other "apprehensions" expressed over Kudankulam, he said: "I am sure that in the course of time, the people will understand (the need for the plant)."

Speaking of the NDMA`s initiatives in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Reddy said several Quick Response Teams with trained personnel and improved medical preparedness had been created to meet any eventuality, even as "India has an enviable record of nuclear safety and we are proud of this."

He also pointed out that the guidelines for upgrading health facilities in districts with nuclear power plants have been provided, besides which a number of committees at the state and district levels have been set up.

Reddy said the Indian public needs to be sensitised towards various nuclear and radiological emergencies that may arise, adding that the NDMA has learnt valuable lessons from the 2010 Mayapuri incident in the national capital, where radioactive material was disposed of as scrap.

Chairing the talk, Arvind Gupta, director general of the IDSA and convener of the Indian Pugwash Society, expressed the hope that NDMA`s efforts would go a long way in building confidence among the people.

Reddy has been associated with NDMA since its inception in 2005. He constituted a Task Force comprising eminent experts following the Fukushima meltdown to apprise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India`s capabilities to manage a similar disaster.


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