Bureaucrats, scientists move SC against n-plants



New Delhi: Members of civil society, including former bureaucrats, scientists, a former Navy Chief and NGOs, on Friday approached the Supreme Court seeking its direction to stay construction of all proposed nuclear power plants.

They have filed a joint PIL pleading that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, be declared as unconstitutional and appoint an expert independent body to conduct a thorough safety reassessment of all existing and proposed nuclear facilities in the country.

"Issue an appropriate writ canceling clearances given to proposed nuclear power plants and staying all proposed nuclear power plants till requisite safety assessment studies, thorough comparative cost-benefit analysis and meaningful public hearings are carried out by or under the supervision of an independent expert body," the petition said.

The petitioners, who include former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian, former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, former Secretary to the Prime Minister K R Venugopal and nuclear scientist P M Bhargava, pleaded an expert nuclear regulator independent of the government be set up to do a comparative cost-benefit analysis vis-?-vis other sources of energy.

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

They have also pleaded the 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.

"The government’s plans for expansion of nuclear power programme and construction of newer and huge nuclear power plants without undertaking a thorough safety and comparative cost-benefit analysis, clearly made under the influence of foreign countries and multi-billion dollar nuclear industry, shows arbitrary decision-making, based on extraneous considerations and non-application of mind," the petition said.

"The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, by capping the financial liability of operators and by making suppliers not liable violates the polluter-pays principle and the absolute liability principle which have become recognized as part of the law of the land and puts to grave and imminent risk the right to safety, health, clean environment and life of the people," the petition said.

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

Four 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors, two at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan and two at Kakrapur in Gujarat are under construction. Two reactors in Koodankulam district of Tamil Nadu and two reactors in Haripur district of West Bengal are under construction based on Russian design.

The plant in Koodankulam has met with stiff resistance from people in the area.

PTI