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Why We Love The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant?

By Anitha.S

03 September, 2012

The story goes like this: The scare about the tiger went on and on, perpetuated by some miscreants to frighten the villagers. “There comes the tiger, there comes the tiger” was the slogan from the hills. It was heard so many times that after a point people stopped responding and refused to take shelter. And finally one day the Tiger came and caught many unawares …a cruel game indeed.

So too is the KKNPP or Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. That is why we love it. Because we feel like characters in an old Panchathantra folk tale.

How many times since February 2012 have we heard that it is going to be commissioned? We have lost count. How many dates- from the PMO's office like an invite for somebody's daughter's wedding- August 25 th , September 15 th . So it goes on…

Today finally, the tiger has descended in the form of the Madras High Court ruling that all is well with the KKNPP. We feel so elated with the news because finally there is an end to the long wait. Now it is only a matter of a few days maybe when India can be proud of installing a faulty nuclear reactor in the middle of people's lives that has not fulfilled any safety or technical mandates or has not met any International standards.

Now it is to be in October, 2012. After loading it will attain criticality within 2 weeks. In 2 days 25% of the power will be generated that will solve a lot of Tamil Nadu's power crisis and in January the KKNPP Reactor 1 will generate full power. How can we not love the KKNPP?

The Madras High Court says there is no need to adhere to Coastal Regulation Zone and Environmental Clearance and has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to implement all safety. The sea water that is taken in to cool the reactors through the desalination plants will be poured back to the sea at 45 degree centigrade ( or is it 35degree centigrade- the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board itself is confused).The Court has demanded that the TNPCB oversees the temperature of trade effluents that enters the sea from the Plant. Is this not strange when you have read just the other day the Supreme Court Chief Justice announcing that Judges should not wear the garb of decision and policy makers?


The most recent report by Comptroller and Auditor General's on AERB was the one of the last straws on the camel's back. In spite of 30 years of functioning, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board still has not made a Radiation Safety Policy for the country. The AERB has only advisorial powers and cannot demand the District/State authorities to take corrective measures in off-site emergency preparedness in the zone extending up to 16 km radius from Nuclear power plants. When we realize that there are more than a million people living within the radius of 30 km of KKNPP, how can we not love it more? The CASA-Nagar , a Tsunami Survivors Rehabilitation project which is just 900 metres from the KKNPP has 2000 people living in 450 housing units. This falls within the evacuation zone of the Nuclear power plant. It would make you smile with anguish if you learn that the people of this colony were given conditional ownership which states that in case of disaster they will have to vacate immediately. They have no right to any kind of compensation. How was the site for this colony chosen when in 2004 things were already set for the KKNPP? Till now we thought that the AERB is an independent body with unbiased decision making powers. But now it is clear that it is a toothless agency which provides a friendly certification facility for India 's atomic energy establishment controlled by the Government.

We hear that the KKNPP has an incomplete Emergency Operating Procedure which is a three step mandate to be satisfied before a NPP becomes operational. The task forces appointed by the NPCIL to evaluate the safety features of all nuclear power stations in India after the Fukushima Disaster had submitted its report. The report given by Sri.S.Krishnamurthy on KKNPP on May 11, 2011 made 11 short term recommendations one of which was “finalization of emergency operating procedures for Beyond Design Basic Accidents ( BDBA) conditions”. We were under the understanding that the Reactor-1 was almost ready for commissioning in May 2011.But this seems untrue. Even fifteen months after the receipt of the Task Force Report only “EOPs for some postulated initiating events (PIEs) have been made. Remaining procedures are in progress”. Is it not wonderful for almost 1 million people to be living within the radius of KKNPP to hear such news?

In between there was news that the beltline welds of the KKNPP Reactor Pressure Vessels differ from the ones featured in the inter-governmental agreement between Russia and India . This has raised two crucial issues. The first is a legal one that addresses the breach of contract. The second is the safety of the reactor till the end of its projected life of 40 years. The failure of the heart of the reactor, the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) will have catastrophic effects on the environment which will cause accident risks for 30 million people (as per the estimates for High human exposure risks around reactors made by Max Plank Institute). This seems really ironical in the context of repeated announcements by Sri.Narayanaswamy and Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam that they are convinced about the safety of KKNPP. One more reason for us to love the KKNPP as it has not let down our belief that it is highly unsafe.

IThe P-MANE Expert Group's response ( 25 th February 2012 ) to the Third report ( 31 January, 2012 ) of the Expert Group constituted by Government of India raised certain crucial issues regarding geology and oceanography of the region. The key concerns centre around signatures of volcanism in the Reactor site and neighbouring areas, evidence of mantle upwelling and crustal thinning, four instances of small volcanic eruptions since 1998 within 75km radius of KKNPP, Karst formation during past 3 years in three areas within 25 km radius of KKNPP, shoreline instability and possibility of dry intake due to sea withdrawal. This is in addition to the 2004 Tsunami episode which did flood the KKNPP installations. This data based on 47 journal articles and seminar presentations that a “ common lay person would not understand” seems so contrived in the comparison to the ALL IS WELL, SAFE AND SECURE kind of reassurances given by political leaders and bureaucrats that there would be no natural disasters in the area.


It makes us feel really privileged to understand that the stacks- yellow and red that we see sticking out into the atmosphere flanking the domes of KKNPP will emit 50 trillion becquerel's of associated radionuclides every year. The homes of the people which are less than 2kms from the stack will make each one person have a huge lung burden ( estimated at columns 6 and 7 above). It is equally reassuring to realize that the approximate quantity of coolant water when the plant in Koodankulam is fully operational released into the sea will be 70 tons per day with a maximum temperature at discharge point being 36 degree centigrade. The annual average temperature of the sea water around the area has been calculated as 26.6degree centigrade. It seems strange that global concern about climate change focus on the increase in sea water temperature by 2 degree centigrade due to green house effect and its possible impact on the already depleted marine biodiversity. We are elated to hear that fishes and prawns that are cold-blooded animals will adjust their body temperature to the sub-lethal doses and in adverse conditions will move away ( Page 29, CEG Report, 18.11.2011). When the affected people are being asked to move away, we wonder whether it would have been better to be cold- blooded like the fishes and crustaceans? Can the evolutionary process be reversed?

It is common knowledge that the main raw materials used in pressurized water reactors (PWR) as in Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant are uranium and water. A 1000 MW reactor will burn about 3000 gms of uranium per day. The thermal energy generated in the core is taken out using water. The reactor requires about 3 million litres of fresh and pure water and 7.2 billion litres of sea water every day. From this it is clear that water is the soul of the reactor. The reactor core and the spent fuel ( uranium after burning) has to be cooled continuously. We are aware that the accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushim happened due to technical flaws that did not reach freshwater for cooling to the reactor. The Koodankulam Nuclear power plant depends totally on desalination plants for its industrial and domestic requirements. Fresh water is required as a reserve for fire fighting. The spent fuel removed and stored in the spent fuel pool will have to be cooled one year after commissioning.

We now know that the combined water storage capacity of the KKNPP and the tanks for domestic use will be sufficient to run the two reactors for one and a half days. The reserve in the domestic tanks will not last even that much. The production of water is linked to power from the grid. Likewise all reactors are linked to grid power for maintaining safety related pumps and instrumentations. The desalination plant itself is a complicated machine with many reasons for failure. The Multiple Vapour Compression (MVC) technology from Israel installed at a cost of 1150 million Indian rupees is unknown to Indian technicians and experts from Israel have to be brought in if problems arise. The lack of water or insufficient water will start an irreversible process of breakdown of the reactors, the mere thought of which itself sends shudders down our spine. Maybe like wishing to be born cold-blooded, we should pray for a spineless existence that will cease all such fears in us.

The best part of the story was the moment when we all were trying hard to believe that all is safe with KKNPP. We were waiting for the psychiatrists to visit the area “ take a peek into all our minds and remove any fears with the help of National Institute of Mental Health in Bangalore ” ( S.P.Udayakumar, Koodankulam: The Silent and Telling Emergency). Then we were relieved that our dear PM himself is in need of psychiatric help suddenly struck by the fear of Liability and Safety. That was soon after he signed the agreement for Reactors 3 and 4. This was enough reason for us to start loving KKNPP all over again. So are we to know that if there is a safety issue in KKNPP after a few years, those affected should have the special powers to know if they were contaminated by Reactors 1 and 2 in which case they can pray for salvation? But if from 3 and 4, they can avail of compensation. Vola, how hilarious!


We are amazed with the cost of KKNPP. From 1988 – 1998, the cost of the project with reactors 1 and 2 rose from Rs 6000 crore to 15,500 crores. In 2001, it was known that of the total cost of Rs 13,171 crores, the Indian Government would invest Rs 6,775 crores and remaining amount would be given by Russia as loan at the interest rate of 4%. The fuel cost of Rs 2,129 crores would be entirely Russian loan. What the scene is in 2012 is hardly known nor the cost of the power generated. It makes one laugh and like the idea of this being economical even more.


The most recent event that happened in the Idinthakarai village, the hub of anti-nuclear activists in recent times was the burning of the dead body of Democracy on Aug 15 th 2012 . We hated the KKNPP so much that day. S.P.Udayakumar quoted from Mahakavi Bharathi's poem –

“Did we grow this plant ( Independence )

By pouring water, Sarvesa?

We protected this crop with our tears

Shall we ever let it wilt?”

Many of us in the pandal that day broke into tears amidst miming chest beating and wailing for that day.

It feels foolish now to mourn the death of democracy. We should celebrate it and usher in the new developments that support not the people of the country but the rich merchants from Russia , France and UK who have bought our land and waters cheap. The Real “Merchants of Venice” (courtesy : S.P.Udayakumar). We now love the KKNPP and celebrate the death of justice and transparency.


1.P-MANE Expert Group's response to the Third report( dated 31 st January 2012 ) of the Expert Group constituted by Government of India ( 25 Feb 2012 )

2.Koodankulam Resistance News: “Thirteen Reasons why we do not want the KKNPP”.

3.V.T.Padmanabhan, Ramesh, R, V.Pugazhendi: Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant has an incomplete Emergency Operating Procedure-AERB.

4. The Hindustan Times, July 17, 2012

5. The Hindu, July 18,2012

6. The Hindu, Aug 30, 2012 , A sure recipe for disaster

7.All postings on www.dianuke.org on Koodankulam

8. www.countercurrents.org 27 June 2012 : S.P.Udayakumar

Koodankulam: The silent and telling Emergency

The personal communication with innumerable women in Idinthakarai who shared their anguish and sorrow with me.

.Personal communication with Sri.V.T.Padmanabhan who shared all the documents and also the idea for the title

.My editor- cum friend cum sister Dr.S.Santhi

S.P.Udayakumar, Pushparayan,V, Ashok,S ,K.P.Sasi and Satis.K who made the journeys possible.

Prepared by Anitha,S ( anithasharma2007@gmail.com)






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