Friday 27 May 2022
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Kudankulam: From interference by Christian NGOs to lack of manpower and India-Russia coordination

The Supreme Court, which had earlier granted time till 30 May for setting up of a spent nuclear fuel disposal facility, extended the time till 2022

Chennai: Years after it was alleged that vested interests were blocking the setting up of the Kudankulam civilian nuclear facility with noisy activism to safeguard American interests — because its reactors are Russian — the plant has still not been able to make a permanent arrangement to dispose of radioactive waste. On Monday, the Supreme Court directed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to set up a facility for safe storage of radioactive spent nuclear fuel at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) by April 2022.

The apex court, which had earlier granted time till 30 May this year for the purpose, extended the time for the NPCIL to set up the ‘Away from Reactor’ (AFR) facility.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered the submission of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the corporation, that the deadline for setting up of the storage facility be extended till 30 April 2022.

On 7 February 2012, The Hindu had reported: “… searches conducted by officials of Union Home Ministry on the premises of the Tuticorin Roman Catholic Bishop’s official premises in the backdrop of the ongoing anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project protests have yielded information about the influx of foreign funds to the tune of Rs 54 crore to two non-governmental organisations, (UPA-era) Union Minister  has said.

“’These two NGOs are being administered by Roman Catholic Bishop of Tuticorin Diocese Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise,’ the Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office told reporters after a public organised here on Saturday evening, demanding immediate commissioning of the nuclear power project.”

Contrary to the popular perception that the Narendra Modi government was the first to challenge the activities of foreign-funded NGOs, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had blamed, again in February 2012, US-based NGOs for engineering protests against nuclear reactors in Kudankulam amidst an ongoing investigation into several of these NGOs and their alleged violation of the rules of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said that the NPCIL had suffered a loss of Rs 947.99 crore due to a lack of trained manpower that resulted in the delay in restarting a reactor at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in 2015.

Atomenergomash, a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic corporation, with its manufacturing hub in the city of Volgodonsk supplies 6,000 tonnes of heavy equipment needed for each of the six giant Russian-made nuclear reactors that will finally come up in Kudankulam. Each of the 1,000 MW reactors costs over Rs 40,000 crores and delays can push the price upwards.

While the Modi government is keen on maintaining a balance between the country’s relations with the US and Russia, sources in the dispensation say the status of work at Atomenergomash is making New Delhi jittery, given Russia’s delay and huge cost overruns while delivering Admiral Gorshkov, which was commissioned by the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya.

On the other hand, authorities at the Russian nuclear facility have complained that the NPCIL representative stationed at their factory is interfering too much in their work.

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