In a moral boost for the outgoing UPA-II, the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a petition to stall commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu while expressing satisfaction at the government’s steps towards safety measures.
A bench led by K S Radhakrishnan further nixed a plea to appoint a committee to review the safety concerns and the extent of compliance by the central government and other authorities with the court’s verdict in May last year. The court had last year given its go ahead to the government while also directing it to comply with a set of safety measures before commissioning the plant.
On Thursday, the bench opined that the responses by the government, Nuclear Safety Corporation of India Ltd, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu government allayed the apprehensions sought to be raised in the petition by activist G Sudarrajan.
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The bench noted that most of the directions had been complied with by the authorities and they still had some time left to fulfill the long-term goals.
Demanding an injunction against commissioning of the plant, the petition had alleged that AERB “hurriedly” granted clearance for proceeding with the commissioning of the plant.
Sundarrajan had moved the court, contending the authorities went ahead with commissioning the plant without adhering to these directions. The petition claimed that the AERB had on July 4 given a clearance for commissioning of the nuclear plant without satisfying itself that all the requirements had been complied with as per the court’s directives.
Petitioner’s advocate Prashant Bhushan had alleged that the plant had been commissioned in grave disregard of the safety guidelines that had to be put in place before making it operational.
Bhushan had added that the government and its various authorities had used sub-standard equipments and were hence facing problems in cabling and instrumentation. He also claimed that the authorities were yet to decide where the spent fuel permanent repository would be located.
He further alleged there were non-compliance also regarding environmental protection and that the cases against the locals, who had protested against the plant’s commissioning, had also not been withdrawn.
In May 2013 verdict, the SC had asserted that “India cannot afford to be a nuclear isolated nation” in view of its ever-increasing demand of electricity. It had accorded its nod to the national policy for establishment of Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
The SC had also added a caveat that the plant should not be made operational unless all the authorities concerned granted “final clearance” for commissioning of the plant, after “ensuring the quality of various components and systems” used in it.