Experts dig out new contentious, unresolved issues on the proposed N-plant at Mithi Virdi

Mithi Virdi, part of a lush green belt
By Our Representative
A group of experts consisting of Rohit Prajapati, V Pugazhendi and VT Padmanabhan, which has analysed the scientific aspects of the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant (NPP), has said the environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out for the project by the Engineers India Ltd (EIL) is “thoroughly incomplete, studies have not been conducted properly, and the EIA withholds crucial information related to the safety of the reactors.” While Prajapati heads Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti in Gujarat, the other two are scholars who brought into question safety issues of Koodankulam nuclear power plant.
The experts have identifies 24 contentious issues in their report titled  "Critique of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Gujarat Nuclear Power Park at Mithivirdi by the  Engineers India Ltd". Some of the important ones are are:
1. Drilling not done: A nuclear reactor has to be built on a stable rock. In order to ensure that there is a stable continuous rock under the reactor foundation, rock samples needs to be taken from 100 meters below the proposed site. No drilling has been done at the reactor site, because of peoples protests.
2. Flood level: The ministry of environment and forests had demanded to conduct a study of the maximum flood level and mitigation strategies. The EIA clearly mentions that no study of flood has been undertaken.
3. Impact of Kalpasar: The proposed Kalpasar project for damming the Gulf of Khambhat lies just 43 km north of the Mithi Virdi NPP site. The western limb of the dam is situated near the active West Cambay Basin Fault that happens to pass 11 km west of the Mithi Viradi site. There has not been mention in the EIA. Kalapsar will divide the Gulf of Khambhat into two parts – a 2000 sq km freshwater lake and the remainder into an open sea. This will change the water level, tidal height and many other variable in the Southern half of the gulf. This has also not been studied.
Dr B.K. Rastogi, Director-General of the Institute of Seismological Research (ISR), Gandhinagar, had warned of a “reservoir induced earthquake because of the project.” He suggested that scientific studies with respect to this problem need to be undertaken immediately. On 21, June 2011 B N Navalawala, adviser to the Gujarat Chief Minister, said that "though a study was carried out to assess the impact of an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, the state government now has decided to carry out a study of an earthquake measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale. After the Japanese experience, a need was felt for a re-look at the whole issue.” This has not been done. If an earthquake of 9.5 on Richter scale hits the Gulf of Khambhat, the tsunami waves’ impact will cause will be much more devastating those experienced at Fukushima.
4. The presence of Alang-Sosiya ship-breaking project: The presence of hazardous industries near the nuclear project site has to be clearly shown in EIA. According to EIA, the Sosiya ship-breaking yard is 4 km from the site. The actual distance is only 700 meters. Because of this, the site is not suitable for a reactor complex. If the nuclear park comes up, nearly forty ship-breaking units will have to be closed.
5. Tidal range of the Gulf: The tidal range at Gulf of Khambhat is the largest along the Indian coastline. It has been identified as the biggest sediment sink among the five major sediment sinks of India. Gulf of Khambhat has the highest tidal range in India. The mean tidal elevation during spring is 4.7 m at Mahuva Bandar which rises to 6.5 m at Gopnath Point and 10.2 m at Bhavnagar. The maximum spring tide recorded at Bhavnagar is 12.5 m, which is second only to that of the highest tide recorded anywhere in the world (around 17 m at the Bay of Fundy on Newfoundland coast of Canada). So one can assume the spring tide at Sosia-Mithi Viradi coast (the coast that lies between Gopnath and Bhavnagar) to be between 6.5 m and 10.5 m.
The experts conclude: “There are other unresolved questions about the safety of AP1000 reactor also. To be brief, we only mention that a 3,000,000 liter water tank is perched on top of the reactor building. Normally, these tanks are located on the ground level. The water tank 100 metres above the ground level can be an easy target for terrorist attack.”
They explain, “Our critique of Mithi Virdi EIA is based on studies conducted by the scientists of Gujarat government and reputed academic institutions in the country. The EIA presented by NPCIL should be reviewed by an independent extert committee. The project, if implemented, can lead to national disaster, whose impact will be experienced by people and the eco-system, beyond the borders of Gujarat.”