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Mithi Virdi nuclear plant "shifted out" of Gujarat ahead of Modi visit to US: Ex-power secretary, Govt of India

By Our Representative
Has the nuclear power project, being planned on South Saurashtra coast of Gujarat, been shifted out? It would seem so if one of the top ex-bureaucrat, EAS Sarma, former union Power Secretary, Government of India, is to be believed. The move comes just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit on June 7-8. 
In an article in a well-known anti-nuclear site, Sarma has said, as a result of "concerted public opposition in the Prime Minister’s home state, Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric seems to have now decided to relocate its proposed nuclear power project (6x1000Mwe capacity) at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat to a site in Andhra Pradesh."
Says Sarma, "While the people of Gujarat deserve commendation for forcing Westinghouse to shift its project away from their State, this move implies that Andhra Pradesh will soon get converted into a potential nuclear disaster zone without any tangible benefits to the people."
According to Sarma, "The residents in and around Kovvada village, especially the fishing community in Srikakulam district, feel considerably apprehensive at the bleak prospect of losing their fertile agricultural lands and losing their access to the sea for fishing, in addition to being exposed to the potential dangers of a nuclear power project ( 6x1000Mwe capacity) being set up by General Electric company."
"While the three proposed nuclear power projects in Andhra Pradesh will result in immediate displacement of people", Sarma says, it will destroy "fertile agricultural lands" and exose people to "radiation hazards", with the the "so-called benefits expected from them will not accrue in the foreseeable future."
Pointing out that in Andhra Pradesh, large tracts of agricultural land have already been diverted for industrial corridors, SEZs, power projects, ports, airports etc., Sarma says, though the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 requires that the states should prescribe limits on acquisition of agricultural land, the Andhra Pradesh government "has not cared to prescribe any such limits."
Pointing out that global experience shows a nuclear power project will take more than a decade to complete, Sarma says, "The six reactors at Kovvada will cost anywhere around Rs 4-7 lakh crore and, without taking into account the cost of decommissioning the reactors at the end of the project life, the levelised unit cost of electricity is estimated to be around Rs 16-26 per kilo-watt-hour."
"There is no technology today for satisfactorily processing the radioactive waste. The the cost of waste management therefore cannot be quantified. Even without taking it into reckoning, the cost of nuclear electricity is going to be unconscionably high", he says.
"Moreover", Sarma says, "Since all these nuclear power projects will use imported reactors and imported fuel, it will considerably erode the energy security of the country."
And, "since all these reactors will be purchased through highly non-transparent procedures without competitive bidding, not only the costs are going to be heavily padded but also there will be scope for corruption", he underlines.
Sarma warns, "The civil nuclear liability law enacted by the government in our case has placed a very low cap on the liability that could be passed on to the reactor suppliers but the latter are not prepared to bear even such a limited liability."
"Under pressure, it is likely that the Government of india will finally bow down to the wishes of the reactor suppliers and find ways to exempt them from the liability, thereby creating scope for the latter to cut corners on the safety features of the reactors", he adds.

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