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Shifted from Gujarat to Andhra, questions raised on N-project's viability: Lack of eco-nod for developer Westinghouse

By Our Representative
DiaNuke.org, a team of dedicated researchers and activists claiming to be a one-stop resource for nuclear information, analysis and discussions, has strongly protested against the proposed visit of officials of the US-based nuclear corporation Westinghouse to "resuscitate" the plan the Kovvada nuclear project planned on Andhra Pradesh coast, saying, the local communities see it as a threat to their environment, health, livelihood and traditional lifestyle.
In a strongly-worded statement, DiaNuke.org has said, "The six-reactor project to be set up by Westinghouse even as it has become a disastrous financial liability for its parent company Toshiba, has faced strong grassroots resistance ever since its inception",pointing out, "Initially, Westinghouse-Toshiba had sought to build the AP1000s in Gujarat, but was chased out by enormous public opposition and shifted its plans to Kovvada."
According to DiaNuke.org, "At the Kovvada site, GE-Hitachi were given a contract to build reactors but they pulled out after refusing to commit to paying liability in case of a potential accident in the future", adding, "The financially destitute Westinghouse wants to supply India with six 1,208 MW reactor units of its AP1000 design."
"However", DiaNuke.org notes, "The AP1000 design is untested and has run into regulatory issues, massive cost and time over-runs and serious safety questions in the US, UK, China and other countries. Westinghouse has no business preying upon communities in India by pushing its untested nuclear technology on an unwilling population."
Calling the project "an all-round disaster-in-the-making", DiaNuke.org says, "It threatens to destroy the fragile ecology of India’s eastern coast, and endanger the safety of people in densely populated areas. It will disenfranchise thousands of people in local communities by depriving them of traditional livelihoods."
Pointing out that it was in 2008 that the US-India nuclear deal openee the way for nuclear companies like Westinghouse seeking to maintain a foothold in a precipitously falling global nuclear market, DiaNuke.org says, "The deal, first introduced in 2005 by then US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, lifted a three-decade US moratorium on nuclear trade with India."
Ever since, DiaNuke.org says, "The Indian government has finalised nuclear agreements as part of its geo-political strategy, without ever doing its homework on the environmental impacts, cost-benefit analysis, safety assessment or any democratic consultation on the energy future of the country."
"Furthermore", it adds, "The US government has been pressuring India to do away with the provisions of its domestic nuclear liability law": which provides for "limited protection to the potential victims in case of a nuclear accident", with the Indian government trying to "comply with US demands and to undermine the Act through back-door deals, including providing for an insurance pool created by public-sector companies."
Claiming that "Westinghouse has a lamentable track record in the US", DiaNuke.org says, "One of its two projects — to build two AP1000 reactors in South Carolina — has already been abandoned, leaving ratepayers with a $9 billion debt burden. The two plants were so massively over budget and behind schedule they were predicted to have cost at least $26 billion if completed, nearly three times the original projected price of $9.8 billion."
*A second Westinghouse US project for two AP1000 reactors in Georgia is more than five years behind schedule", DiaNuke.org says, adding, "Costs there have at least doubled and are predicted to rise to more than $27 billion, double the initial estimate of $14 billion. It was re-evaluated late last year and given the continued green light, but it is ratepayers again who will bear the burden of the project’s vast expense."
DiaNuke.org predicts, "If Westinghouse is permitted to go forward with the Kovvada project, India can anticipate interminable delays, massive cost overruns and environmental contamination at best; a nuclear disaster at worst, if indeed the project ever gets completed, which is doubtful. What is more likely is that Kovvada’s economy and ecology will have been ruined and time will have been wasted that would have been better used installing cheaper, cleaner and safer renewable energy."
Contending that "no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been conducted even after 10 years of the announcement of the Kovvada project", DiaNuke.org asserts, "Situated in Srikakulam District on the shores of Bay of Bengal, this project would endanger the precious bio-diversity of the region and the surrounding environment.
It adds, "The project does not even make economic sense. The effective cost of electricity from the nuclear plant in Kovvada will be at least 4 times the current market tariff in India. The latest open bids for decentralised solar have been even cheaper than existing thermal power."
Meanwhile, eminent civil society groups of the United States, India, Japan, Germany, Australia and Taiwan have begun raising their voice against the Westinghouse project in India. These include National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements(NAAM), People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), Poovulagin Nanbargal, Lokayat, from India; Nuclear Information and Resource Service(NIRS), Beyond Nuclear, Coalition Against Nukes(CAN), and, On Behalf of Planet Earth, based in US.
Then there are Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow- Dannenberg from Germany; Civil Action Against ODA and Export of Nuclear Technology and No Nukes Asia Forum from Japan; Friends of the Earth Australia, Homemakers United Foundation, Mom Loves Taiwan Association, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union from Taiwan;, and Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement from Philippines.

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