Skip to main content

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.
Coming close on the heels of the talks between the Indian and French foreign ministers during the latter’s visit to New Delhi a fortnight ago, India’s acceptance of the techno-commercial offer would in effect clear the way of the last remaining hurdle before reactor construction begins.
Appealing for caution, Sarma says, serious doubts have surfaced regarding the safety of nuclear reactors to be supplied by EDF/Areva of France for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. In support of his artument, Sarma cites western media reports and experts.

Text of the letter:

I am writing this letter to you as, under the Business Rules, the Dept of Atomic Energy (DAE) falls within the purview of the Prime Minister. Serious doubts have been expressed about the safety of the nuclear reactors being supplied else where by the French conglomerate EDF/Areava, the same group that will provide us reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra.
I have enclosed here a news report dated January 11, 2019 in a Scottish newspaper, "The Ferret" (click HERE), with the headline, “More cracks found in Hunterston nuclear power reactors… Pressure is mounting to keep two nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire closed by the company that runs them, EDF Energy, said it had found more cracks and was again postponing plans to restart.”
The nuclear reactors for Jaitapur in Maharashtra will be supplied by the same French group of companies, EDF/Areva, under an agreement you had signed with your French counterpart in January 2016.
The flaws in the design and the manufacture of the nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire have come to public knowledge because the nuclear regulatory authorities in UK, France and other countries are not only professional but also independent of the nuclear establishment whose reactors they are required to inspect and regulate.
In the case of India, unfortunately, our own nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), however professional it may be, is subordinate to DAE whose reactors it is supposed to regulate. It is potentially unsafe for India to import the French nuclear reactors, not only in view of the serious safety concerns observed in the case of the nuclear power projects that EDF/Areva are setting up in Finland, UK, USA and other countries but also in view of the absence of an independent regulatory authority in India that could point out the potential dangers, as its counterparts in the other countries do.
Immediately, after the ghastly nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, in the heat of the moment, to convince the public, DAE brought in a Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill in 2012, which was scrutinised by the concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee that made far reaching suggestions to improve upon it in line with the norms laid down by the International Atomic Energy Regulatory Agency (IAEA) and Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
The UPA government failed to move forward for the next two years and so has the NDA government for the next five years. Apparently, the successive governments the people elect are insensitive to the welfare of the public and the potential harm that nuclear power projects can cause.
I enclose here a comprehensive article written by me (click HERE), evaluating the independence of the regulators in USA, France, UK, Finland etc vis a vis AERB. The article is self-explanatory.
EDF/Areva’s nuclear reactors are potentially unsafe with AERB feeling helpless to point out the safety concerns. Also, reactor imports from France will be through highly non-transparent procedures, giving scope for public criticism and leading to high cost.
I refer to an article (“Jaitapur: A risky and expensive project“) authored by Suvrat Raju and MV Ramana (click HERE) which states as follows:
“In addition to the high costs, safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. The most serious of these pertained to the pressure vessel, which is the key barrier that prevents the spread of radioactive materials from the reactor. In April 2015, the French nuclear safety regulator, Autorité Sûreté Nucléaire, announced that some sections of the pressure vessel that the French Creusot Forge had supplied to the Flamanville and Taishan reactors had too much carbon in the steel. The Flamanville project was also found to have substandard welding in the reactor’s pipes. The EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland encountered problems with vibrations in the pipe that connects the primary coolant system with the pressuriser, which maintains the pressure of the water circulating in the reactor.”
As the Minister in charge of DAE and its activities, I believe that you should ask DAE to examine what others and I have stated above, including the concerns expressed by the nuclear regulatory authorities elsewhere and proceed as follows:
  • Ask DAE to put on hold any further work on Jaitapur artile
  • pending a detailed examination of the safety features of EDF/Areava’s nuclear reactors, in consultation with AERB and the regulators in France/ UK/ Finland/ USA
  • take urgent steps to bring in Nuclear Regulatory Authority Act as modified by the Parliamentary Standing Committee
  • till such time that an independent regulatory authority is set up, put on hold all nuclear power projects and expansion projects
  • ensure that the procurement procedures for importing nuclear reactors from France and other countries remain in conformity with the prescribed financial rules. (China has adopted a competitive bidding route, whereas India’s reactor import procedure is opaque)
I feel that there is a great deal of public interest involved in this and the government owes an explanation to the public at large.

Comments

Udhishtir said…
I guess this could be a "Counter View" to a CounterView article.
I feel the Author has not distinguished between the Pressurized (Light) Water reactors of the EPR design model of EDF and the Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) pioneered and developed by UK Atomic Energy Authority. Hence citing a comparison with the AGR plant at Hunterston and EPR proposed to be built in India (also being built elsewhere) would not be correct.
The "cracks" referred to in the article in connection with the Hunterston plant were found in the (solid) GRAPHITE MODERATOR BLOCKS (Bricks) and not in the reactor vessel.
Hunterston plant has been in operation since 1976 (construction started in 1968) [Ref: Wikipedia] and has been supplying valuable and much needed electricity to the Scotland / UK Grid This AGR was engineered by an UK Consortium known as The Nuclear Power Group; as far as I know, EDF was not part of it. Only by about 2009 did EDF get involved in UK as owner / operator of Hunterston when the UKAEA was palmed off to private players.
Unknown said…
I DON'T THINK THAT ANY ONE OR THING SHOULD BE A 'PLAYER' WHEN NUCLEAR POWER IS INVOLVED! THAT IS MOOT, HOWEVER, WHEN THE CARBON CONTENT IS TOO HIGH IN THE STEEL FOR THE ''REACTOR PRESSURE VESSEL'' WHICH WOULD LEAD TO PREMATURE FAILURE! POOR QUALITY WELDS ARE A VERY SERIOUS CONCERN,ESPECIALLY IN ANY REACTOR COMPONENT THAT MIGHT SUFFER VIBRATIONS!

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

#StandWithStan: It's about Constitution, democracy and freedom of expression

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is more than three weeks now: On the night of October 8, 2020, the 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy was taken into custody by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi to an undisclosed destination. According to his colleagues, the NIA did not serve a warrant on Fr. Stan and that their behaviour was absolutely arrogant and rude.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Dalit, Adivasi protest in Jharkhand against 'illegal' transfer of land for development

By Rishit Neogi Displacement and eviction are not new terms. It is surprising that they are still continuing and have become a tool in the hands of state backed corporates to forcibly occupy lands in the name of development.