Kudankulam gets more time for storage of spent fuel

By PTI Published on Jul 03, 2018 02:11 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to set up a safe storage facility for radioactive spent fuel at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamilnadu by April 2022.

The apex court, which had earlier granted time till 30 May this year for the purpose, extended the time for NPCIL to set up the 'Away From Reactor Facility' (AFR) to store the spent nuclear fuel.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submission of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the corporation, that the deadline for setting up of the storage facility be extended till 30 April 2022.

The bench, however, made it clear that no further extension of time shall be granted to the corporation for setting up of the AFR at the nuclear plant in Tamilnadu.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that spent fuel was the nuclear fuel which was no longer used for generating power.

"The Union of India says that by 2022, they will develop away-from-reactor (AFR) facility. The spent fuel is still radioactive and it generates a lot of heat. If they are storing spent fuel near the reactor, it may cause an incident," he said while referring to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Bhushan said at Fukushima also, spent fuel was stored which was emitted in the environment causing grave danger and even contaminating the water there after the 2011 incident.

"They cannot go on storing spent fuel. It has be deposited away from site and that too deep underground," he said, adding "how can they store spent fuel at the plant which will increase the risk of causing incident."

"It would be essential that for the time being, the reactor be shut down," he said. Bhushan also said since 2013, the power plant has been shut over 70 times "due to one problem or the other" and nowhere in the world, a nuclear power plant functioned like this.

Mehta countered the claims and said the Kudankulam plant cannot cause any catastrophe. He said shut down of nuclear power plants was usual all over the world.

The apex court had earlier allowed the Centre to operationalise the nuclear plant, subject to complying with various safety measures including the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.

NPCIL had earlier told the court that KKNPP has advanced safety features and it was designed to withstand earthquakes and other such threats.

In 2013, the apex court gave its nod to the commissioning of the plant in Tamilnadu but asked the government and NPCIL to find suitably safe areas to dispose the nuclear waste.

It also issued guidelines on commissioning, safety and security and environmental issues concerning the nuclear plant.

The project is an Indo-Russian joint venture to establish a nuclear power plant with six units in Tamilnadu.

NPCIL, in a plea filed in the apex court, has said two units of the plant were under operation and another two were under advanced stage for commencement of construction.