Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reprocessing of Spent Fuel from NPPs?

 Spent Fuel Rods from NPP

Each regular 1000 MW Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is estimated to generate 30 tons of extremely potent radioactive waste annually, in the form of spent fuel rods. These fuel rods are normally confined in huge cooling pools at reactor sites or in dry storage casks beside the reactor. As these rods emit very lethal dose of radiation and are also extremely thermally hot, they must be stored for 30 to 60 years in a heavily shielded building and continually cooled by air or water.

Finally after an adequate cooling period, the fuel rods must eventually be packed into a container by remote control, for transportation to safe waste storage facility. The spent fuel packaging and its safe storage for periods of time, almost beyond our comprehension, are completely new and relatively untested, for which there does not seem to be any operational data.

The problem of permanent and safe disposal of highly radioactive nuclear material is everywhere, currently practically unresolved.

Reprocessing of Spent Fuel?

Addressing the apprehensions about storage and safe disposal of spent fuel rods from Nuclear Power Plants, the NPCIL is reported to have said that the entire spent fuel is not treated as waste. The storage capacity of spent fuel rods generated for more than seven years of full operation of reactors will be available at the NPP Site. After this time, the spent fuel    can be transported to a national facility for reprocessing to recover useful nuclear fuel.

Facts behind Reprocessing ? 

The spent fuel from NPPs is reported to consist of 96% non-disintegrated Uranium and 1% Plutonium. The rest of the contents are known to be non-recyclable fission products such as Ruthenium, Rhodium and Palladium. In the reprocessing plant, these fuel elements are fractionalized into pieces, the radioactive contents separated through solution process and the individual components isolated. Plutonium, Uranium and other fission products are now almost completely isolated and available. The isolated Plutonium is processed into so-called "mixed oxide fuel".( MOX), in order to be able to generate electricity. The reprocessing of uranium is not currently viable due to its impurity.

Reducing  Waste by 1% at what Cost ?

The amount of waste will be reduced by only 1%, since only the Plutonium content of the waste product is re-used. The term "Recycling" is therefore misleading because 99% of the original waste material remains in the form of non-usable, high-level waste solution.  


Friday, September 28, 2012

Rule of Law - Impediment for Economic Growth?

 An Impediment?

Dr.Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, inaugurating international conference on "Economic Growth and Changes in Corporate Environment in Asia" is reported to have made certain observations regarding Supreme Court Judgments and their impact on economic growth.

"As recent judgments have shown, the adjudication of rights and claims between parties, including between state actors and non-state parties, has wide implications for the economy and can no longer be viewed in isolation.—Therefore, Judges of the 21 st century have to be social scientists, economists, political thinkers and philosophers"

A Stimulant?

Around the same time, Justice S.H.Kapadia, Chief Justice of India, is reported to have rejected the notion that the "Rule of Law" was an impediment to economic growth, terming it instead the 'single largest" stimulant factor. Further, a "minimum standard of fairness" was being ensured only through the "Rule of Law" 

Justice Kapadia is also reported to have said, with apparent reference to "Coal Gate", the basic fact is that Loss is a matter of Fact, where as Profit or Gain is a matter of Opinion" 

In the absence of economic literacy, coupled with legal literacy, "government institutions will suffer---in terms of democracy and the economy will be in peril."  He said, The Constitution had mandated that the Government to"-strive for economic democracy" and without it "political democracy will be in peril.

Ground Realities:

The present Government Policies, which tend to circumvent the "Rule of Law" particularly the Environmental Law, in the name of rapid economic development, are resulting in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment, going against economic democracy , social order and welfare of the people, in utter disregard to the constitutional obligations. 


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kolleru -Pelicans may loose their Paradise Again

With Dr. Azeez Committee not acceding to the proposal of AP Legislative Assembly for reduction of boundary of Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary(KWLS)  from +5 to +3 contours, the political vested interests seem to have  shifted their pressure on to District Collector, Krishna district . As per the press reports, the District Collector asked Kolleru Wildlife Division Officials to demarcate the so called disputed area of 2576.79 hectors, within the limits of 3 villages of Kaikaluru Mandal, as they were omitted in the Notification for KWLS ( G.O.120 of October 1999), even though they are within +5 contours.


Pelicans may loose their regained Paradise at Atapaka


 The Grey Pelicans, which once populated Kolleru Lake, disappeared from there, with large scale encroachment of the Ramsar Site for aquaculture. The birds returned to the lake to nest after a considerable gap, only after fishponds were dismantled during "Operation Restoration of Kolleru" in 2005. The Environmental Education Centre (EEC) established by Wildlife Division in an area of 260 acres of dismantled fish ponds, at Atapaka village near Kaikaluru, had become a "Paradise for Pelicans" once again. Watching the vast water spread, dotted with bunds providing habitats and  nesting facilities for sizable number of migratory birds is like a dream coming true and KWLS has again become live for migratory  birds.


Once the so called disputed area to an extent of about 7,600 acres is demarcated as claimed by the vested interests, the EEC at Atapaka, the Paradise of Pelicans, left with only 2 acres of land will be doomed without nesting place. 


Early Action Required


 An early action be initiated for speedy implementation of the recommendations of Dr.Azeez Committee, in a given time frame, because of the importance and urgency of the issue emphasized by the Committee.  Pending initiation of follow up action, the District Collector Krishna district and other concerned agencies be restrained from pursuing the demarcation of the so called disputed area of 2576.79 hectors in Kaikaluru Mandal-Nesting Place in EEC, Atapaka.   



             "Paradise for Pelicans"- Nesting Place in EEC at Atapaka



Friday, September 14, 2012

Kudankulam NPP- Validity of E.C Granted in 1989?

EIA Notification S.O.60 ( E ) dated 27-01-1994

According to Sub-section (2)(III) (C), the Environmental Clearance granted shall be valid for a period of 5 years for commencement of the construction or operation of the project.

EIA Notification S.O.1533 dated 14-09-2006

According to Section 9, the "Validity of Environmental Clearance" is meant the period from which a prior environmental clearance is granted by the regulatory authority, or may be presumed by the applicant   to have been granted under sub paragraph (iv) of paragraph 7 above, to the start of production operations by the project or activity, or completion of all construction operations in case of construction projects (item 8 of the Schedule), to which the application for prior environmental clearance refers. 

 MOEF, GOI Letter No.J.14011/1/88- IA.11 (M) dated 06-09-2001 addressed to Director (K K-LWR) , NPCIL

"Ministry has noted the chronology of events of appraisal of  the project , the progress made on implementation of the project, both in construction activities as well as the compliance to stipulations made in our environmental clearance letter of even number dated 9 th May 1989 The undersigned has also visited the site on 31 st August 2001 It was observed during the visit that the land acquisition has been completed and construction work on various components such as Township , Environmental and Health Research Centre , RO Plant etc. is in progress.------ In pursuance of the discussions at site, NPCIL has now submitted, vide its letter of 5 th September, 2001 details of expenditure and commitment made till August 2001 to the tune of Rs.37,727.26 Lakhs for Kudankulam Atomic Power Project"   

"Keeping in view the steps already taken to implement the project, the Environmental Clearance issued in May, 1989 stands valid and there is no need to conduct public hearing and seek fresh environmental clearance----"

Points to be addressed

1) The first Environmental Clearance (EC) for K K-1&2 units was granted on 9 th May 1989, 23 years back prior to issuing EIA Notification S.O.60 (E) dated 27-01-1994, which stipulates E C Validity for a period of 5 years for commencement of the construction or operation of the project. This is rather vague-what is meant by construction?

Even assuming 5 years for "Commencement of Construction", KKNPP should have started construction latest by May 1994, which does not seem to be the case, judging by MOEF appraisal in September 2001. The expenditure commitment made even till August 2001, was to the tune of Rs 37,727.26 Lakhs, seems to be meager, when compared to the massive expenditure for units 1&2 of KKNPP. The ground reality as on May 1994 remains a big question mark?  Therefore the validity of EC in 2001 and beyond is questionable?

2) According to EIA Notification S.O.1533 dated 14-09-2006, the validity of EC is for a period of 5 years from the date of granting prior environmental clearance till the start of production operations. Even assuming the base date as 14-09-2006, the date of issue of EIA Notification S.O.1533, at least one unit of KKNPP should have been commissioned by 14-09-2011 ? 

3) The stipulations made by MOEF, while granting EC more than two  decades back , particularly with regard to Radiation Hazards in the vicinity of NPP, the Risk / Disaster  Management Plans etc may prove to be grossly inadequate,  taking into account the Chernobyl and Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disasters ? 

Therefore extending the validity of EC granted on 9 th May 1989, more than 23 years back, nearly half of the estimated useful life of a Nuclear Power Plant, needs to be examined / reviewed  whether it stands to Legal Scrutiny, Safety Standards, Aspirations of the Stakeholders in the Plant Vicinity  etc ?