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Exiled environmental activist speaks of ‘impossibility’ of protest in Russia

Criticising environmental and state corruption leads to threats and intimidation, says Suren Gazaryan
2014 goldman environment prize : Russian activist Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch

Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus looks at waste close to the 2014 Sochi construction site. Photograph: Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images

Criticising Russian state projects and the destruction of the environment leads to police intimidation, trumped up criminal charges and prison, says a green activist forced to seek political asylum in western Europeafter protesting against a luxurious mansion being allegedly built for Vladimir Putin and the destruction of protected wilderness for the winter Olympic games in Sochi.

“It has become almost impossible now to object to grand projects which have the authorities behind them. People are threatened and intimidated,” says zoologist Suren Gazaryan, who on Monday won a $175,000 prize in the Goldman awards, the equivalent of a “green Oscar”. He is now in Germany after receiving political asylum in Estonia.

Gazaryan, with other members of Russian ecological group Environmental Watch on North Caucasus group (EWNC), has been a leading critic of the developments along the Black Sea coast and of the corruption surrounding the Olympics. In the runup to the Sochi games last year, the group issued photographs of the damage created by new roads and building in the national park and the Caucasus reserve. “There has been massive destruction of natural landscapes,” he says.

2014 Goldman Environmental prize : Activist Suren Gazaryan : Dump in Sochi, RussiaRubbish dumped near the Olympic Park in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Photograph: Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty ImagesEarlier this year, the group published a report on the environmental impact of the games, citing the destructive impact of development in protected areas, the degradation of habitats for rare animals and plants, air and water pollution and the loss of Sochi’s potential as a health resort.

Gazaryan, a Russian bat expert, received a three-year conditional sentence for organising a rally against the allegedly illegal seizure of forest land for the mansion and was later charged with damaging a construction site. “My lawyers advised me that because I was on probation I would automatically be sent to prison. I did not want to lose three years of my life in jail.”

However, his colleague, geologist Yevgeny Vitishko, was sentenced to three years in a penal colony in February and EWNC has effectively been closed down, with its bank accounts frozen. Last year it was ordered to register as a foreign “agent” and the group’s offices were raided by “Centre E”, the government department set up to combat extremism and terrorism. Six members were briefly imprisoned and the group was told not to publish its report on Sochi-related environmental damage so as “not to harm the country”.

“When the group refused, inspectors said they would examine its computers for unlicenced software and look into the group’s email account. The inspectors threatened to fine the organisation if anyone tried to hinder them from examining the computers and emails,” said a Moscow-based spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch. “The authorities were determined to silence Gazaryan and Vitishko because they refuse to be deterred from speaking out on environmental and state corruption issues.”

“Amnesty International believes that Vitishko is a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have increasingly harassed several members of the NGO in the runup to the games, with repeated arrests and brief detentions, personal searches, questioning of activists themselves and of their close relatives by police, and unofficial warnings from police and security officials to abstain from protesting during the Sochi Olympics,” said an Amnesty spokesman.

“If you want to be assertive in Russia you have to be careful. You cannot appeal against official projects. The situation is very difficult. All criticism is suppressed. There can be no opposition to the state. Only a very few articles appear in the media,” said Gazaryan.

 

Read more here — http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/28/russia-environmental-protest-suren-gazaryan

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Press Release: Nuclear Suppliers Issue: US, Russia attempt to escape liability #mustread

Press Release

Cabinet Committee on Security Note, Attorney- General’s opinion in contempt of Parliament

US, Russian nuclear suppliers attempt to escape liability under Fukushima shadow

Scrap IAEA-WHO Agreement and Atomic Energy Act of 1962 in public interest
New Delhi: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) disapproves of the “Sensational Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) note” which “exposes the government’s plans to dodge nuke viability issues” ahead of Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s meeting with USA’s President Barack Obama on September 27, 2013.
It may recollected that Parliament’s intent of Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 was undermined through the notification of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules, 2011 ahead of Prime Minister’s scheduled meeting with US President on November 18, 2011 at Bali, Indonesia. The relevant Rules and the Act are attached.

Under the influence of nuclear companies, Obama has compelled Dr Singh government to dilute key provisions of the India’s nuclear liability law to ensure that USA’s nuclear reactor suppliers are not held liable in the event of an accident caused by faulty or defective equipment.

CCS note must be seen together with yet another controversial opinion of Goolam Vahanvati, Attorney- General provided to the Department of Atomic Energy in response to a reference dated September 4, 2013 sent to him. In an exercise of his by now infamous sleight of hand Attorney- General has opined that it is for the operator of a nuclear plant in India to decide whether it wished to exercise the ‘right of recourse’ provided to it by section 17 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 in contempt of Section 17(b) of the Act meant to ensure that foreign suppliers are back traced to “equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub standard services”. This exercise is an stark case of contempt towards Parliament in furtherance of the interests of USA’s nuclear companies like Westinghouse and GE.

Attorney- General had given similar opinion in the context of Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and Russia stating, “Section 17(a) provides for recourse if such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing. If the operator chooses not to incorporate such a provision in the contract, it would be open for him to do so” in October 2012. DAE had sought confirmation “regarding the presumption that the existing provisions of section 17 of the Act facilitate the operator either to exercise his ‘right of recourse’ by incorporating a clause in the contract or to waive his right or to limit the liability on the part of the supplier.”

Notably, Ministry of External Affairs has held that “a right was given to the operator to have recourse against the supplier but there was no mandatory obligation or requirement for the operator to do so and that the operator could choose not to exercise that right”. Attorney- General has reportedly endorsed this view.
TWA endorses the statement of condemnation issued by Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) on the note of the Cabinet Committee on Security seeking exemption from civil liability for nuclear damage for US nuclear company, Westinghouse and others in order to seal a nuclear agreement with the US corporations during Dr Singh’s current visit to Washington, undermining all democratic and sovereign institutions of India.
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Section 17 of the Act grants the operator the right of recourse under one of three conditions: (a) if the right is expressly provided for in writing; (b) if the accident is caused by faulty material or equipment provided by the supplier; or (c) the accident results from an act of commission or omission of an individual done with intent to cause nuclear damage. Section 17(b) suggests Parliament intended to hold suppliers responsible even if there is no contractual liability.
TWA strongly disproves of Prime Minister’s reported assurance that the Government of India will ensure that the operator (NPCIL) does not use its ‘right of recourse’ against suppliers of nuclear reactors.
TWA holds that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) cannot be trusted with sharing truth about the nuclear catastrophe in general and about Japan in particular and such imminent disasters in India because of a 52 years old treaty between WHO and IAEA, which is heavily influenced by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), established in 1975.

NSG comprises of 46 nuclear supplier states including China, Russia, and the US, that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its requirement that recipient countries have in place comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all nuclear activities. US got exemption from NSG for three years to undertake nuclear trade with India. India is pursuing its nuclear energy path under the overarching guidelines of this very IAEA.

It is quite distressing that world leaders like Manmohan Singh and Barack Obama continue to disregard the path shown by at least four key women political leaders namely- Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of Switzerland, Dr Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal who have abandoned the nuclear energy path. Singh and Obama have adopted an ostrich like approach in the face of inevitable and unpredictable disasters like Cheronbyl and Fukushima.

The 2011 Rules insulates foreign nuclear suppliers in particular using Clause 9 of the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004 which provides that the license for establishment or decommissioning of radiation installation will be valid for five years effectively denying Right of Recourse to Indian operators of nuclear reactors under clause 24 of the 2011 Rules.

If these Rules are seen along with clause 18 of the Nuclear Liability Act of 2010 which deals with the “Extinction of right to claim” wherein “right to claim compensation for nuclear damage extinguishes” if such claim is not made within a period of “ten years, in case of damage to property” and within “twenty years, in the case of personal injury to any person”, it is clear that Parliament and the citizens have been taken for a ride.

Clause 24 of the 2011 Rules provides that “right to recourse shall be for the duration of initial license” or “product liability period” whichever is longer. Product liability period is defined as “the period for which the supplier has undertaken liability for patent or latent defects or
sub-standard services under a contract”.

It is “inconsistent” as per clause 49 (1) read with Clause 17 (b) of the Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. This act of subordinate legislation is an act of contempt towards Parliament in order to pander to the demands of nuclear suppliers in general and US suppliers in particular.

Both the Liability Act and the Liability Rules refer to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) even as Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests heard the Secretaries on The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill, 2011 on 16/11/2011. NSRA is meant to replace AERB. The question is what made the central government act ahead of the enactment of NSRA Act in such tearing hurry except of the tremendous influence of foreign suppliers.

Earlier, in a Press Release, the Parliamentary Committee said, “Atomic Energy Regulatory Board-the present regulatory body was constituted in 1983 by a notification issued under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. However, to further strengthen radiation and nuclear safety in the country, it is felt expedient to establish a legal framework…to ensure that the use of atomic
energy in all its applications is safe for the health of radiation workers, members of the public and the environment.”

It observed that “the Fukushima incident in Japan has led to worldwide concerns and apprehensions on safety issues relating to nuclear power.” The Parliamentary had noted in its report on Civil Liability on Nuclear Damage Bill that secretaries of 8 relevant ministries were not consulted during the drafting the Bill. It had recommended that in future they should be
consulted. The question is: Were these Secretaries consulted ahead of the notification of the 2011 Rules?

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and Occupational Health India (OHI) had submitted its comments/views/suggestions in the subject matter of the Bill in a letter dated 16/11/2011 along with the report of Ethics Commission for a Safe Energy Supply on behalf of Dr. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor following which aband

 

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Syria: Accidental Diplomacy in the Devils’ Playground #mustread

Posted: 09/16/2013 5:46 pm

Iara Lee

Activist and filmmaker, huffingtonpost

It’s unfortunate that diplomacy has now become an accident of U.S. foreign policy. After John Kerry’s slip-of-the-tongue in London last week, warmongers in and outside the beltway are sulking at the idea that a peaceful solution might prevent them from going to war in another Middle Eastern country.

Washington politicians’ chagrin at the prospect of a peaceful resolution makes one thing very clear: they do not care about chemical weapons, they do not care about dead children, and they do not care about Syrians, period. If they did, they might have themselves put forth the fairly unimaginative proposal that Syria give up its stockpile of chemical weapons. They might have not helped to nurture the Islamist insurgency that has hijacked what was once a national struggle for democratic reforms. And they might have put their weight behind a peace plan before the death toll topped 100,000, with a third of the country now refugees from their own land.

Let’s also not forget that the U.S. has always had a love/hate relationship with chemical weapons, looking the other way when its former client, Saddam Hussein, gassed tens of thousands during the Iraq-Iran war (including 10,000 innocent Iraqi Kurds in Halabja); White House officials similarly ignored the use of white-phosphorous, an incendiary chemical weapon, by Israel in Gaza in 2008; and then of course there is their own use of depleted uranium during the Iraq invasion.

So what is motivating this policy of “If you don’t stop gassing civilians, we will bomb your civilians”? We keep hearing on cable news that if the U.S. doesn’t attack Syria, the Iranians may continue to work on their dramatically overhyped nuclear weapons program. But this is a rhetorical feint, meant to obscure a much more grim reality: that Syria is only an appetizer for a much more destructive campaign against Iran, initiated by Israel and destined to be executed by their praetorian American backers.

After all, most of the jihadist forces fighting the Syrian government are not better than the current, odious regime of Bashar Al-Assad, and the U.S. and Israel know it. And so what they strive for is not the downfall of Assad, but a state of perpetual chaos in Syria. This is perhaps why Alon Pinkas, former Israeli consul general in New York, was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

Humanitarian motives indeed. But threat to whom? Prior to the uprising, the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel, were rather quiet for some time. So perhaps the better question is, threat to what? Some may argue that what is “threatened” by a stable Syria is the plan to attack and destabilize the Assad regime’s Shia patrons in Iran, a nation which lives in the crosshairs of the United States and Israel, and whose leaders use the threat of foreign attack as justification for a militarist fundamentalism of their own.

Much like Obama, Vladimir Putin is not concerned with the loss of Syrian lives. His interests lie in the billions in arms agreements that his government has with Assad. The Gulf monarchies — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — along with Israel and the United States, are interested in alienating Iran. Each of these players continues to make a terrible situation worse by throwing more bombs and guns into the mix, splashing fuel onto a fire with one hand while shaking their sanctimonious fists with the other.

And so the geo-political power games continue, with indisputably bad people on every side surrounding average, innocent Syrians who live under constant threat of death from all parties involved. Back in 2012 I made a film to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees caught in the middle of what one little girl I spoke to referred to as a “soccer match,” with Syria as the ball. The title of that film, The Suffering Grasses, was taken from the following proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” With over 100,000 dead and counting, and the entrance of the biggest elephant of all into the fray, this phrase couldn’t be more apt.

Given that ethical concerns are a low priority for the U.S., one would hope that rational self-interest might play some role in their decision-making when it comes to Syria. But the primary financial beneficiary of a U.S. strike on Syria (aside from the jihadists fighting Assad and the hemorrhage-happy Israelis next door) will be Russia. As oil prices invariably rise with a U.S. strike, Russia — the world’s largest exporter, along with Saudi Arabia — will be the first to profit from skyrocketing oil prices.

Then of course there are the direct costs of war. A single Tomahawk missile costs roughly $1.4 million. Experts have predicted that, putting together the costs of munitions, refueling, and keeping naval vessels within striking distance, even a “limited” cruise missile strike would end up costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Given the slow recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown, and another one likely on the horizon, one would think that American leaders would think twice about spending taxpayer money to assist an opposition that includes al Qaeda in its ranks.

The American people, scarred by lies and fatigued from wars that have profited them nothing, came out in massive opposition to Obama’s “punitive” bombing of Syria. It seems they are coming around to the idea that there is no such thing as a humanitarian bombing, and that such conditions for war bring only more war. They are beginning to recognize that, like the slaughtered innocents of Syria, they too are grass suffering under the weight of elephants.

In the end, accidental diplomacy is better than no diplomacy at all. So we must continue to put pressure on our elected officials to move in this direction and to use negotiations over chemical weapons as an opportunity to bring all the major stakeholders — the Assad regime, the opposition, the United States, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran — into further diplomacy that could end the civil war in Syria. Such intervention does not involve more weapons or bombings, but rather brings a framework for ending the violence and moving towards the peaceful democracy that the Syrian people rightly deserve.

To watch the trailer for The Suffering Grasses: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Grass That Suffers, click here.

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Press Release – The INS Sindhurakshak Catastrophe and the Koodankulam Prayers

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District                                                                              For immediate release
                                                                                                            August 15, 2013
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the 18 crew members who have died in the submarine INS Sindhurakshak catastrophe. There were series of deafening explosions in the submarine and no one knows what triggered those explosions.  The submarine was engulfed in a huge fire and nobody knows why the manual and automatic alarm systems did not work during the emergency. The Russian company Zvyozdochka, that specializes in repairs and recycling of nuclear submarines, has just completed modernizing and upgrading the vessel at an whopping amount of some Rs. 450 crores over the past three years.
Obviously several questions arise out of this tragedy.
[1] The Sindhurakshak was built by the Admiralteiskiye Verfi shipyard in St Petersburg in 1995. Why did we have to modernize and upgrade it in just 15 years? What caused the fire in 2010?
[2] Why did it take three long years for Zvyozdochka to do their work and what exactly did they do in the submarine for the past three long years at an exorbitant cost?
[3] Why did it cost Rs. 450 crores of poor Indian people’s tax money to refurbish the submarine? The submarine’s original cost price was only Rs. 400 crores. Does anyone in India do any accounting and auditing of all these military procurements and upgradation projects?
[4] The seven Russian specialists who had serviced the submarine were in a hotel when the accident occurred and they remained safe and sound. While we are happy that these men are safe and sound, we wonder why Indian lives were left unprotected and unsafe?
Naturally, our attention turns to the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP).
[1] The project was proposed and planned in the mid-1980s and modified by several follow-up agreements. As per the revelations of Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, a former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chief, the Indian nuclear authorities fiddled with the original design of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) and did an unauthorized refit. Why did the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have to modernize and upgrade the Koodankulam reactors it in just a few years? What do the Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) of Units 1&2 say about the Koodankulam reactors? Why does the NPCIL refuse to share these reports with the public even after the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered to share? Why does the NPCIL obtain a stay at Delhi High Court against the CIC order? Nobody knows!
[2] The KKNPP Unit-1 was supposed to have been commissioned in 2007. Now it is 2013. Why did it take six long years for the Russian Rosatom to complete the project? The Unit-1 has not produced electricity to burn even a zero-watt bulb yet. Why? Nobody knows!
[3] The original cost estimate of the KKNPP project was some 13,000 crores.  Now the NPCIL says that they have overspent some 4,000 crores due to “Interest During Construction” (IDC) and the final estimate of the project is almost 18,000 crores. Does anyone in India do any accounting and auditing of all these unexplained cost overrun? Nobody knows!
[4] Scores of Indians have lost their lives in the KKNPP projects but there has never been any Russian casualty so far. We do not wish anything bad for our Russian friends; in fact, we wish them well. But we do wonder if Indian life is not as valuable as Russian or American or French lives? Why do Indians get killed everywhere? The governments of India and Russia signed a secretive Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) in 2008 about the Koodankulam project’s liability. This report has not been revealed to the public. Is it because Indian life is worthless? Nobody knows!
And finally, why does the Indian government keep losing our Indian citizens’ hard-earned tax money on subsidizing the Russian economy by buying all the brittle and fragile Russian fighter planes, ships, submarines and nuclear power plants that suffer time overrun and cost overrun? Nobody knows!
The Mumbai tragedy makes the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to sit up and look up to the sky. What is in store for us? Nobody knows!
The Struggle Committee
PMANE

 

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#India – Flaws in Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant

By A Gopalakrishnan

19th June 2013 07:23 AM

The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu is owned and will be operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is to oversee and regulate nuclear safety, while the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) also have well-defined regulatory roles to play in non-nuclear safety aspects.

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) reviewed previous lower court judgements and heard fresh affidavits on issues of KKNPP safety. In its final judgment on May 6, 2013, the SC directed AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB to (collectively) oversee each and every aspect, including safety of the plant, its impact on environment and the quality of various components and systems in the plant, before commissioning it. The SC has also directed that a (joint) report to that effect be filed before it prior to commissioning of the plant.

To understand the overall problems in their right perspective, one has to see how the total project responsibility at KKNPP is shared between India and Russia. Under the 1998 inter-governmental supplementary agreement, the Russians are to provide the reactor designs and supply the major equipment. The instrumentation and control (I&C) design package, including installation details, were also to come from Russia. The NPCIL and its Indian contractors would build the reactors, but a small team of Russian specialists (“advisers”) would stay at the site to render technical assistance at all stages of construction, in the installation of reactor equipment and in the commissioning and operation of the reactors, until NPCIL takes over.

KKNPP reactors are pressurised water reactors (PWRs) of the Russian VVER type, of 1000 MWe rating. The past Indian experience is entirely on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), India having built only a very small PWR for a submarine which is yet to be started. The PHWRs are technologically very different from the VVER-1000 reactors, and the Russians have designed and built more than 20 of them. The experience gained over the years by Indian contractors who have steadily worked with NPCIL is also limited to PHWRs. Therefore, it is certainly foolhardy for India to insist that KKNPP Units 1 & 2 shall be built under the above division of responsibilities. The reasons for doing so have been the minimisation of cost and an overconfident estimation of NPCIL’s capabilities, combined with a lack of appreciation of the technological finesse required to build a large and complicated PWR for the first time. The problems described in this article can be primarily attributed to this fatal error in project formulation.

Besides the probable installation of substandard parts in KKNPP reactors due to laxity of quality control, it is now evident that another major safety issue related to the I&C systems is worrying the KKNPP management and the AERB, because of which the Unit 1 start-up is now postponed to July 2013. This inference is reached by piecing together information now available in the public domain. The problem, to put it simply, appears to be the inability to eliminate spurious signals of untraced origin appearing in many of the instrumentation cables of paramount importance to safety, like the reactor neutron chamber output lines, wiring of the safety and shut-off rod control systems, etc.

Such phenomena belong to a broad class of problems known as Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). A very rudimentary example of EMI, for instance, is that of a power-carrying, unshielded cable that would generate a surrounding electro-magnetic field, that in turn could induce a voltage/current in a nearby instrumentation or control cable. This spurious input can add to or subtract from the “real” signals, thereby sending erroneous control inputs to a variety of crucial safety systems, possibly leading to unpredictable and serious malfunctions or accidents.

EMI in nuclear plants can be totally avoided by following modern I&C system design and installation norms. (See, for example, “Modern I&C for Nuclear Power Plants”, IAEA, 1999). In particular, obtaining a sound, interference-free transmission of electrical signals between various parts of a nuclear system demands careful attention to cable laying and routing as well as earthing, and requires that specific rules in this regard are strictly followed. The Russian “advisers” on site seem to have earlier indicated to the Indians that most of the VVERs which they have commissioned have used strict Russian standards like GOST 50746-2000, called the National Standard of the Russian Federation for Electro-magnetic Compatibility (EMC) of equipment for nuclear power plants (Requirements and Test Methods), which is available at: http://files.stroyinf.ru/Data1/41/41348/. However, the sequential history of KNPP events do not show that such care was taken in implementation of I&C systems by NPCIL and their contractors.

The cable problems at Koodankulam have a long history. Glimpses of this can be seen from the past annual reports of the AERB. The 2009-2010 AERB report states the regulators were “informed (by NPCIL) that new cable routes have been created to take care of additional cables required for normal operation of the plant, as these were not accounted for in the earlier design”. AERB’s 2010-2011 annual report states that “NPCIL was asked to submit detailed response to various observations made on cable layout — along with justifications for deviations from established methods of laying of cables and alternative measures to meet any exigencies”. Interestingly, the 2011-2012 annual report is totally silent about the follow-up actions taken in this matter.

Around the same time, a telling PTI report on the KKNPP cable problem appeared on July 20, 2011, in Indian newspapers. In part it said (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/tn-kudankulam-nplant-to-achieve-criticality/168957-3.html), “But the observation that several cables were missing, to be incorporated by designers in the reactor almost towards completion of the plant (2009-2010), could not be explained… The designers discovered that several kilometres of power and control cables in the reactor were ‘missed’ after the completion of the double containment of the reactor… A year ago, a major operation had to be undertaken to incorporate the ‘missing’ cables by making new opening in the containment domes (breaking open the concrete walls and its steel liner) and sealing it again after bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside”. One wonders how such a serious error was committed by the NPCIL engineers and their contractors!

This exposes a serious difference in the ethics of doing project site work between the Russians and Indians. Russians are very well-organised and systematic, and they rigidly follow the rules and expect others also to do so. While Indians, too, have rules and regulations on paper, to expedite work or to minimise cost, they would not hesitate to bend or break rules. In case of the I&C design and installation details, the Russians had prepared detailed documentation including hundreds of drawings, which they expected the Indian installers to follow diligently, in the interest of performance and safety. The World Nuclear Association has reported that KKNPP control system documentation was delivered late by the Russians and, when reviewed (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/#.Ub7fWPkzjAs) by NPCIL, it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking of some aspects. This was necessitated because, while waiting for details to arrive from Russia, the NPCIL team had proceeded on with the I&C work based on their PHWR experience, little realising that the PWR/VVER requirements contained in the Russian documents would be significantly different. In doing re-work and rectification of the PHWR-based work, the NPCIL team is unlikely to have come close to meeting the Russian design intent or conformed to the installation documents received from them. The origin of the present problem lies in this massive installation error of the NPCIL.

In 2004, the then KKNPP station director told Frontline (http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2108/fl210800.htm) that “difficulty arose with working documentation, which was to arrive from the Russian designers. But I shall not blame the Russians, there was pressure on them to advance their drawings and documents.” He went on to say, “When you want to speed up…you have to take certain decisions even if the input data are not available. As a designer and an engineer, you have to assume those data and go ahead.” It is this daredevil approach of the NPCIL site engineers and their contractors which has landed the KKNPP in the present mess.

It is most likely that the KKNPP cable system, as completed today, has not conformed to the norms and standards of cable selection, EMI shielding, or layout as per Russian, Indian or any other standards. No wonder the EMI problem is persisting, because there is no other short-cut solution other than re-doing a sizeable part of the I&C cabling and its layout in accordance with a set of modern standards, agreeable also to the Russians. This may take several more months and extensive re-working, but this must be done in the interest of public safety. As directed by the SC, the group consisting of NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB must certainly find an acceptable resolution of this problem and include it in their report to the apex court.

A Gopalakrishnan is a former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

 

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Outrage Over Safety Issues at Indian Nuke Plant

By K. S. HarikrishnanReprint |   ips news
Residents of Kudankulam, a village in Tamil Nadu, protest against the Indian Supreme Court verdict approving construction of a nuclear power plant. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSResidents of Kudankulam, a village in Tamil Nadu, protest against the Indian Supreme Court verdict approving construction of a nuclear power plant. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

KUDANKULAM, India, Jun 14 2013 (IPS) – The Tirunelveli district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu may seem idyllic, dotted with lush green fields, but upon closer inspection one sees signs of a battle that does not appear to be abating.

Locals here have been waging an incessant campaign against a proposed nuclear power plant that was supposed to be operational in 2012 and which is currently sitting idle 24 kilometres from the tourist town of Kanyakumari, located on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula.

A recent report by a group of prominent Indian researches has now added another issue to a long list of grievances with the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) that activists and residents have been compiling since August 2011: evidence of faulty material used in the construction of the plant itself.

Plans for the plant were first drawn up in 1988 under a bilateral agreement between Russia and India, but various political obstacles kept construction on hold for over a decade. It was not until 2001 that a fresh attempt was made to jump-start the 3.1-billion-dollar venture, which has an installed capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW).

Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Things were moving smoothly until news of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan in March 2011 went viral. Fearing a repeat performance of the tragedy, locals here took to the streets, protesting lax safety standards and possible nuclear radiation in the event of an accident.

The government has refused to address protestors’ concerns, instead issuing blanket assurances that the plant has been constructed using state of the art instrumentation and contains a passive cooling system and other mechanisms that will enable it to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Nalinish Nagaich, executive director of the National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), has repeatedly insisted that the equipment installed in the power station has undergone multi-stage quality checks.

Last month, in a 247-page ruling, a division bench of the Supreme Court of India consisting of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra dismissed protestors’ concerns as “baseless”, adding: “The benefits we reap from KKNPP are enormous since nuclear energy remains an important element in India’s energy mix, which can replace a significant (quantity) of fossil fuels like coal, gas (and) oil.”

But new information brought to light in ‘Scandals in the Nuclear Business’, a report published by Dr. V. T. Padmanabhan, a member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk, exposes cracks in the government’s position and highlights the potential crises arising from the use of faulty parts.

According to the study, the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV), considered to be the “heart” of a nuclear station, has been built using an outdated, three-decade old model. In addition, various pieces of equipment supplied by Russia have been found to be faulty.

The report has only deepened a crisis of confidence that surfaced earlier this year when Russian Federal prosecutors booked Sergei Shutov, procurement director of the Russian company ZiO-Podolsk that supplied vital equipment to the KKNPP, on corruption charges.

Shutov was charged with “having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India”, according to a joint letter sent by over 60 scientists to the chief ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The New Delhi-based Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) has expressed serious concern over the recent scam, calling it a direct violation of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)’s safety norms.

Back in April, following a series of tests, the AERB itself acknowledged that four valves in the KKNPP were defective and ordered the NPCIL to replace the parts and surrender itself for review by the regulatory authority, before resuming construction.

World Nuclear News reported last month that “technical issues discovered during the commissioning of Unit One have necessitated the replacement of several valves in the passive core cooling system, leading to further delays” in the commissioning of the KKNPP.

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERBhas urged the government to put an immediate stop to the project until allegations of corruption and faulty equipment have been adequately addressed, and the safety and quality of the parts used to house the reactor have been determined.

Police crack down on women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

Police crack down on women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

“The fact that a high-cost, high-risk nuclear reactor is (thought to have) defects…in its components and equipment even before it (has started operating) is highly unusual, and indicates gross failures at several levels in the AERB-NPCIL-Atomstroyexport (triumvirate),” he said, referring to Russia’s national nuclear vendor that stands accused of supplying low-quality parts to India.

N. Sahadevan, environmentalist and prominent campaigner against nuclear arsenals, told IPS that the recent scandal necessitated a “thorough re-examination of the safety aspects of the plant.”

Furthermore, according to Supreme Court Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the NPCIL, which operates the KKNPP, has failed to comply with the 17 post-Fukushima safety recommendations made by a special AERB committee.

Meanwhile, thousands of villagers in and around Kudankulam continue their daily, peaceful demonstrations.

S. P. Udayakumar, leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, told IPS that the Fukushima catastrophe categorically proved that nuclear power projects are not aligned with the welfare of the people, especially those living in the vicinity, and are incapable of providing any kind of “security”, energy or otherwise.

Activists have also exposed discrepancies in the government’s claim that nuclear power is crucial for the Indian economy, pointing out that the country currently has just 4,880 MW of existing capacity, “which contribute to only 2.7 percent of the total electricity generation in the country,” according to Dr. E. A. S. Sarma, former Union Power Secretary of India.

– See more at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/06/outrage-over-safety-issues-at-indian-nuke-plant/#sthash.Q7VgTdmC.5cfoiTLx.dpuf

 

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PRESS RELEASE – The Koodankulam Mystery : Russian Officials’ Anxiety

People’s Movemenmt Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District
Mobile: 9842154073, 9865683735
Email: [email protected]                                                      For Immediate Release
May 24, 2013
The Koodankulam Mystery : Russian Officials’ Anxiety
The periodic interventions of the Russian diplomats in India in defense of the Indian nuclear authorities are very intriguing and puzzling. Lauding the Tamil Nadu government’s decision on the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) as “correct” but “long overdue,” the Russian Ambassador to India, Mr. Alexander M. Kadakin, said in March 2012: “From October to March, it is not Russia, it was India which was losing $1 million a day. Can we welcome the loss of the money that Indian people had put aside for construction?”
But the Russian ambassador did not explain how that loss exactly happened, or what his involvement in the Koodankulam transaction was, or how he calculated that $1 million loss per day. Most importantly, who was he to do the calculation? Though Mr. Kadakin was in close touch with the Indian government on the KKNPP issue, he said in February 2012 that he had not contacted the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu saying “It may look a bit odd. I don’t like to bypass the Centre.”
Throwing all the diplomatic norms and values to the wind, Mr. Kadakin has been interfering in the internal affairs of our country. He commented in an interview in March 2012: “We have been suspecting it all along, and, I was openly saying this, because it was very strange. Six months after the Fukushima tragedy, all those protesters raise their voices. They were sleeping for six months, and then, all of sudden, they raise their voices against the most secure, the best and the safest (nuclear power) station in the world.” He added further: “We were perplexed, but now we stand vindicated.” Without directly naming the United States, Mr. Kadakin said some strategic friends of India who were not doing anything for its energy sector, did not like the idea of India becoming strong, and therefore, were stalling the Kudankulam project through proxies (Business Line, March 26, 2012).
A year later in February 2013, Mr. Kadakin said, “I think these (protests) are sponsored. They work in such a way that when money ends they stop and when they get another portion of money they resume their protests.” He asserted: “Yes, there are NGOs from outside who are feeding these protest organisation. India is a democratic country, people are free to protest if they feel some danger is coming.”
In May 2013, the Russian Ambassador accused anti-nuclear protesters of “playing games” as India moves to launch the country’s biggest nuclear power project. He said: “The unit number one is almost ready and second one will be ready within six months. But as regards pressure from protesters and from other people, these are all gimmicks and games. The games by those who don’t want to see India strong, who don’t want India and Tamil Nadu to have really much (needed) power.”
Mr. Kadakin had said “[Koodankulam] is the safest nuclear unit in the world which has been recognised by specialists and scientists in the West and the East.” If it is indeed the safest plant, why aren’t the Russians willing to offer any liability whatsoever? In December 2012, however, Mr.Kadakin said that negotiations on issues relating to civil nuclear liability law were still going on and stressed that if India insisted on liability, the price of Kudankulam units III and IV would go up. According to him, the two units were “grandsons of the original agreement” on Kudankulam units I and II which came into effect much before the civil nuclear liability law.
Joining the fray with his Ambassador, Mr. Nikolay Listopadov, the Russian Consul General in south India, has assured full commitment to all the Koodankulam units and said “the ties in this regard between the two nations…were guided by mutual interest” (The New Indian Express, May 19, 2013). What indeed is the “mutual interest” that tends to work up the Russian officials in India? Why are the Russian officials nervous about the Koodankulam project and want an immediate commissioning? What are they trying to hide? Who are they trying to protect? The inter-governmental skeletons will start tumbling out of the Koodankulam closet one by one soon.
The Struggle Committee
PMANE

 

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Press Release – Koodankulam Is Not Russian?

PMANE

Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District
Mobile: 9842154073, 9865683735
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2013
Koodankulam Is Not Russian?
Indian Nukedom Tries to Free up Russia from Liability, Theft and Project Failure!
In an interview to rediff.com, Mr. R. S. Sundar, the site director of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), has claimed that the KKNPP is not a Russian turnkey project. Here is Mr. Sundar’s categorical answer to Mr. A. Ganesh Nadar’s specific question:
Is this a Russian turn-key project?
“Absolutely not! This is not a Russian turn-key project. This is one misconception many people have. This is not a turn-key project. The technology — that is the design, the drawings, the equipment — has been supplied by the Russian Federation. But the entire construction, starting from the civil construction, the mechanical component, the electrical component, the instrumentation component, erection, has been done by Indian engineers and Indian contractors. BHEL, Larsen & Toubro, the Electronic Corporation of India among others have done all the work. The commissioning has also been done by Indian engineers.”
But on November 20, 1988, Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi signed an agreement and it clearly pointed out that the Soviet vendor Atomenergoexport would supply the reactors “constructed on a turnkey basis.” On February 29, 1989, V.S.G. Rao, project director of the Koodankulam Project, said that “the USSR will use Indian contractors and laborers even though the reactors will be supplied on a turnkey basis.” On October 12, 1989, Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) M. R. Srinivasan said that the signing of the contract for turnkey execution of the project would come only after the design study was completed.
In December 1995, India no longer wanted a turnkey operation, as was originally agreed. Instead, India wished to obtain pressurized water reactor technology that would allow it to build its own plant “like China.” On February 15, 1997, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin affirmed Moscow’s intention to build two 1,000 MW LWRs in India and said that construction was a “bilateral issue.”
A supplementary agreement to the IGA was signed in New Delhi on June 21, 1998, by the Russian Minister for Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov and the AEC Chairman and DAE Secretary Dr. R. Chidambaram. Under this agreement, the Russians were to provide the reactor designs and supply the equipment and NPCIL would build the reactors. But “a team of Russian specialists would stay at the site to render technical assistance at all stages of construction, in the installation of reactor equipment and in the commissioning and operation of the reactors until the final takeover by NPCIL’s operators” (emphasis added; Frontline 2004).
In January 1995, a Rossiiskaya Gazeta article quoted Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov as saying that some 1,000 Russian nuclear experts would work on the Koodankulam project. The NPCIL has confirmed officially (in its letter No. NPCIL/VSB/CPIO/2574/KKNPP/2013/737 dated April 29, 2013) now: “As on 31.03.2013 there were around 110 no.s of Russian specialists working in KKNPP. NPCIL has no information regarding their pay scales etc.”
In the light of the above, how does Mr. Sundar question the turnkey nature of the project now? By insisting that the KKNPP is not a Russian turnkey project, and is actually built with components from South Korea, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and other countries, is the Indian nuclear establishment trying to set Russia free from supplier liability, enormous amount of theft and the abject failure of the KKNPP Unit 1?
If the Russians supplied only the technology and the Indian companies such as BHEL, Larsen & Toubro, Electronic Corporation of India, Hindustan Construction Company, Simplex Concrete Piles (India) etc. did the construction, instrumentation and erection, are they responsible for any accidents and liable in any way? While the Russian and the Indian companies make huge profits and engage in financial improprieties, why should the Indian public bear the cost of supplier and operator liability?
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) thinks that the Indian nuclear establishment, especially the NPCIL, is bending backwards with hidden and hideous intentions of freeing up the Russians from liability commitments, and rampant corruption and theft in the totally failed Koodankulam project.
The Struggle Committee
PMANE
Sources:
[] R. Adam Moody, “The Indian-Russian Light Water Reactor Deal,” The Nonproliferation Review/Fall 1997.
[] T. S. Subramanian, “Setting standards,” Frontline, 21/8 (April 10, 2004)

 

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AERB’s sloppy sarkari reply on Koodankulam

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
April 19, 2013
[email protected]

Untrustworthy AERB and Its Sloppy Sarkari Reply for the Koodankulam Fiasco

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has finally woken up, it
seems. They have just acknowledged with great awkwardness: “…during
testing of thousands of valves installed in the plant, the
performances of four valves of a particular type were found deficient.
As corrective measures, the valve components are being replaced by
NPCIL and their performance is further being subjected to regulatory
review. Subsequent clearances will be granted by AERB only after a
satisfactory review.”

So, according to the AERB, it is a simple problem of just four valves
malfunctioning in the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). What
an irresponsible and disingenuous explanation to a very complex and
dangerous problem that is deeply mired in corruption, theft,
wastefulness, shoddiness and sheer inefficiency.

No one in India can have any kind of trust and confidence in the AERB
anymore. We would bring the attention of the Indian citizens to the
Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report No. 9/2012-13 on the
“Activities of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board” published in August
2012. It pointed out so many flaws and problems in the regulatory
mechanism of the atomic energy establishment in India.

This discredited agency’s sloppy sarkari reply begs many more
important questions:

[1] Were the first and the second “hydro tests” at KKNPP complete
failures then? Why doesn’t the AERB say anything about these tests?

[2] How did the AERB give clearance to the “initial fuel loading”
(IFL) with all these four valves malfunctioning?

[3] The PMANE posed the following question to AERB on January 28, 2013:
“Zio-Podolsk, owned by the Russian company Rosatom, is under
investigation in Russia for shoddy equipment it produced for several
nuclear plants in that country and abroad since 2007. It is suspected
that Zio-Podolsk used wrong type of steel (cheaper than the one
originally required) to produce equipment for nuclear plants, such as
steam generators. This company is said to have supplied several
equipment and parts to the KKNPP. Please give a list of those
equipment and parts that have been supplied by Zio-Podolsk to the
KKNPP units.”

The AERB replied on February 12, 2013 (No. AERB/RSD/RTI/Appl. No.
329/2013/2421) very evasively: “Selection of a company for supplying
any equipment to NPCIL, is not under the purview of AERB. However,
with respect to Quality Assurance (QA) during design, construction,
commissioning and operation, a set of well established AERB documents
on QA Codes and Guides are published and they were followed during the
safety review of KKNPP.”

If the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides … were
followed during the safety review of KKNPP,” how did the AERB team
fail to find out about these four valves earlier? Which AERB officials
are responsible for this valve malfunctioning oversight? Why did the
AERB have to wait until the former AERB chief, Dr. Gopalakrishnan,
spoke about the Koodankaulam project?

[4] Mr. R. S. Sundar, the site director of the KKNPP, has claimed that
“the NPCIL had placed orders for obtaining a range of components for
KKNPP from LG Electronics, South Korea, Alstom and VA Tech, France and
Siemens, Germany, apart from getting components from Russia” (P.
Sudhakar, “Kudankulam plant Director denies allegation,” The Hindu,
April 4, 2013). Although he lists all these foreign companies and
their host countries, Mr. Sundar carefully avoids the names of
Zio-Podolsk and Informteck from Russia. Does the AERB consider the
KKNPP as a Russian project or an international collaboration project?
Does the AERB have the complete list of all these various parts and
equipment? How were the “well established AERB documents on QA Codes
and Guides” followed during the safety review of all these various
parts and equipment from all different sources?

[5] Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, the former chief of the Atomic Energy
Commission, has publicly acknowledged now: “We sought an additional
safety mechanism well before the Fukushima disaster. The safety
mechanism consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be
altered and I feel this is the basic cause for delay.” According to
him, the valves were designed partially in India and Russia and
compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups
(http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1517314.ece).
Did the AERB authorize the alteration of the “original reactor
design”? If so, when did the AERB authorize it? What authorization
procedure was followed? And who in the AERB authorized the later
“refit” in the reactor? What was this “refit” all about?

[6] Izhorskiye Zavody, which is part of United Machinery Plants (OMZ)
holding, signed a contract with India for the construction of two
nuclear reactor bodies for Kudankulam’s station in 2002. They shipped
a new nuclear reactor body that would be the first power unit of
India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant to the city’s sea port. Yevgeny
Sergeyev, general director of Izhorskiye Zavody, said at a ceremony
sending off the reactor: “We were so sure of our partners that we
started to produce the first reactor bodies four months before the
official contract was signed.” Sergeyev said the reactor was completed
six months before deadline (The St Petersburg Times, 19 November 2004,
http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=2135). How were the
“well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides” followed
during the safety review of the reactor bodies? Is that why we found
belt-line welds much later in the RPVs in sharp contrast to the
original
design?

The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear
Supervision, Rostekhnadzor, claimed in 2009: “The main causes of
violations in the NPP construction works are insufficient
qualifications, and the personnel’s meagre knowledge of federal norms
and rules, design documentation, and of the technological processes of
equipment manufacturing. In particular, the top management of
Izhorskiye Zavody [supplier of RPV] have been advised of the low
quality of the enterprise’s products and have been warned that
sanctions might be enforced, up to suspending the enterprise’s
equipment production licence”
(http://www.gosnadzor.ru/osnovnaya_deyatelnost_slujby/otcheti-o-deyatelnosti-sluzhbi-godovie/).

As Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan has pointed out in response to the AERB’s
sloppy sarkari reply, “the AERB comes up with a very minimal and
partial admission. Their clarification has left out many other flaws,
including potential corrupt practices, lack of adequate quality
assurance, and total & unnecessary secrecy in safety regulation of
civilian nuclear plants.”

To sum up tersely, the AERB has no integrity or credibility and should
call off the Koodankulam project completely instead of explaining away
the dangerous issues involved in the project and making us all guinea
pigs to test the Indian nuclear establishment’s corruption,
inefficiency and black market procurement practices.

The Struggle Committee
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

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Koodankulam Must Be Stopped: Dr. A Gopalakrishnan #nuclear

DiaNuke

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan, the former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, has raised some urgent issues in his article in the New Indian Express today that the government must address before commissioning Koodankulam.

Please click on the picture to read the article in the E-paperPlease click on the picture to read the article in the E-paper

The first of the two 1000 MWe VVER nuclear reactors at Koodankulam Project (KKNP-1), under commissioning and testing , is supplied by the Russian atomic energy corporation, Rosatom ,through its subsidiary, Atomstroyexport. On the Indian side , the KKNP project is owned by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) , a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) . The overall safety regulation responsibility is with the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) .

Crucial materials and reactor parts have been exported to KKNP-1 & 2 by a Russian government-owned company called Machine-Building Plant ZiO-Podolsk (ZiO) , which is another Rosatom subsidiary. ZiO-Podolsk supplies have been sent for years to all the Russian nuclear power plants, and to most of the VVER plants exported to countries like India, Iran, China and Bulgaria. These include important safety subsystems , equipment , components and materials supplied over the years to KKNP-1 & 2 .

KKNP-1 was originally scheduled to start operation in early 2010 , but presently even the final start-up testing is not completed . In January 2013 , the Secretary, DAE, stated that he was totally certain that the reactor would be started that month itself, but it did not happen.

From NPCIL’s continuing inability to start-up KKNP-1 till now , it is very obvious that the Indo-Russian commissioning team at Koodankulam is facing some serious problems which they never anticipated.

The congenital lack of transparency from which the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the nuclear sector organisations are suffering always prevents the public from knowing the real story. The DAE Secretary’s reasons for the delay in KKNP-1 start-up is that “ the engineers have opened up a few of the valves and such components for maintenance and it’s taking some time.” M.R Srinivasan, Member (AEC), is reported to have said, “We sought an additional safety mechanism , which consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be altered and I believe this is the basic cause for delay . The valves were designed partially in India and Russia and compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups.”

The fact that a high-cost , high-risk nuclear reactor is facing defects and deficiencies in its components and equipment even before it is started up is highly unusual, and this indicates gross failures at several levels in the DAE-AERB-NPCIL-Atomstroyexport combine.

If designs have been checked and followed , procurement of materials and fabrication have been done as per technical specifications, testing and quality control at the manufacturer’s shops were comprehensive, and NPCIL’s Quality Assurance (QA) before acceptance of supplies at site were strictly as per nuclear norms, these problems could not have arisen at the commissioning stage.

If news trickling out of KKNP-1 site is to be trusted, the Russian special check valves in the passive long-term core flooding system (hydroaccumulator system- stage 2) are defective as received and, at this late hour an order to manufacture one or more such valves has been placed on a reputed Hyderabad company. One or more of the new Russian valves show cracks even at the finish of initial commissioning tests. Similarly, the passive heat removal system (PHRS) is not functioning as per specifications, because the damper — air heat exchanger — vane system has not been integrally tested at the Russian manufaturer’s works as required and problems were not sorted out there itself . There are other problems to list, but the above are typical of the flaws holding up the reactor commissioning. Almost all these malfunctioning components and sub-systems have been produced by ZiO-Podolsk, and all of them are crucial to the safety of the plant, under beyond-design-basis accidents.

The Bellona Foundation, an international environmental NGO based in Norway
(), stated (http://www.anti-atom.ru/en/node/3468 ) in February 2012 that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had arrested Sergei Shutov, the procurement director of ZiO-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. The FSB has charged Shutov with buying low-quality raw materials on the cheap over the years, passing them off as high-quality materials, and pocketing the difference.

It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by this alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran and China are among those suspected to have received sub-standard equipment and components, given the timeframe of work completed.

Bulgaria has already asked Atomstroyexport and ZiO-Podolsk to provide details of materials used in their reactors, including quality certificates. Similarly , China’s Tianwan plant has two VVER-1000 reactors, and the Chinese have raised several hundred queries regarding the low quality of materials and components.

Investigative Journalists, an NGO based in the Armenian capital, has said that the use of substandard materials could lead to a nuclear disaster. “Stopping and conducting full scale checks of reactors where equipment from ZiO-Podolsk has been installed is absolutely necessary,” Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Russian environmental NGO Ecodefence, said recently.“Otherwise the risk of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant, whose clean-up bill, stretching into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars, will have to be footed by taxpayers.”

The problems with ZiO-Podolsk supplies to the KKNP-1 Project, seen in the context of the widespread allegations of corruption and poor quality, indicate that the root cause of KKNP-1 problems lies in those sub-standard supplies. Recent questions raised under RTI to the AERB and NPCIL resulted only in evasive and pointless replies. Asked about parts supplied by ZiO, AERB says “the selection of a company for supplying any equipment to NPCIL is not under the purview of AERB.” For the same query, NPCIL says, “No information regarding any investigation against ZiO-Podolsk is available to NPCIL”. Both these DAE organisations were lying in these replies, as is evident from the following facts.

The website of the Russian Embassy in India carries the news of a senior Indian delegation headed by AP Joshi, Special Secretary, DAE having visited ZiO-Podolsk from July 15-18, 2012, just about five months after the arrest of Sergei Shutov, Zio-Podolsk’s Procurement Director, for fraud and corruption in sending out inferior products to national and foreign reactor projects , including KKNP-1 & 2.

The Indian Embassy in Moscow and the NPCIL / DAE personnel stationed there must have certainly known about Shutov’s arrest , and the inherent serious implications of his actions on the safety of KKNP-1 & 2. They would have briefed the DAE Secretary about it immediately and through him the PMO would also have been alerted . And yet , both AERB and NPCIL pretend to take the ZiO-Podolsk matter very lightly and feign ignorance .

One can only surmise that the PMO & the DAE quickly realied the gravity of the potentially explosive situation that could develop vis-a-vis Koodankulam reactor safety, following Shutov’s arrest, because by then several crucial equipment, components and materials with alleged poor quality and deficiencies have been already installed in various parts of both units at KKNP and Unit-1 was on its way to commissioning. The PMO & DAE seem to have decided to weather the storm through the joint execution of an Indo-Russian cover-up plan, and hold a firm position that all is well with KKNP supplies.

After a fire-fighting strategy was framed in India , it would appear that the PMO despatched the Special Secretary, DAE, and his team to visit ZiO-Podolsk and spent three days to firm up the modus operandi of tackling the rather tricky situation which could develop in India once the protesters and the courts of law come to know of the scam details. After all , the PMO’s top priority is to meet the PM’s promise to President Putin that KKNP-1 will be started up in April 2013, and public safety and corruption come only after that .

There could be a large number of equipment, components and materials of substandard quality from ZiO-Podolsk already installed in various parts of KKNP-1& 2 whose deficiencies and defects are dormant today, but these very same shortcomings may cause such parts to catastrophically fail when the reactor is operated for some time .

Many such parts and materials may have been installed within the reactor pressure vessel itself, which is now closed and sealed in preparation for the start-up. Once the reactor is made critical and reaches power operation, much of these components and materials inside will become radioactive and/or will be in environments where they cannot be properly tested for quality or performance.

Under the circumstances , KKNP Unit-1 commissioning and KKNP-2 construction work must be stopped forthwith, and there can be no question of resuming these works towards start-up of both these reactors until a thorough and impartial investigation is carried out into the impact of this corruption scandal and sub-standard supplies on the safety of these reactors.

And these investigations must be carried out by a team, where majority membership must not be from DAE , NPCIL and AERB, but include subject experts from other organisations in the country.

India must also seriously consider inviting an IAEA expert team specially constituted to investigate the specific issues which this scandal has thrown up.

 

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