The AERB had informed the court that it would take all aspects such as population into consideration before issuing any excavation orders.   | Photo Credit:A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN;A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN – A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN

Says the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has violated its own norms on ‘plant siting’

: Poovulagin Nanbargal, a non-governmental organisation, has written to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), for violating its own guidelines with regard to setting up nuclear power plants and for giving ‘siting consent’ for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) units 3 and 4, in a highly populated area.

In a letter to AERB Chairman, Poovulagin Nanbargal’s G. Sundarrajan said there were three villages – Kudankulam, Vijayapathi and Erukkandurai – within a distance of 5 km from the KKNPP units 3-6 (sterilised zone). The villages had a population of 23,060 as per 2001 census, the letter said.

As per AERB guidelines, the population should not exceed 20,000 in the sterilised zone, Mr. Sundarrajan said. “As per 2011 census, the population of these villages is 28,397. Since the sterilised zone is having more population than what is provided under the criteria, the AERB ought not to have granted ‘siting consent’ to the site in question vide its order dated February 9, 2011.”

Mr. Sundarrajan told The Hindu that the Madras High Court had dismissed its petition against the plants in 2014 after the AERB informed the court that it would take all these details into consideration before issuing any excavation orders.

“But, we came to know that excavation orders had been issued for units 3 and 4, after the BRICS summit in Goa where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the second phase of KKNPP,” he said. Poovulagin Nanbargal then filed an RTI application and received the site excavation orders.

“The site excavation order is valid till January 31, 2017. We have asked for the order to be not renewed beyond this,” Mr. Sundarrajan said.

According to Mr. Sundarrajan, the basic goal of a nuclear power plant siting is to locate the reactor in a relatively low population zone. The guidelines stipulated that the area up to 1.6 km around the plant shall be physically isolated from external areas by plant fencing, and no public habitation shall be permitted in the area, he said.

The area is known as ‘Exclusion Zone’, 5 km around which only natural growth shall be permitted. The guidelines also specify that there should not be any habitation with more than 10,000 people within 10 km of the plant and not more than one lakh persons within 30 km from the plant.

Last month, the National Green Tribunal’s Southern Bench dismissed a petition filed by Poovulagin Nanbargal that sought the cancellation of the Coastal Regulation Zone nod granted to KKNPP units 3-6.

The NGO plans to appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.