The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plants (KKNPP) are perhaps the World’s Most Expensive Pieces of Useless Machinery. Built at a cost of Rs. 17,020 crore, KKNPP Unit 1 was synchronised with the grid on 22 October, 2013 — 11 years after construction began. The per unit cost of generated electricity was pegged at a steep Rs. 4.29. Solar power costs only Rs. 2.62 per unit. But the plant has lain idle for more time than it has operated. In the four years and 2 months (50 months) since commencement of commercial electricity production, Unit 1 has generated 16,000 Million Units. Assuming a liberal maintenance down time of 20 days per year of operation, the base load plant ought to have run non-stop at capacity (1000 MW) for at least 47 months (1410 days) or 33840 hours to produce 33,840 x 1000 MW of electricity. If KKNPP Unit 1 had been a well-designed nuclear power plant, it would have had no trouble generating 33.84 million MWh of electricity between 2013 and 2017. But it has generated only 16 million MWh, or 47 percent of its rated capacity.
Rather than order an inquiry into the Congress-led UPA Government’s hasty and substandard construction of such a large and potentially risky nuclear power plant, the BJP-led NDA government has signed agreements with Russia for four more plants that will not work and may blow up. The Congress and BJP will fight and abuse each other about a lot of things. But when it comes to duping the nation, or berating those who question their murky dealings, the BJP and Congress, the ADMK and DMK are united.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy had — as early as in February 2012 — highlighted how the two plants were made with substandard equipment, about how the cabling carrying highly critical information as electrical signals had been mislaid, how the concrete and steel containment dome had been breached when cabling had to be relaid as an afterthought. China, which too suspected that plants built by Rosatom had substandard parts, had insisted on a full quality check on its plant. Instead of carrying out due diligence on the plants, the Indian and Tamil Nadu governments were too busy beating up women and children in Idinthakarai and filing false cases of sedition against villagers and well-intentioned citizens who were highlighting irregularities and the risks associated with the plant. Meanwhile, several short-sighted and self-centred industrialists and entrepreneurs in Coimbatore and other industrial centres uncritically bought into the state’s false promise of power, and joined the chorus of voices that branded the anti-nuclear protestors as anti-national, foreign-funded.
The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plants will never be a significant contributor to Tamil Nadu’s electricity needs. We said this in 2012. We are saying it now. They are an environmental and health hazard. There are better ways to meet our electricity and energy needs.
We do not need four more nuclear plants in Koodankulam. The need of the hour is to shut down the existing two risky units — which are net consumers of energy, money and resources. The need of the hour is to prosecute the ministers, technocrats and bureaucrats who led the nation up the garden path and wasted more than Rs. 35,000 crores of our money.
When the fisherfolk of Idinthakarai and the people of Koodankulam fought against the power plant, it was not merely a fight to save their region. The fight was on behalf of the nation, against corruption, against high-handedness, against substandard construction, against expensive electricity and waste of scarce public funds. Most of us in Tamil Nadu and the rest of India stood by and watched the state brutalise and humiliate them.
Now that four more units are proposed in the same place where two units stand as monumental testimonies of the corruption and rot that India and Russia stand for, let’s not leave it to the people of Idinthakarai to do the heavy lifting. This madness has to stop. And the job of stopping this madness cannot be outsourced.