New Delhi: Batting for nuclear power to ensure energy independence of the country, former President A P J Abdul Kalam on Thursday said the Kudankulam atomic plant has been constructed with "highest safety standards" and discounted fears of any danger in the event of a disaster.

Kalam, who visited the stir-hit Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu earlier this month and expressed satisfaction over its safety aspects, said nuclear power is one of the "cleanest resource" in achieving independence from fossil fuels.

A nuclear and missile scientist himself, the former President said he went to Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district to understand the plant's safety features and how authorities are addressing the concerns of the locals in the aftermath of Fukushima nuclear mishap.

"It is established that this plant is equipped with the latest technologies when it comes to safety...the structure of the plant has been made with highest safety standards," he said, addressing a seminar 'Disaster Risk Reduction: Another Important Route to Poverty Alleviation' here.

His comments come as protests continue unabated in Kudankulam area against the nuclear power project.

Kalam also dismissed the fear of a danger to the plant in the event of a tsunami, saying the wave height would not exceed 5.44 metres, whereas the reactor is located at 8.7 metres height, turbine plant at 8.1 metres, diesel generators at 9.3 metres height and switch yard at a height of 13 metres.

Dwelling into the safety aspects, he said all four important aspects -- structural integrity safety, thermal hydraulic safety, radiation safety and neutronic safety --- have been designed with "highest safety standards."

He said, "Electricity is the most important component in development of the society through small and big industry, agriculture and above all improving the quality of life of every citizen at home and workplace."

Kalam said as of today 29 countries are operating 539 nuclear power plants, with a total capacity of about 3, 75,000 MW(e) and that the industry now has more than 14000 reactor-years of experience.

"The nuclear power reactor technology is graduating towards most robust safety and security system capability which virtually minimises the risk factor in building and operating a nuclear reactor," he said.

Kalam emphasised that there is a need to mainstream Disaster Risk Management in all areas of development and cooperation and said this can be achieved only by integrating the development plan of a particular region with the disaster risk reduction plan of the same region.

He said planning in advance, designing the systems to withstand the higher level of risk through robust design methodologies and implementing it in right time to reduce the vulnerabilities of the risk to a maximum extent are the basic foundations for risk reduction.

He also suggested a combined disaster management and development plan for a state like Bihar which can be implemented as a part of the 12th five year plan of the nation.

"Connecting rivers and water bodies as national smart waterways as a grid in each state will definitely mitigate the suffering from flood and redistribute the water to the water deficit areas and hence reduce the problem during droughts," he said.

To drive home his point that systems can prevent disaster, Kalam said when a missile which the ISRO was launching from Sriharikota "misbehaved", its direction was towards Chennai.

"What will happen? There is a destruction command. We used the command, turned the direction and made it crash into the sea," Kalam said.

Kalam also suggested that development planners study unique characteristics of the habitat constructed by tribals, which was unaffected by the 2004 tsunami.

"I would suggest the development planners study the unique characteristics of the tribal habitat and incorporate them in the design of buildings in tsunami prone areas of our east and west coast. During the tsuanmi, tribal people in Andaman and Nicobar Islands died, but their habitat was strong," he said.

It has been found that rectangular type of houses in tsunami prone areas are to be avoided. Wherever we have rectangular houses, it will be desirable to have a circular wall as an enclosure to the building, he said.

The buildings in earthquake prone areas should be with steel column stilts and floor which is ventilation friendly, he said.

"These development activities will not only provide dwelling units and regions which are least affected by tsunami but also provide employment to large number of rural citizens living in coastal areas on construction and afforestation activities," Kalam said.

N-liability debate needless: Ex-AEC Chiefs

Mired in controversy, the implementation rules of the nuclear liabilty law have found support from two former Atomic Energy Commission Chairmen who feel that the debate on them is "needless" and that they are the best available in the current circumstances.
   
Former AEC Chairmen M R Srinivasan and Anil Kakodkar were also of the view that the rules may affect Indian suppliers more than the foreign vendors.
   
"There is a needless debate that the liability regime in India is largely driven by American agenda. Right now, the problem is actually getting our own industry people to participate in the nuclear programme," Srinivasan said here on Thursday.
   
The liability regime has to be "workable" otherwise the domestic suppliers would find it difficult to participate in the nuclear programme, he said.
   
Kakodkar, a key player in the signing of the India-US civil nuclear agreement, said that he had earlier expressed displeasure over the nuclear liability law contending that the domestic nuclear industry will be hit hard in the long run.
   
He, however, said the nuclear liability measures have been debated enough and it was time the country moved on with them.
   
"This has been debated enough and we must call an end to it," he said on Wednesday when asked whether he was satisfied with the provisions of the rules.
   
"In these circumstances this is the best way," Kakodkar said of the rules which give operators the right to seek compensation from suppliers for a limited period of five years and not for the entire lifetime of a reactor.

Srinivasan said the government has to enusre that the liability conditions were such that would enable the suppliers to make reasonable offers for equipment.
   
"If the supplier has to cover interminable risk for a period of 50-60 years, clearly it will be a difficult proposition," he said.
   
Srinivasan said it was "clearly impractical" to claim 100 million dollars in damages from a company supplying a million dollar of components.
   
"We have to provide for a regime that defines either a product liability period or a initial licence period. It should limit the supplier liability either to the value of the component or the amount of compensation paid out at a given time, whichever is lower," he said.
   
Kakodkar maintained that safety issues have to be addressed at every stage of building of a nuclear plant.    

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has to grant its clearance to every aspect of the design of the nuclear plant before the construction moves on to the next stage, he said.
   
A benefit of the rules is that the suppliers will also ensure quality of the components they provide for nuclear power plants, he said.
   
The CPI(M) has demanded revision of the implementation rules of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act and have announced moving amendments in that regard in Parliament.
   
Assocham has said India will have the toughest liability regime and has hoped that national and international suppliers agree as rules have to imbibe the spirit of the Act.

(Agencies)