Chennai: Ruling out any possibility of volcanic eruptions in the vicinity of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) site in Tamil Nadu as well as dangers of a tsunami, a central government appointed experts panel has declared that such fears are unfounded.

In its 77-page report given to the representatives of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and members of the Tamil Nadu government panel on Thursday, the central committee said the safety of the KNPP has been thoroughly evaluated against external events of natural origin, like earthquakes and possible flooding of the site from cyclonic storms and tsunamis.

“The possibility of volcanic eruptions in the vicinity of the site has also been examined and no active volcanism has been identified. The magnitude of any possible tsunami that can be generated from submarine landslides in the Gulf of Mannar has been found to be much smaller than tsunamis that may get generated from the submarine active seismic faults, which has already been taken into consideration,” the central panel has said.

However, a report prepared by a panel of experts, formed by the PMANE, had said there is a need for studies on the volcanic hazard, karst or collapsible soil hazard and tsunami hazard on the KNPP site before reactors are commissioned.

According to the PMANE panel report, the areas around KNPP have experienced small volcanic eruptions in 1998, 1999, 2001 and in 2005 and the nearest eruption occurred at just 26 km away from the project site.

“One cannot rule out such eruptions at the site itself. Issues of subduction, fire and impact of high speed missiles emanating from the burst need to be addressed,” the report warned.

The central panel in its conclusion observed that the KNPP 'is designed and engineered to the state of the art of nuclear reactors in line with the current international safety requirements and principles' after taking into account seismic, tsunami, tropical storms at the design stage.

“The radiological releases during the plant operation are expected to be well below prescribed limits. This fact is borne out by the experience from operating nuclear power plants in India and abroad. Based on the national and international studies and experience, such radiological releases have no adverse effects on public health, environment and plant personnel,” the central panel report added.

The central panel stated that the KNPP has five layers of protection against release of radioactivity due to an unforeseen event.

Responding to the charge of poor construction quality, the central panel report states: “The reactor building containment has withstood a structural integrity and leak rate test at the test pressure, which is much higher than the design pressure. The hydrotests, non-destructive tests (radiography, ultrasonic test) etc. were carried out and records are maintained.”

On the availability of water, the report states that the water inventory is sufficient to cool the reactor plant for 10 days in case of power grid failure.

“The desalination plants have been designed for sufficient capacity and have been erected and commissioned. Hence, the question of water utilisation from other sources such as Pechiparai dam and Tamirabharani river does not arise,” the report states.

India's nuclear power plant operator, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW atomic power reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

Villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit slated for this month and increasing the project cost from the budgeted Rs 13,171 crore.

The central and state governments have formed two panels on the issue. The state panel has representatives of the PMANE that spearheads the protest against the project.

As per plans, the multi-disciplinary central panel would meet the state panel and explain the safety features and other aspects of the KNPP. The state panel will, in turn, allay the fears of the people.

(Agencies)