SC to examine safety steps for nuclear plants

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 21, 2012 15:20 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday said it will examine what steps the central government had taken for setting up an independent atomic energy regulatory body in pursuance to its being a signatory to the International Convention on Nuclear Safety.

The apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra said this as counsel Prashant Bhushan told the court that the International Convention on Nuclear Safety, which India has ratified, mandates that all the signatories to the convention would set up an independent atomic energy regulatory body.

Bhushan told the court that the International Convention on Nuclear Safety mandates that "each contracting party shall take appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organisation concerned with the promotion or utilization of nuclear energy".

In India, Bhushan said the "nuclear regulator has been subordinate to and under control of those whose stated purpose is the promotion of the use of nuclear energy".

"We can't ask them to legislate but we can ask them to implement the international convention and set up independent regulator", Justice Radhakishnan said.

The court said this in the course of the hearing of a petition by an IT professional G. Sunderrajan seeking to restrain the government from going ahead with the operationalising the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) unless it implemented 17 additional security measures as suggested by the task force that was set up in the wake of Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

Bhushan appeared for Sunderrajan.

As the Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman sought to persuade the court that every step was being taken to implement the 17 safety measures.

The court asked him to put on a paper that the steps government had already taken to implement the 17 safety measures as an abundant caution at KKNPP.

"What steps you have taken to implement the 17 safety measures," the court asked Nariman as he told the court that 17 steps were "precaution over precaution and over precaution". The solicitor general said seven of the 17 steps have already been implanted and 10 are remaining.

At this court inquired about "the time frame in meeting the remaining 10 safety measures."

Responding to court's earlier query, Nariman said that 97 percent of the spent fuel was reprocessed and reused for producing the nuclear power.

On a query by the court as to how many times the spent fuel could be reprocessed and reused, the NPCIL's Executive Director (Fuel Cycle Management & Safeguards) Ashok Chauhan told the court that it could be reused 10 times.

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