India's nuclear reactors are safe, says scientist

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 12, 2011 14:15 hrs

Bangalore: Japan's killer earthquake that caused a nuclear reactor to shut down and a radiation scare are unlikely to negatively impact India's ambitious nuclear power programme, says a nuclear scientist and former official of the atomic energy regulatory board (AERB).

'I honestly am not worried about the Japanese incident casting a 'scientific' shadow in India,' K S Parthasarathi, who was until recently the secretary of AERB, said. 'I know the country will stand it.'


Explosion at Japan nuclear plant

Parthasarathi said that AERB will 'definitely take a relook' at the design features of the operating reactors in the light of what happened to the Fukushima plant of Japan after Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake but there is no reason to think that Indian reactors will face a similar situation.

'Our reactors may not be ready for 8.9 magnitude quake but what is the probability of this happening in India?' he asked.

'This magnitude earthquake may happen only in the Himalayan region and that is one of the reasons we are not going to build any reactor there.

'Our existing reactors withstood without problem all major tremors like the 7.7 magnitude quake that rocked Bhuj in Gujarat in 2001,' he said.

There are some 60 sensors in a reactor, any of which can shut down the reactor automatically if it sensed something wrong. In the case of the Bhuj earthquake, the reactors did not even shut down.

When a hydrogen explosion at the Narora reactor stopped the coolant flow to the reactor core, no radiation leak took place as the passive cooling system took over, he said.

Because of its geographic location, Japan is vulnerable to high intensity earthquake, Parthasarathi said.

'The Indian condition is different. Even then we study three-year micro-seismic data and look at the historical data of a site before locating an atomic reactor there.'

The country is divided into five zones from the point of earthquake vulnerability, and 'we will not allow any reactor to be built in any part of the country that lies above zone 4,' he said.

'There is a terrible propaganda going on to stop construction of nuclear plants at Jaitapur in Maharashtra by saying it lies in zone 4,' Parthasarathi said.

'It is actully in zone 3,' he said, adding the country has to take a decision based on scientific facts and not misinformation.

(Killugudi Jayaraman can be contacted at killugudi@hotmail.com)



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