Sea level rise may affect atomic plants in Tamil Nadu

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 24, 2010 07:40 hrs

Bangalore, Nov 24 (IANS) The Kalpakkam atomic power station near Chennai in Tamil Nadu may have escaped the fury of the deadly tsunami six years ago, but it need not be second time lucky.

A new study says the Madras Atomic Power Station - as it is formally called - and another station under construction in Kudankulam are at risk of being affected by the anticipated one-metre sea level rise (SLR) as early as 2050 due to climate change.

'A one-metre rise in average sea level will permanently inundate about 1,091 sq km along the Tamil Nadu coast, but the total area at risk will be nearly six times as much,' says the study released in Chennai.

'These nuclear power stations and their associated infrastructure are located just beyond the zone estimated to be directly at risk from storm surges from a 1-metre SLR,' says Sujatha Byravan, senior researcher at the Centre for Development Finance (CDF) in Chennai and principal author of the study.

The Madras Atomic Power Station 1&2 reactors are at elevations of 5-10 metres above current mean sea level, while the Kudankulam nuclear power plant is even higher.

'Nevertheless, both are very close to the shoreline and are of concern because of the risk associated with coastal erosion,' the study says.

The report was co-authored with Rajesh Rangarajan of CDF and Sudhir Chella Rajan, humanities and social sciences professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

The authors admit that the exact rise in sea level resulting from climate change is highly debatable and that their estimate of one-metre SLR by 2050 is 'conservative'.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects a maximum SLR of 59 centimetres by 2100 while the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research suggests a rise in mean sea level of up to 1.4 metres by 2100 and other scientists anticipate SLR of one to several metres, Byravan says.

The study warns that unless advanced planning is made to deal with the impacts of climate change, 'the country is in danger of finding itself in extremely dire circumstances'.

The authors note that major, existing and proposed, economic and infrastructure developments, including ports, power plants, highways and even airports, are being planned very close to the shoreline along India's coast.

The study concentrates on the impact of SLR in India's southern-most state of Tamil Nadu that has a coastline of about 1,076 km - about 15 percent of India's total.

The authors estimate the total replacement value of infrastructure (ports, power plants and major roads) in the state to be Rs.474 billion-Rs.535 billion.

The largest impact will be on the land at risk with an estimated market value of Rs.3,176 billion-Rs.61,154 billion - much higher than the state's annual GDP of Rs.2,500 billion ($54 billion), the study says.

The authors say they used Geographic Information Systems and information available in the public domain to calculate the financial implications of SLR.

They point out that their study provides an 'early warning' of the implications of indiscriminate development close to the shoreline.

Although Tamil Nadu was chosen for the case study, 'its findings will provide the basis for conducting more detailed studies covering larger portions of the Indian peninsula,' the authors say.

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