ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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National Interest Trumps Human Safety

National Interest Trumps Human Safety

The Supreme Court's decision on Koodankulam fails to address concerns about nuclear energy.

The decision by the Supreme Court (SC) to allow commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power plants might have been expected but is still disappointing. The disappointment comes not from the decision in and of itself, but in the logic that has been used to justify it. Nevertheless, it is worth noting some good points in the judgment. While the Court’s decision has been widely seen as a blanket endorsement of the project, the Court laid down 15 directions as conditions to be fulfilled as part of operating the plant. Specifically, it has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to file a report pertaining to safety and environmental impact before commissioning the reactor. The Court also called for the withdrawal of all criminal cases filed against those protesting the plant, albeit in a guarded fashion. The Court directed NPCIL, AERB and the government to take steps “at the earliest” to comply with all the 17 recommendations made by the AERB following the Fukushima accidents.

However, even in the case of good points made by the Court, it has not been forceful in insisting on these. For example, it points out that to deal with radioactive nuclear waste, “NPCIL does not seem to have a long term plan, other than, stating and hoping that in the near future, it would establish a DGR (Deep Geologic Repository)”. Its directive that “DGR has to be set up at the earliest” does not specify a date nor make it a necessary condition before NPCIL embarks on new nuclear reactor construction.

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