Another reason for locals to protest the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant

Reported by

Hariprasad Radhakrishnan

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Radhika Chatterjee

Updated by

Published on

May 30, 2022

May 30, 2022

Updated on

May 30, 2022

Location of Conflict

Kudankulam

Tirunelveli

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Nuclear Power Plant

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

2996

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

1053

ha

Starting Year

1990

State

Tamil Nadu

Sector

Power

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) again became a site of protest with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) floating tenders to set up an away-from-reactor (AFR) facility for units 3 and 4 of the KNPP. This proposal three years after a similar plan for the construction of a AFR facility for the first two units was postponed indefinitely following widespread opposition.

India's largest nuclear power plant so far, and a symbol of Indo-Russian cooperation, the KNPP is not new to protests. Since the time it was proposed in 1979, the plant has been opposed by local residents and fishing communities who have been concerned about the loss of livelihood due to environmental degradation from radioactive effluents that may come out of the plant. The construction of the plant began in 2001, and it became operational in 2013. Between this period a strong people's movement arose in Tirunelveli district to resist the setting up of this plant. In 2011, following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in which close to 15,000 people were killed, women residents of Idinthakarai village of Tirunelveli district led to huge protests against the KNPP. The then Tamil Nadu government came down heavily on the protestors and filed sedition charges against almost all residents of Idinthakarai, i.e. around 9,000 individuals.

In March 2022, the Kudankulam village panchayat passed a resolution against the construction of the AFR facility. Locals fear that the spent nuclear fuel stored in the AFR will pose a serious environmental hazard to the area. Further, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to the Prime Minister requesting the government to transport the spent nuclear fuel to Russia or set up a deep geological repository (DGR) in an uninhabited and ecologically non sensitive area to store the waste. It may be noted that the Supreme Court had given NPCIL until April 30, 2022 to construct a DGR. However, there has been no progress on this front so far.

LCW spoke with environmental activist G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an NGO which moved the Supreme Court against the KNPP previously. He said that he would approach the court again for the DGR.
As of May 2022, the KNPP remains India's largest nuclear plant with 2 units functional, and another 4 units under construction.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to cancel the project

Complaint against procedural violations

Opposition against environmental degradation

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Total investment involved (in Crores):

39849

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of Radioactive Wastes) Rules, 1987
Section 3(e) [General powers of Central Government to include providing for control over radioactive substances], Section 17 [Central Government to make rules providing for safety surrounding usage of radioactive substances], Section 22 [Central Government to have authority to develop national policy regarding atomic power and fix rates and regulate supply of electricity from atomic power stations] Section 27 [Central Government to direct any duty of enforcing the Act to any authority, i.e., Atomic Energy Regulatory Board].
Electricity Act, 2003
Section 3 [Central Government to have power to take all necessary measures to protect the environment], Section 7 [No industry to discharge more environmental pollutants than prescribed standards], Section 23 [Central Government may delegate powers and functions under this Act to any authority]
Environment Protection Rules, 1986
Section 21 [No person to establish any industrial plant in an air pollution control area without previous consent of State Board] 
Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
Section 21 [No person to establish any industrial plant in an air pollution control area without previous consent of State Board] 
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
Section 25 [Prior to establishing any industry or operation which is likely to discharge sewage, it is necessary to obtain consent to establish from the Pollution Control Board]
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

No

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Supreme Court

Case Number

Civil Appeal No. 4440 of 2013, Miscellaneous Application no. 1104 of 2017, and Misc. App. no. 702 of 2022

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

In 2013, the Supreme Court had allowed for setting up the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, subject to 15 directions that they had issued. The Court had also stated that a Deep Geological Repository had to be set up at the earliest. The Court also directed that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had to periodically review the design-safety aspects of the Away-From-Reactor Storage (AFR) facility. In July 2018, an application had been filed by NPCIL seeking extension of time to comply with the directions issued in 2013. The Court on July 2, 2018, granted extension of time till April 2022 for the construction of the AFR. In April 2022, NPCIL filed another application seeking extension of time. The Court has allowed extension of time until the application is disposed of. The matter for this application is presently still ongoing.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Arrest/detention/imprisonment

Surveillance

Judicial harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Yes

Reported Details of the Violation:

In 2012, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was met with widespread protests. The State government, led by the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, cracked down on the protests against the plant by filing criminal complaints against several individuals.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Kudankulam, Tirunelveli district

Nature of Protest

Blockades

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Development of a network or collective

Hunger strike

Referendum and other local consultations

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Department of Atomic Energy, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Atomic Energy Commission, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Public Relations Officer, DAE, and Chairman and Managing Director, NPCIL

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, Poovulagin Nanbargal

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
A view of units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant

A view of units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant

Image Credit:  

Reetesh Chaurasia, Wikimedia Commons

A view of units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant

Image Credit:  

Hindustan Construction Company Ltd

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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