Category Archives: India

India, Westinghouse in ‘advanced’ talks to close nuclear deal

Reuters | Washington | Valerie Volcovici | June 1, 2016

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric and India are in “advanced discussions” for the company to build six nuclear reactors there, the country’s ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Washington next week.

A deal with Westinghouse would be the first such contract reached under the 2008 U.S.-India civil nuclear accord.

“There is a very detailed and advanced negotiation between Westinghouse and India,” Ambassador Arun Singh told reporters. “The issues that remain to be worked out are related to cost and financing.”

Progress on the deal to build six AP-1000 nuclear reactors is one of the key developments anticipated during the June 7-8 visit by Modi to Washington, where he will be hosted by President Barack Obama for a final summit before the U.S. presidential election in November. Modi will address both houses of Congress.

The United States and India agreed in 2008 to cooperate in the civil nuclear arena, but there have been no agreements yet to build any plants.

Reuters reported Tuesday that Westinghouse and India reached a breakthrough after officials said it will relocate the planned project in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The original site proposed for the multi-billion-dollar project, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, faced local opposition.

Another obstacle had been to bring India’s liability rules into line with international norms, which require the costs of an accident to be channeled to the operator rather than the maker of a nuclear power station.

That issue had been largely resolved to the satisfaction of the U.S. government in January 2015 after the United States and India reached a “breakthrough understanding” on nuclear cooperation.

Singh told reporters “to the best of my knowledge” insurance was no longer an issue in the discussions.

Westinghouse had hoped to clinch a deal to build six nuclear reactors in India by the end of March, during Modi’s last Washington trip to attend a global nuclear summit.

U.S. lawmakers ratified the civil nuclear accord three years after it was struck in 2005, as part of an attempt to deepen the strategic relationship with India, but have expressed growing dismay over its failure to yield follow-on deals for U.S.-based reactor makers.

(Amends source of background information in paragraph 6.)

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)


Rosatom to raise global presence, open Mumbai office

Russia & India Report | Alessandro Belli | 1 February 2016

Evgeny Griva, DG of Rosatom South Asia, speaks in an interview with RIR about future collaboration between the two countries in the nuclear power sector, in India and abroad.


Evgeny Griva. Source:Press Photo

Rosatom has been actively building its network of regional offices. How many offices does Rosatom now have abroad, what are the network development plans? Do you plan to establish a representative office in India?

Rosatom is now actively expanding its global footprint. The State Corporation is opening regional offices. Rosatom is expanding its branch network to strengthen its global footprint in accordance with its long-term development strategy of increasing the foreign orders portfolio up to US$190 billion. This is the ambitious but achievable goal of Rosatom for the next 5 years.

Rusatom-International Network Company is in charge of developing and managing Rosatom’s regional network. The regional offices aim to promote products and services offered by Rosatom and explore new businesses. Regional centres are usually located in the countries of strategic interest to Rosatom, and are responsible for information collection, situation monitoring and analysis of potential opportunities.

Rosatom regional centres are already operating in South Africa, Eastern, Central and Western Europe, Central and Southeast Asia and Latin America. Work is now underway to establish an office in Dubai in order to promote products and services of Russian nuclear industry enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa. In order to strengthen the presence of Rosatom State Corporation in South Asia, the process of opening a regional office in Mumbai, India, is being finalized, which will also ensure supervision of our projects in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

What is the current status of the Kudankulam nuclear plant construction? When do you intend to launch unit 2, and is there any progress with construction of power units 3 and 4?

The NPP Kudankulam project includes the construction of six power units with VVER-1000 type reactors. The first unit of Kudankulam NPP was commissioned in autumn 2013, according to latest safety requirements. By the beginning of the scheduled preventive maintenance (SPM) the nuclear plant had generated 6873 million units of electricity, and the turbine generator had been in operation for 9267 hours. The installed capacity of the Indian nuclear power plants reached 5780 MW. This is the world’s first nuclear power plant which has implemented, and successfully operated, “post-Fukushima” tightened security measures. The generation tariff for Kudankulam NPP is maintained at the level set by the Indian Government in 2010-2011 without any escalation. This rate is considered to be one of the most competitive in India. The first SPM has now successfully complete, the turbine is running, and the unit is expected to be connected to the grid within a few hours.

The second unit assembly is finished. The hot run stage is complete. The physical launch is scheduled by the Indian party for mid-2016.

On April 10, 2014 a Master Framework Agreement (MFA) was signed, along with the agreed technical and commercial proposal for procurement and services of Kudankulam NPP units 3 and 4. An Additional Agreement was signed during the Russia-India Summit in December 2015, which makes the MFA applicable for the installation of the second phase of the station. The first and most important contract within this MFA has also been signed; the delivery contract of long-lead equipment and priority delivery equipment from Russia. Besides, the top-priority design is practically complete, and the engineering documentation development contract has been signed.

On September 7, 2015 Atomenergomash holding, the power plant division of Rosatom State Corporation, signed the comprehensive delivery contract for reactor equipment for power units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam NPP.

The permit for excavation works and foundation pit preparation has now been obtained from the Indian regulatory body.

During the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia, it was announced that the signing of the MFA for the construction of units 5 and 6 is planned in Q1 2016. What is the status of this project?

The technical and commercial proposal for installation of Kudankulam power units 5 and 6 has already been provided to the Indian party. Atomstroyexport JSC and the Indian Nuclear Energy Corporation are currently involved in detailed discussions of the project, and the Master Framework Agreement with regard to the Indian requirements concerning further enhancement of the project safety and localization.

Based on the talks between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Modi, an agreement was reached on allocation by India of one more site for a Russian- designed nuclear power plant apart from Kudankulam NPP which is already under construction. What is the progress in this area?

Apart from the Kudankulam NPP, Russia and India are considering the possibility of building a number of other nuclear power plants. These are all practical steps to implement the most important document signed on December 11, 2014: “Strategic Vision of Strengthening Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India”.

An agreement has been reached on the allocation by the Indian party of one more site for construction of six new nuclear reactors of Russian design. We hope to get more detailed information about the site from the Indian party soon.

During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Moscow, Rosatom signed a production localization programme in India for Russian-design nuclear plants. What does this envisage?

During the December 24, 2015 visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Moscow, an Action Programme was indeed signed between the State Corporation Rosatom and the Atomic Energy Department of the Government of India on localization of production in India for nuclear power plants of Russian design.

The Action Programme includes areas of cooperation in the field of joint machinery production, especially the production of equipment which can be supplied to nuclear power plants, and cooperation in the field of joint development, mastering and technological support for implementation of end-to-end production technologies of products for heavy and power engineering industries.

The Indian Government strategy of localization of production, including the nuclear industry, is under the “Make in India” initiative, aimed at supporting the Indian manufacturer. We fully support this commitment of the Indian Government and we believe this is a good opportunity for further development of cooperation between both countries in the nuclear industry, as well as for implementation of current and future construction projects of Russian design reactors at the Kudankulam site and in other locations.

Which task forces in the nuclear energy area are currently active within Russian-Indian cooperation and what are they doing? Are there discussions about cooperation between Russia and India in third countries on the agenda?

The Russian-Indian Coordinating Committee on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was established in December 2014 and is committed to monitoring the whole scope of bilateral cooperation.

To perform the tasks, three joint working groups on the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear energy and scientific-technical cooperation were set up within this Committee in 2014. Furthermore, based on the decision signed in December 2015, a fourth working group on the localization of production in India has already been established and is operating successfully.

We are pleased to note that the Russian nuclear power industry is supporting India in the implementation of its national program for the development of the nuclear sector. We reaffirm our commitment to the agreements about the further development of cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

France Peddles Unsafe Nuclear Reactors to India, Drawing Protest

Truthout | Kumar Sundaram | 29 January 2016


On January 26, French President François Hollande was the chief guest for India’s Republic Day ceremony, where India showcases its military hardware in a colonial-era parade in its capital. Meanwhile, in Jaitapur on India’s western coast, farmers and fisherfolk were protesting against Hollande’s visit, arguing that the nuclear reactors that India is importing from France threaten their lives, livelihoods and the local ecology.

The Joint Declaration: Localizing Risk, Siphoning Off Profit

In a joint declaration issued on January 25 in New Delhi, the two governments reaffirmed their commitment to go ahead with a long-pending nuclear deal. As per the declaration, the intense negotiations to finalize the commercial agreement are expected to conclude by the end of this year, and the construction of six European pressurized reactors (EPR) imported from France is to begin by early 2017.

The new twist in the declaration is the “maximum localization” of the project and “technology transfer” for the same. Although the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have proudly included these new terms and added a “Make in India” tag on the Jaitapur project, it actually means that the French industry would be transferring the burden of its most controversial reactor design at a time of its worst crisis.

The safety vulnerabilities of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) – the huge iron core where radioactive fission takes place – came under serious questions, raised by France’s own nuclear safety regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) in April 2015. Later in 2015, Areva, the French reactor builder, had to ask the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend certification review for EPR design. The United States has been postponing certification for EPR since 2007. The Finnish regulator has taken Areva to court on this issue, and Finland has canceled the order for its second EPR. Just two days after the publication of ASN’s report, Modi reaffirmed the EPR deal from France during his visit to Paris in April 2015. It is exactly this controversial component – the RPV – that an Indian private company L&T will now be building, with no experience in the nuclear sector at all.

Insurmountable Risks of the Jaitapur Nuclear Project

The current phase of negotiations on Jaitapur is about the price of reactors, which remains a major sticking point. Although the former chief of India’s Atomic Energy Commission promised a tariff of a maximum of 10 US cents per unit for the electricity produced in Jaitapur, independent experts have claimed it will be much higher (20 to 30 cents per unit). This means the government of India would use taxpayers’ money to keep the price competitive. If we go by the cost of EPRs in the United Kingdom, each Indian reactor may cost as much as $8.9 billion. Two reactors in Jaitapur’s first phase will cost as much as India’s total expenditure on science and technology (including the departments of space, science and technology, biotechnology, and research for the entire country). A diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks quoted the general manager of the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL), saying that India is paying a “high” price for Jaitapur.

However, the concerns of the local community in Jaitapur go beyond the cost of the project. Jaitapur is located in the stunningly beautiful Konkan region, replete with verdant plateaus, magical mountains and undulating hills, lagoons, creeks, the open sea and infinite greenery. The NPCIL has labeled nearly 65 percent of the land as “barren,” despite the fact that Konkan is one of the world’s 10 “biodiversity hotspots,” sheltering over 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 of mammals, 508 of birds and 179 of amphibians, including 325 globally threatened species.

Altogether, the nuclear park would jeopardize the livelihoods of 40,000 people. The annual turnover of Jaitapur’s fishing villages is about $2.2 million. In Nate Village alone, there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend directly on fishing and over 10,000 are dependent on ancillary activities.

The community is apprehensive that the elaborate security arrangements around the project would block the fisherfolks’ use of the two creeks of Jaitapur and Vijaydurg. The fish population will also be affected since the nuclear plant would release a massive 52 billion liters of hot water into the Arabian Sea daily, raising the local sea temperature by 5 to 7 degrees Celsius.

Jaitapur has highly fertile land, which produces rice and other cereals, and arguably the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso. Cashews, coconuts, kokum, betel nuts, pineapples and other fruits are found in abundance. The land is also quite productive in terms of its use for cattle-grazing and rain-fed agriculture.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Jaitapur, conducted by the government-run National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), did not even look into the crucial aspects of radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region. NEERI admits it does not have any expertise in radiation-related issues and it just mentioned in its report that all the stipulations of the government’s nuclear regulator would be followed. The then-minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, had himself termed these EIA assessments a joke. Even that environmental clearance, granted on 35 absurdly weak conditions, was given only for a period of five years, which lapsed as of November 2015. Citizens groups and independent experts have demanded a fresh EIA in place of an extension.

India’s nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), is itself a toothless body, which depends on the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for its finances and human resources, an agency, which it is supposed to supervise. India’s newly proposed nuclear regulator – the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority – would be an even weaker body than the AERB, according to the former head of AERB, Dr. A K Gopalakrishnan. In fact, India is the only country to further dilute its already lax safety regulation under the AERB to accommodate foreign-imported reactors, as Areva’s EPR might not even pass the licensing procedures of the existing AERB.

Safety concerns at Jaitapur are legitimate and extremely serious. The EPR design has come under severe criticism from the French nuclear regulator, ASN. In April 2015, the ASN warned Areva about some very crucial vulnerabilities in its design. It has found the reactor pressure vessel (or the core of the reactor) to be vulnerable. Yet two days after the publication of ASN’s report, Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed the commitment to buy the EPRs during his visit to Paris.

Independent experts and the government’s own institutions have also cautioned about active seismic fault lines in the region passing exactly beneath the proposed reactor site. There have been 92 earthquakes in Jaitapur over the past 20 years.

The Indian government has managed to acquire land for the project by pressuring farmers and luring a handful of landlords. Despite land acquisition, the farmers in Jaitapur continue to resist. Most villagers either work on others’ land or provide rural services to the agrarian community and do not get any compensation when villages are dislocated for “development” projects. Tabrez Soyekar, a young fisherman, was killed in an indiscriminate police shooting in April 2011, during a peaceful protest. Hundreds of activists and eminent citizens, including the former Navy chief of India and retired justice of the Supreme Court of India, were detained during a protest march.

Thirteen village councils in Jaitapur passed unanimous resolutions against the project as recently as November 2015. It is utterly hypocritical for both countries to laud each other’s democratic credentials for international diplomacy if the democratically elected village councils are neglected violently.

A Violent Nuclear Expansion in India

India is one of the few countries today that appears to have missed the global post-Fukushima shift away from nuclear power. Even France itself, the poster child of the nuclear energy lobbies, has decided to reduce the ratio of nuclear power in its national energy basket from 75 percent to 50 percent. Independent energy experts in India, including a former top official in the Ministry of Power, have argued for a decentralized energy framework that would suit India better, as the majority of its population still lives in villages scattered across the country and transmission losses in centralized Indian grids are staggering.

The 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report concludes that, after the Fukushima accident, the international nuclear industry has faced its worst crisis globally. The industry is looking at India as a big market where they can compensate for their losses and revive their fortunes. India has become an attractive market for global nuclear corporations, where the government is mortgaging its financial and environmental health to welcome them. This includes channeling the accident liability to the public; undermining environmental, geological and safety laws; and ignoring the measured advice of independent experts.

Besides Jaitapur, massive and intense anti-nuclear protests have arisen in Koodankulam, Mithi Virdi and Kovvada, where Russian and US corporations are setting up nuclear power plants. Local communities in other places like Chutka, Fatehabad and Mahi Banswara have also been agitating against the nuclear projects. The government has resorted to brutal crackdowns and repression against these consistently peaceful protests. More than 8,000 people in Koodankulam are facing fabricated police cases under colonial-era sedition laws and charges of waging war against the Indian state. The police have killed, arrested and harassed villagers indiscriminately, including women and children. They surrounded the Idinthakarai village in 2012 and disrupted its vital supply lines that deliver goods, including food and milk for children and medicines, to force the village to surrender. One of the first steps that the new government under Modi took in 2015 was to come up with a “confidential” report by the Intelligence Bureau, naming Greenpeace, the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, and other anti-nuclear and environmentalist organizations “anti-national.”

India’s Nuclear Imports Are More Than Just Reactor Supply Agreements

The anachronistic nuclear expansion in India, defying economic common sense and the global shift away from nuclear energy, actually stems from the strategy that the country’s elite have adopted to achieve international legitimacy for India’s nuclear weapons.

In exchange for India’s inclusion in the global nuclear weapons club, the Indian government promised 10,000 megawatts of nuclear contracts to the United States ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in September 2008. It made similar promises to France, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries for an exemption from the NSG rule disallowing countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India had been facing an international embargo since 1974 for using imported technology and material for its nuclear tests.

France was the first country to sign a nuclear pact with India after the NSG’s exemption. It had been exploring nuclear sales to India for a long time. A feasibility study in Jaitapur for Areva was conducted as early as 2003. France was among the very few countries in the world that did not criticize India’s nuclear tests in 1998. But it needed the United States to do the heavy lifting in the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency to open the gates of international nuclear commerce for India.

Escalating Nuclear Arms Race in South Asia

The so-called “nuclear civilian deal” sets the wrong precedent for potential proliferators by diplomatically embracing India in the international nuclear order, despite being a non-signatory to the NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It will also boost India’s nuclear weapons capacity by freeing up its domestic uranium reserves entirely for weapons purposes.

Nuclear weaponization in South Asia has defied the expectations of nuclear deterrence theorists that the introduction of nuclear weapons in the region would bring restraint. Soon after the nuclear tests in 1998, South Asia saw a fierce border conflict in Kargil in 2002. Declassified documents and WikiLeaks cables have revealed that Pakistan and India actually came close to contemplating nuclear use during that war. The Indian nuclear arsenal has also been growing with the introduction of nuclear submarines and long-range missiles. India has consecutively been one of the top five arms importers of the world for the last several years.

The evolving political situation in South Asia also makes peace in the region much more fragile. India is now ruled by an ultra-nationalist political formation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP’s Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, contested the last elections under the slogan of teaching Pakistan a lesson and revising the two cornerstones of the Indian nuclear posture – the “no first use” policy and the minimum credible deterrence doctrine.

Modi Government’s Nuclear U-Turns and Misadventures

For its entire 10-year stint in the opposition, the BJP opposed the United Progressive Alliance’s nuclear policy, but nuclear deals have become matters of pride for Modi’s foreign sojourns. It has gone further than the previous government in placating the nuclear lobbies.

On Republic Day in 2015, to please the chief guest, US President Barack Obama, the Modi government effectively surrendered the option to sue nuclear vendors in case of an accident. Now, in 2016, with France’s help, Modi’s government seems bent on finalizing an extremely dangerous and destructive nuclear project.

Jaitapur nuclear project: three reasons it must be abandoned

Dianuke (Ideas For India) | M.V. Ramana | January 25, 2016

When French President Francois Hollande visits Delhi to attend this year’s Republic Day parade, India and France are expected to announce that they are going to enter into an agreement to import six nuclear reactors marketed by the French company Areva. These European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) are to be constructed in Jaitapur, Maharashtra on the Arabian sea. The idea of importing EPRs from France for Jaitapur was initiated during the Manmohan Singh government and has been pursued by the Narendra Modi government as well. There are at least three notable things about this project that make it dubious and not worth pursuing.

Troubled history

First, the EPR has a troubled history. No reactor of this kind is operational anywhere in the world. There are four under construction — in Finland, France, and two in China — and all of them are delayed, including the ones being built in Taishan in China. The first of these was the project at Olkiluoto, Finland, which was supposed to come online in 2009, but has been delayed because of innumerable problems. It is now projected to start operating in 2018 — if all goes well.

The case of the EPR in Flamanville, France is similar, but with a twist: last year, the French nuclear regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), announced that it had been informed by Areva of an anomaly in the composition of the steel in certain zones of the reactor vessel of the Flamanville EPR. The reactor vessel holds the hot and radioactive fuel during operations and has to withstand high temperature and pressures. Understandably problem with this reactor component is, as the president of ASN put it, “serious — even very serious”. The detection of the problem at this late stage, in the words of French energy analyst Yves Marignac, “means that either Électricité de France (EDF) or Areva overlooked the risk of this kind of problem, which would reflect badly on their competence, or they were trying to create a fait accompli before it was detected”. In any case, this discovery has led to widespread concern about the French nuclear supply system — except, evidently, within the decision-making circles in the Indian government.

Related to these lengthy delays, there has been a corresponding escalation in costs, with both Flamanville and Olkiluoto’s current estimates exceeding initial projection by a factor of three or more, from €3.2 billion to €10.5 billion in the case of Flamanville. That translates to roughly €6,500 (or US$7,000) per kilowatt (kW) of capacity. These cost and time overruns of the EPR have been attributed, at least in part, to the complexity of the design according to an official report authored by Francois Roussely, European vice-president of Credit Suisse and honorary president of EDF; this complexity, “without doubt hinders its construction and consequently impacts on its cost” according to the Roussely report. Since it is essentially the same design that will be exported to India, there will doubtlessly be problems with construction in Jaitapur as well.

Expensive electricity

The second problem with the proped project is that, if it is constructed, electricity from the reactor would be very expensive. In a paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2013, physicist Suvrat Raju and I showed that if the unit cost of capacity for the Jaitapur project was assumed to be US$4,000/kW, then the initial year’s tariff for electricity from these reactors, without including transmission and distribution costs, is likely to be around Rs. 15 per unit (kilowatt hour (kWh)) of power. The methodology we adopted was exactly the same as had been used by India’s Nuclear Power Corporation to justify importing nuclear reactors from the United States although we used cost estimates derived from actual construction rather than theoretical projections. The key variable is the cost per unit capacity and our assumption of US$4,000/kW was a very charitable estimate that allowed for substantial decreases in the capital expenditures as a result of many components being manufactured within India and paying labourers and engineers much less than if the reactor had been constructed in Europe. In fact, it was as optimistic a cost decrease as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India has projected as achievable through local construction: its head has been cited as saying that one could save 25-30%, which he described as a “huge” advantage.

Since then, however, cost estimates for EPRs have increased further. Apart from the cost increases for the reactors in France and Finland, a good data point is the case of the two EPRs proposed for construction at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom. The plant is estimated to cost up to £18 billion, of which £6 billion are to come from China General Nuclear Power Corporation and £2 billion pounds as subsidies from British tax-payers. In addition, the UK government has promised a guaranteed price of £92 per megawatt-hour that would increase with inflation and is more than twice the average current wholesale cost of electricity in the country.

The per unit cost for Hinkley Point is in excess of US$8,000/kW. But even if one uses the estimate of roughly US$7,000/kW, as is the case for Flamanville-3, and modify that by a factor of 25-30% to account for reduction in costs due to manufacture in India, the resulting cost per unit capacity will come to around US$4,900 to US$5,250/kW. At US$5,100/kW, the first year tariff for electricity from Jaitapur would be nearly Rs. 19 per kWh.

To put this in perspective, a recent reverse bidding process for solar power projects in Rajasthan had a winning bid of Rs. 4.34 per kWh. In the state of Maharashtra, a solar developer has put in a bid of Rs. 4.41 per kWh. For coal-based power, recent bids have been around Rs. 4.50 per kWh.

In other words, Jaitapur will result in very expensive electricity in comparison to alternative sources. It is reminiscent of the very expensive and controversial Naptha-based project that was constructed by Enron Corporation in Dabhol in Maharashtra in the 1990s.

Seismic risk

Third, the proposed reactor site is in a zone with a relatively high degree of seismic risk. In November 2011, two renowned seismologists published a paper in the Indian Science Journal Current Science which examined the historical record and concluded that a severe earthquake, such as the ones that struck nearby Latur (400 km from Jaitapur) and Koyna (100 km) in 1993 and 1967 respectively, “although unlikely . . . could occur within the lifetime of the nuclear power plant” in the close vicinity of Jaitapur. In a subsequent paper in the same journal, these scientists were even more explicit: “Jaitapur lies in a region where plate tectonic stresses are locally close to critical failure, and where minor perturbations in stress can trigger earthquakes. Geologically, the Jaitapur region meets many of the criteria known to be conducive to intra-plate seismicity. Tectonically, the Jaitapur region is precisely in the same state of seismic quiescence and historical ignorance as the regions of Latur or Koyna were, prior to the damaging earthquakes for which they are now famous”.

Why are earthquakes a special concern? As evidenced by accidents such as the ones at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), nuclear power plants can undergo severe accidents even when there are no earthquakes. This potential for severe accidents is amplified during earthquakes because they simultaneously affect many different components of nuclear power plants. Simultaneous failures in different components could lead to what are called common-cause accidents, and these are very difficult to model in standard risk assessments. In part, this is because of the many uncertainties involved in a nuclear reactor’s behaviour during earthquakes. The combination of a nuclear reactor design that has never been operated before and a site that could experience earthquakes is a prescription for heightened risk.

In part as a result of these risks, there is significant local opposition to the project, which has in turn induced the Shiv Sena party, a key alliance partner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to ask the central government to scrap the project.

One of the lessons from the nuclear reactor accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl is that although radioactive fallout from these accidents spread far and wide, the bulk of the health and environmental consequences were borne by inhabitants of the areas near these facilities. Thus, the concerns of inhabitants of the villages near Jaitapur do deserve special attention.

There are, thus, ample reasons for the Indian government to not enter into an agreement to purchase EPRs for Jaitapur. It should still be possible to walk away from the project. Will the government do that or succumb to geostrategic or ideological interests?

Further Reading

•Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (2015), ‘Flamanville EPR reactor vessel manufacturing anomalies’, 7 April 2014.

•Bilham, R and VK Gaur (2011), “Historical and future seismicity near Jaitapur, India”, Current Science, 101(100):1275-1281. Available at:,%20India.pdf

•Kumar, A and MV Ramana (2007), ‘Nuclear safety lessons from Japan’s summer earthquake’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 4 December 2007.

•Ramana, MV (2011), ‘Beyond our imagination: Fukushima and the problem of assessing risk’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 20 April 2011.

•Ramana, MV and Suvrat Raju (2013), “Cost of electricity from the Jitapur Nuclear Power Plant”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 98(26-27), 51-60. Available at:

•Roussely, F (2010), ‘The Roussely Report: saving the French nuclear industry with outrageous measures’, Sortir du nucléaire, 27 July 2010.

•Sant, G, S Dixit and S Wagle (1995), ‘The Enron Controversy: Techno-Economic Analysis and Policy Implications’, Prayas.

•Scientific Correspondence (2012), “Discussion of seismicity near Jatiapur”, Current Science, 103(11): 1273-1278.

•Thakur, Sudhinder (2008), “Economics of nuclear power in the Indian context”, Atoms for Peace: An International Journal, 2(1). Available at:

•Yeo, S (2015), ‘New Nuclear: Finland’s cautionary tale for the UK’, CarbonBrief, 20 October 2015.

Anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar floats new party in Tamil Nadu

Business Standard | Chennai | January 18, 2016

S P Udayakumar, who heads the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that has been opposing the Nuclear plant, on Monday announced the launch of a new political party ‘(Green Tamil Nadu)’ that will also contest the upcoming Assembly elections .

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Udayakumar contested the seat as the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) candidate but later exited the party, alleging alleged thatdid not meet any of his demands or fulfil any of its promises. He also alleged that AAP’s focus has only been on Delhi.

Udayakumar was earlier a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, United States.

According to reports, in 2001 he floated the Green Party of India, inspired by the principles of American environmentalist Ralph Nader, for whom he had worked in the American presidential election in 2000.

Scrap Jaitapur: citizens oppose nuclear project as French President arrives in India

India Resists | January 25, 2016

In a Press Conference organised in New Delhi, activists opposed the nuclear power project in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur where India is setting up 6 nuclear plants imported from France.

Eminent social activist Aruna Roy, Priya Pillai of Greenpeace India and Kumar Sundaram of Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP) addressed the press conference. Here is the press statement that they jointly released:

The French President will be the Chief Guest at this Republic Day parade; but 1800kms from New Delhi, farmers and fisherfolk in Jaitapur will be protesting this week against Mr. Hollande’s visit as the nuclear reactors that India is importing from France threaten their lives, livelihoods and the local ecology.

The Jaitapur project has serious and insurmountable problems – large-scale devastation of pristine and fragile ecosystem of Konkan, destruction of livelihoods for thousands of local farmers, fisherflk, alfonso cultivators and traders engaged in agro-business. Independent experts have underscored some crucial risks like the active seismic faultlines beneath the proposed site, the vulnerabilities of Areva’s reactor design exposed by the French nuclear regulator itself, the lack of independent regulator and safety culture in India and the larger democratic deficit in consulting people about their destinies.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for Jaitapur was conducted in a farcical and hurried manner by the previous govt, without even looking into look into the crucial aspects radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region. The BJP had then demanded a fresh EIA for the project.

Similarly, the Modi govt has taken a u-turn on nuclear liability and has gone further than the previous regime in placating the nuclear vendors. In case of any nuclear accident, the Modi govt has provided a insurance pool to the supplier companies from the public money, essentially channeling back the liability to the common people.
Although the former chief of India’s Atomic Energy Commission promised a tariff of maximum Rs. 6.50 per unit for the electricity produced in Jaitapur, independent experts have claimed it will be much higher – between 15 to 20 rupees a unit, far expensive than even domestic nuclear power plants. If we go by costs of EPRS in Britain, each EPR in India would cost Rs. 60,000 crore, meaning the 2 reactors in Jaitapur’s first phase would cost equal to the total expenditure on science and technology.

In the interest of common people of India, we oppose this unsafe, expensive, eco-destructive and anti-people project. The govt must initiate a democratic dialogue for a sustainable future for India.


Was Jaitapur site given clearance without conclusive studies, asks Greenpeace | Greenpeace India | New Delhi, 22 January 2016

There are close to 16 fault lines near the Jaitapur nuclear project site, according to a 2006 Geological Survey of India. While the project has been given an ‘in-principle’ site approval, and the preliminary construction has already started at the site, the report commissioned by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) in 2002 has been under review for 10 years now.

Greenpeace was allowed to examine the report in March 2014 under the  Right to Information Act, but was not allowed to make copies stating that the Report is under review, thus copy of the same has not been provided” [1]. “The report states there are six fault lines within the 5km radius of the project site, if the report is still under review, then on what basis was site clearance granted?” asks Hozefa Merchant, Greenpeace campaigner.

Jaitapur nuclear site is part of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra which is classified under Zone 4 (high damage risk zone). There have been close to 93 major tremors recorded within the area in the last 20 years[2]. The reactors for the plant will be supplied by the French company AREVA.

“While we were not allowed to take copies of the report, we did take down notes” said Merchant. “The report in question appears to be a preliminary report on seismic activity in and around the proposed site for Jaitapur nuclear plant. According to the nuclear regulatory guideline [3], if there are any capable faults within 5km radius of the site, that site cannot be considered for a nuclear power plant. The GSI report states that there are 6 fault lines within the 5km radius of the site whose activity is unknown.”

He added, “If the report is still under review, then it can be inferred that it is inconclusive and if it is inconclusive, it means that more studies need to be done before a site approval is granted.”

In a rebuttal [4] to a peer reviewed paper written by Dr. Vinod Guar and Dr. Roger Bilham [5] on Jaitapur, NPCIL had referred to a GSI study that had been conducted before the site was accorded an ‘in principle’ approval however this report has not been made public.

NPCIL maintains that the site falls under earthquake Zone 3 despite a letter (dated March 4, 2011) by Meterological Department of India that states due consideration of Zone 4 needs to be given to the site for design and construction [6].

“We urge the Prime Minister to re-evaluate the ‘in-principle’ approval granted to the Jaitapur site, or for the least, direct NPCIL to finish its review of the GSI document and make the report public” concluded Merchant.


[1] Greenpeace team visits NPCIL – Letter scan attached with the mail [2] 93 Earthquakes in 20yrs – news article – New Indian Express: [3] AERB Safety Guide no. AERB/SG/G-8 – Page 3 – [4] NPCIL – rebuttal: [5] Dr. Vinod Gaur and Dr. Roger Bilham’s report on Jaitapur:

[6] Metrological Department of India letter –