Environmental impacts

The nuclear power park proposed for Jaitapur, Maharashtra, will be the largest in the world at a single site. The project will cause huge and harmful environmental impacts, yet the risks have not been properly assessed.

The land assigned to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant is 938 hecatres of the Madban plateau, in Ratnigiri district of Maharashtra.  This lateritic plateau is one of the world’s ecological and biodiversity ‘hot-spots,’ a rich grassy plain sloping down to glittering coastline in the lush region of Konkan, south-west India.  The Environmental Impact Assessment report for the Jaitapur plant has termed this land as “rocky with poor fertility” and “barren,” conveniently paving the way for construction. This is a lie. 

Madban’s rich biodiversity spans moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forests, open scrubs, mangrove forests and coastal and creek waters.  It is a unique and highly delicate ecosystem, in which all species exist in a fine and integrated balance.  Constructing a nuclear power plant there will destroy its natural wealth.

What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

Proposed projects in India require environmental clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and this includes any new nuclear power projects.  Clearances are based on the findings of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.  However, there are a lot of problems with the EIA process that prevents it from being an objective evaluation, particularly in the case of nuclear power projects.

EIAs are prepared by independent consultants, but the data they use on background radiation and how much radioactive material is expected to be released is provided to them by the nuclear establishment.  This removes any assurance of impartial evaluation of radiation exposure around nuclear power plants. The assessment of the risk from radioactivity - the singular largest concern for nuclear power projects - is also admitted to be outside of the expertise of the environment ministry, and so performed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, or AERB.  While the AERB is the designated safety regulator for all nuclear matters in India, their ability to deliver this mandate is severely compromised by the fact that it is provided technical staff by the Department of Atomic Energy.

After the written report, the EIA process has two further components: a public consultation and an appraisal by a committee of experts.  Both these processes are often heavily biased towards the nuclear establishment.  Concerns raised by the public are glibly dismissed, responded to with simplistic answers that insult the intelligence of those posing the questions, or sometimes simply ignored.  Members of the apparently objective committee of experts, charged with making a final decision on whether a project should be cleared or not, are often sourced from within the nuclear establishment that they are supposed to be assessing.

The impact of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, one of the most highly radioactive and therefore dangerous steps of the nuclear fuel chain, is exempt from EIA reports in India.

 The Jaitapur EIA

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued legally binding guidelines for EIAs on nuclear facilities.  The Jaitapur EIA ignores or glosses over many of these.  For others, it presents data and conclusions which are simply wrong.

Crucial areas that  the Jaitapur EIA report fails to assess to any satisfactory level include:

  • Impacts of routine radiological releases on people and environment.
  • The possibility of an accident, or impacts of a large radiological release.
  • Health impacts of routine emissions for the estimated 1000 site workers, despite an 5% increased risk of cancer.
  • The chequered history of the European Pressurised Reactor, of which no examples are in operation anywhere in the world.
  • Impacts the 938-hectare-plant will have on livelihoods, land ecosystems and marine ecosystems.
  • How the plant will be decommissioned at the end of its life and what environmental impact that process will have.
  • How high-level radioactive waste will be disposed of or how it will contaminate the environment.
  • Fails to consider any alternatives for either site or technology.

It’s a sloppy report, with mistakes and contradictions even from one page to the next.

The public consultation for Jaitapur was held in May 2010 under the watchful eye of a large police force: hardly an atmosphere for comfortable and democratic protest. Protocol dictates that the EIA must be distributed at least a month in advance to all affected villages in the local language, which in this case would be Marathi.

Yet the Marathi EIA for Jaitapur was handed to only one of the five villages that fall in the proposed plant site, and only four days before the hearing.  Hardly sufficient time to analyse a 1200-page document on the environmental impacts of unknown nuclear technology in your neighbourhood. 

 

Sources
Environmental Impact Assessment for Proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park, Village Madban, District Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, prepared by National Environmental Engneering Research Institute, Vol 1, Ch 1, p. 7

A Nuclear Enron?  Frontline magazine, Vol 28 Issue 03, Jan 29-Feb 11, 2011, Praful Bidwai

The Environmental Impact Assessment  Process for Nuclear Facilities: An examination of the Indian Experience, M. V. Ramana, 2009. http://princeton.academia.edu/MVRamana/Papers/264402/The_environmental_impact_assessment_process_for_nuclear_facilities_An_examination_of_the_Indian_experience

Report on visit to the proposed site of nuclear power plant, Jaitapur, Bombay Natural History Society.

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification - 2006, Ministry of Environment and Forests

2010 Environmental Impact Assessment Guidance Manual for Nuclear Power Plants, Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plants and Nuclear Waste Management Plants, Ministry of Environment and Forests

The latest updates

 

Busting The “Pesticides Are A Necessary Evil” Myth

Blog entry by Shivani Shah | April 8, 2017

The UN Calls The Bluff on Pesticides’ Industry I am relieved and yet I find myself furious...ly typing away as I repeat what ecologists and sustainable agriculture experts have been trying to say for a very very long time. And what...

No fleeing the fly ash curse for Kuruvimedu residents

Blog entry by Karthikeyan Hemalatha | April 5, 2017

A version of this blog was first published on Times of India . Finding Kuruvimedu isn’t easy. It is not on Google Maps. People on the main road didn’t seem to be aware of such a village. Tucked behind NTPC’s coal-based thermal...

India Chooses Public Health for Now

Blog entry by Sunil Dahiya | April 2, 2017

March 28, 2017, was a landmark day for clean air supporters in India when the Supreme Court acknowledged the importance of  public health over commercial interests. The statement that the Court made regarding the health of people being...

Boom and Bust 2017

Blog entry by Nicole Ghio | March 27, 2017

The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm released our third annual survey of proposed coal plants worldwide, Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline , and the results are staggering. Spoiler alert: if you are...

Boom and Bust 2017

Publication | March 22, 2017 at 11:31

After a decade of unprecedented expansion, the amount of coal power capacity under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016, mainly due to shifting policies and economic conditions in China and India, according to a survey by CoalSwarm’s...

Boom and Bust 2017

Publication | March 22, 2017 at 11:31

After a decade of unprecedented expansion, the amount of coal power capacity under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016, mainly due to shifting policies and economic conditions in China and India, according to a survey by CoalSwarm’s...

Beyond What Meets The Nose

Blog entry by Manjari Sharma | March 21, 2017

Taking care of oneself is important. But in times like these, when what’s uniting the world are environmental catastrophes, we need to look out for each other too. This was the basic premise of Greenpeace’s visit to the coal-based...

India's Efforts to Tackle Air Pollution - Mere Tokenism

Blog entry by Nandikesh Sivalingam | March 11, 2017

Thermal power plants are one of the major causes of air pollution in the country, especially in the Indo Gangetic Plain region (IGP). In December 2015, the Indian Government came out with a strict emission notification to control...

The Holy City of Pollution

Blog entry by Apoorva Singh | March 6, 2017

Walking down the ghats isn’t what it used to be. Morning walks along the ganges isn’t a spiritual experience anymore as black toxic fumes from burning garbage dumped on the roadside emanate throughout the city. The holy city of...

21 - 30 of 3924 results.