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

 

Why ideologies, ideas and sectors need to reinvent themselves!

Blog entry by Siddharth Sreenivas | September 9, 2014

Every generation has seen the death of an idea and those ideas which do bear some intrinsic value to the advancement of mankind have reinvented themselves. Communism and socialism were on their death knell in a previous era, but in...

End to the solar eclipse in Delhi?

Blog entry by Neha Khator | September 5, 2014

So Delhi’s solar eclipse is finally receding. After two years of dilly-dallying and releasing a restrictive version of net-metering guidelines last November that clearly attempted to block the sun over the national capital, the Delhi...

Growing organic teas in India, a tea estate visit

Blog entry by Snigdha Manchanda | September 5, 2014

Sometimes you feel as if the ancient wisdom had it all figured out. At times it is just propaganda. However, the mystic charm of the ancient texts remains intriguing nonetheless. I hadn't heard of Vrikshayurveda until recently. It is...

Pushing the limits is what I do!

Blog entry by Sumanth Shetty | September 3, 2014

It was just another day for me back in Bangalore until my phone rang (tring- tring). On the other end was Alpha 1, that's when I knew this was "the call". Yes, this is when we realised that there's a cocktail of pesticides in our chai.

Dharnai’s Grid-ready Microgrid: A Solution for Energy-starved India?

Blog entry by Kartikeya Singh | August 28, 2014

The story of the rise and fall of Bihar may seem unbelievable. Through the ages, the region was once the seat of power of mighty kingdoms, a source of intellectual thought, and leading industrial growth. In the recent past, decades...

Annual Report 2013

Publication | August 27, 2014 at 12:33

What is the catalyst for a successful campaign? Sure, there may be many factors; money, timing, brand name, et al. But the one thing that stands out at the frontline and at the very heart of every campaign, is people. History and literature have...

Supreme Court Deems Mahan Coal Block Allocation Illegal

Feature story | August 26, 2014 at 10:04

The Supreme Court deemed in an order on August 25 that all coal block allocations since 1993 are ‘illegal’ on grounds of arbitrariness, legal flaws lack of transparency, fairness and even application of mind. This verdict is of significant...

Will of the Majority vs. Manipulative Strength of the Powerful Minority

Blog entry by Priya Pillai | August 21, 2014

There is a lot of hustle and bustle under the mango tree in Hardayal Singh Gond’s house. The local women are chatting in a group, and not too far away, on the large ‘dari’, the men are also in discussion. There is positivity in the air...

The Making of an Activist!

Blog entry by Devyani Kulkarni | August 21, 2014

I came to Greenpeace looking for a one month 'legal' internship, learn some new things, have some fun, get my certificate and move on with my life. Little did I know that this internship was going to change me, my life and my decisions...

Dharnai Success Inspires Bihar’s Energy Dialogue

Blog entry by Naveen Mishra | August 20, 2014

Energy is the life blood for the development of any country or state. Bihar which is on a path of tremendous growth, is suffering from extreme energy deficit. The energy deprivation will directly or indirectly impact its pace of growth...

51 - 60 of 3710 results.