The Supreme Court has said that it will not hesitate in stopping the work at Kudankulam nuclear power plant if it finds that safety measures at the plant in Tamil Nadu are unsatisfactory. The court made these observations while hearing an appeal against the Madras High Court order that allowed fuel loading at the plant.
A bench of justices K S Radhakrishanan and Deepak Misra said the safety of plant and the people living in its vicinity is its prime concern and issued notices to the Centre and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on a plea challenging the environmental clearance given to the controversial project.
"We will not hesitate to stop the plant if we find that the mandatory safety requirements have not been taken care of at the site," said the bench while posting the case for further hearing on October 4.
The Madras High Court gave its green signal to operationalise the plant despite big protests by thousands of villagers and activists who have said that they are not convinced that the plant is safe. They say they are worried about ecological damage by radioactivity which could affect the livelihood of thousands of fishermen around the plant. The protests are still continuing.
Activists have also cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami last year, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant.
The Centre however maintains that plant is "fully equipped to withstand" Fukushima-type incidents. "All safety measures are in place and all mandatory clearances and licences have been taken for the plant from relevant authorities. Even if a Fukushima type of incident were to occur, Kudankulam is fully equipped to withstand any such unlikely event," it said in an affidavit filed in the court today.
Kudankulam is the first Indian nuclear plant to go functional after the Fukushima tragedy in March last year.
Opposing the commissioning of the plant, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said in the court today that several changes have been made in the plant after a clearance was given for it in 1989 and hence a fresh environment impact assessment must be done. Mr Bhushan also alleged said that government's major concern was that it has already spent a lot of money on the plant.
"It is a serious matter and we are taking it seriously. Everyone is concerned with the safety of the people around the plant," the Supreme Court said in response to Mr Bhushan's arguments. It also issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board seeking their response on a petition challenging the environmental clearance given to the Kudankulam project.
(With Inputs from PTI)