Green tribunal seeks details on radiation from thermal power plants

People opposing expansion of Koradi thermal plant near Nagpur furnish evidence on high radiation from coal-fired plants

 
By Aparna Pallavi, Anupam Chakravartty
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

A recent order of the National Green Tribunal could impact the clearances being granted to coal-fired thermal power plants. The tribunal has asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to make a detailed assessment of the supposed radiation caused by the thermal power plants in the country. Last week, the tribunal asked MoEF to get prescribed national standards from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) within a year on the permissible levels of nuclear radiation in residential, industrial and ecologically sensitive areas.

The court gave the direction on an appeal by residents of Koradi town near Nagpur in Maharashtra and a few local non-profits. They are opposing the clearance given to the Maharashtra State Power Generation Corporation (Mahagenco) for expanding the Koradi thermal power station near Nagpur in Maharashtra.

The National Green Tribunal has asked MoEF to get prescribed national standards from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) within a year on the permissible levels of nuclear radiation in residential, industrial and ecologically sensitive areas
It also directed the ministry to make radiation studies a mandatory part of the Terms of Referance for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of thermal power plants
Scientific research papers made available by the appellants suggest radiation from thermal power plants is higher than that from nuclear power plants
 
The tribunal bench, comprising C V Ramalu and Devendra Kumar Agrawal, also directed the ministry to make radiation studies a mandatory part of the Terms of Referance (ToR) for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of thermal power plants. All the terms of reference given to MoEF for environmental clearance must specify the radiation activity of all the future projects; project proponents should furnish details of possible nuclear radioactivity levels, said the bench.

The tribunal considered a number of scientific research papers made available by the appellants. These suggest that radiation from thermal power plants is higher than that from nuclear power plants, said Sudhir Paliwal of the citizens group Vidarbha Environment Action Group, one of the appellants. The evidence included a study of fly ash generated by the Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station, which indicated an elevated concentration of radionuclides  in fly ash samples collected from the plant and suggested that it could cause environmental and health hazard.

The tribunal asked MoEF to look into impacts caused by nuclear radiation from the thermal power projects by instituting a scientific long-term study involving Bhabha Atomic Research Agency or any such other recognized scientific institution dealing with nuclear radiation with reference to the coal ash generated by the Koradi plant. The ministry was asked to “particularly” look into the “cumulative effect of a number of  thermal power projects in the area on human habitation and environment and ecology”. The study shall also take into consideration the health profile of the residents within the area in which the pollutants are expected to spread from the thermal power project, the bench said.

Mahagenco's expansion plan for the 36-year-old Korad plant was given environmental clearance on January 4, 2010. The corporation wanted to phase out four out of seven old units of 120 MW capacity with three units of 660 MW each. Further, the state-owned power company wanted to use the Nagpur sewage waste water for the unit by installing a sewage treatment plant for which it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nagpur Municipal Corporation.

The tribunal in its September 20 order, however, instructed Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to withhold permission to operate the plant till recycled water from Nagpur’s sewage is made available.

 

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