The cat is out of the bag, finally. The suspicions that had lurked all these years about the safety standards of India's nuclear power plants, have been substantiated by the atomic energy regulatory board (AERB). All is not well with our nuclear installations according to A Gopalakrishnan, whose three-year tenure as the chairperson of the AERB ended recently.
There are specific serious safety deficiencies in the atomic power plants in Rajasthan, Tarapur and Madras. Detailing the specific problems with these installations, Gopalakrishnan said that the chances of a hydrogen explosion occuring at Tarapur plant were quite high. The Madras and Rajasthan plants were burdened with obsolete emergency core cooling systems. The test reactors at Trombay and Tarapur could quite possibly cause radioactive leaks, while old structures like Cirus at Trombay and Tarapur stood on sites which have high seismicity. Lakhs of litres of radioactive fluids were stored at Trombay and Tarapur in tanks which have not been properly welded. Nuclear plants as old as the Tarapur plant have been pulled down in other parts of the world. These are some of the maladies detected in the process of a survey conducted by the AERB. The report has documented more than 130 safety issues in these installations which need to be seriously considered and acted upon.
While these deficiencies call for 'urgent corrective action' by the atomic energy commission and the department of atomic energy, the larger issue of the need for transparency and citizens' right to know, that which directly concerns their lives, needs to be addressed. The inquiry into the collapse of the dome at the Kaiga reactor which was supposed to have been completed three years ago, is still shrouded in mystery. As Gopalakrishnan said, it is high time the AERB is brought out of the purview of the Official Secrets Act.
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