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Election Commission approval of Kudankulam reactor 3 & 4 under scanner

Wednesday, 9 April 2014 - 8:35am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The Election Commission's approval for two more reactors at the Kudankulam atomic power plant has come under the scanner after an RTI response from General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), says the company is not insuring any of the Kudankulam reactors. The RTI request was filed by Greenpeace on March 12 and the GIC response to the request – a copy of which is with dna – states, "No insurance is offered by GIC for unit number 3&4 at Kudankulam." It adds, "No official communication between NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) and GIC pertaining to the issue has taken place."

It will be recalled that when talks between India and Russia had reached a point of stagnation as Russian nuclear supplier was unwilling to take on the liability in case of an accident, officials from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) stated they were in conversation with GIC to formulate a possible policy that could provide a liability cover while addressing concerns of its Russian counterparts. It has since emerged that GIC could not raise enough funds from local insurers and or international insurance companies to raise capital and backed out.

Hozefa Merchant, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace India, said, "GIC's denial proves that the citizens as well as the democratic institutions of this country are deliberately being misled by the DAE and NPCIL.

The financial clearance granted by the CCS is, therefore, questionable. Also the timing of EC's approval could mislead the election process and give unfair advantage to other contestants."

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave financial clearance to build two additional reactors at Kudankulam based on information submitted by DAE and NPCIL. Officials from the DAE had stated that they were working out an insurance package with GIC for the two additional reactors at Kudankulam. To move forward, DAE required a clearance from the Election Commission. The EC granted its approval late last week.

The DAE spokesperson tried to wash his hands of the issue. "Since the matter has been decided upon by the EC we cannot comment on it."

Merchant lamented, "Without insurance the already shaky situation becomes even more insecure. It also goes on to illustrate how the most important stakeholder in this debate -- the public living in the vicinity, or rather the potential victims, are being misled by being kept in the dark."

The objective of including supplier liability is to ensure total accountability across the supply chain. If the accountability is limited to operators then it shields the suppliers from legal and financial repercussions.

If the financial repercussions are tough, it also acts as a deterrent that prevents complacent and unsafe practices. "However, here it seems that NPCIL, DAE as well as the outgoing UPA-led government seem adamant to bypass and undermine the Nuclear Liability Act. They seem to be working in the interest of foreign nuclear suppliers by deliberately misleading the people of this country," pointed out Merchant.

Many have expressed surprise over the hurry with which approval was given, considering nuclear supplier liability, insurance policy and the total cost of the project as well as the exact cost per unit of electricity, are not matters of national security.

The EC's approval at a time when the nation has begun exercising its right to vote has raised several eyebrows in Tamil Nadu too. "Such approvals not only mislead citizens but also give unfair advantage to the ruling government over others contesting polls. The EC must review its decision on Kudankulam reactors 3 & 4 considering its a project no one in Tamil Nadu wants."

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