A day before French President Francois Hollande's visit to India, a committee protesting the Jaitapur nuclear power project, which also has Left leaders as its members, on Wednesday asked the government not to sign any agreement on the supply of reactors for the proposed plant.
"We understand that NPCIL is planning to sign an agreement with Areva (company) during the visit of the French President. Given the range of issues with the Jaitapur project, it would not be in the interest of our country to sign any agreement with Areva on the EPR reactor," the National Committee in Solidarity with Jaitapur Struggle said in a statement.
Its signatories included Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), AB Bardhan, D Raja (CPI), Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party), former Chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan and Delhi Science Forum chief Prabir Purakayastha.
Maintaining that the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) was "untested" as it has not been commissioned anywhere in the world including France, Karat and Gopalakrishnan said the estimated cost of electricity produced by them would be very high, apart from the EPRs themselves being highly expensive.
"There is tremendous lack of transparency in several aspects relating to nuclear policy.....Areva's EPR is not in operation anywhere in the world.....Why is there so much of urgency in signing this deal," asked Gopalakrishnan.
He said the cost of power generated by these EPRs would be about Rs. 36 crore per MW, after the recent 30 per cent hike caused by the mandatory modifications that have to be carried out in them.
Karat said the Jaitapur project was being "pushed against the will of the people of the region. Any nuclear plant has to work with the people of the area if it has to operate safely."
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by a tsunami, France's Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority carried out a thorough re-assessment of Areva's EPR and mandated several major modifications to its hardware, sub-systems, design and safety parameters, Karat said, adding that Finland's regulatory body STUK also sought a set of modifications.
"When the reactor is still on the drawing board undergoing changes, what is the hurry in signing this agreement," Karat asked.
CPI's Raja said the French company Areva had been "given the contract without any public tender or competing bidding process. The government is also not transparent in sharing the cost details, with an estimate showing that one EPR would cost as high as USD one billion or almost Rs. 6,000 crore."
Raja also said that Areva was "insisting that they must be absolved of any liability. This shows that the French firm does not want to take any responsibility in case of an accident. We ask the government not to sign the agreement."
Karat also said that the French electricity company, Electricité de France, recently announced that after this latest escalation, the cost of the single 1650 MW reactor in Flamanville (France) "stands at 8.3 billion Euros, far beyond its initial projected cost of three billion Euros."
Maintaining that the state-run NPCIL and government have "refused to disclose" the costs and resultant tariff for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, the CPI(M) leader said if these costs are any indication, the electricity tariff from Jaitapur would not be less than Rs. 12-14 per unit.
"This is not viable as it would impose very high rates of tariff for Maharashtra and other consumers," Karat said.
He said the Jaitapur plant and designs "must be subjected to a public scrutiny, both on techno-economic grounds and on questions of safety, before any decision is taken."