The Madras high court on Thursday reserved its decision on a couple of petitions filed against the two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).
Hearing two new petitions filed by G Sundarrajan against the mega atomic power project being built by Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from here, the court indicated that it would announce its decision next week.
"The court also asked Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to issue a fresh consent order for KNPP and not an order amending its original one given in July this year," M Radhakrishnan, counsel representing Sundarrajan said.
The court on Tuesday had ordered TNPCB to file the fresh consent order for the project and sought an affidavit from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) detailing the implementation of the safety recommendations made by a task force set up by NPCIL at KNPP.
"The regulatory board had filed an affidavit stating that six recommendations made by the task force have been implemented at KNPP and the balance 11 would be implemented in a phased manner over a period of six months to two years," Radhakrishnan said.
The atomic energy regulator Aug 10 gave its nod to NPCIL to load the fuel in the first reactor.
According to the petition, AERB had earlier submitted to the court in another case that it would issue clearances only after completion of review, resolution of reactor commissioning reports and issues relating to the KNPP, including the implementation of safety measures.
Sundarrajan contends that NPCIL has not implemented the entire 23 safety measures recommended by the task force.
In his petition, he says the AERB has not applied its mind on the consent order issued by TNPCB on the tolerance temperature limits for the KNPP effluent before giving clearance for loading the fuel in the plant's first unit.
According to him, the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, states that thermal power plants using sea water should adopt systems to reduce water temperature at the final discharge point so that the resultant rise in the temperature from receiving water does not exceed seven degrees Celsius over the ambient temperature.
The TNPCB, in its original consent order, allowed the tolerance temperature limit of trade effluent of the KNPP at 45 degrees Celsius, while the Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment for the KNPP units 1 and 2 and additional units 3-6 has limited the tolerance temperature to 37 degrees Celsius.
A central government-appointed expert committee in its report last December said that the seasonal variation in surface water temperature of the Kudankulam Marine Environment ranged from 23 degrees Celsius during monsoon and winter to 29 degrees Celsius during summer, with an annual average of 26.6 degrees Celsius.
The government on Wednesday told Parliament that the first unit of KNPP is scheduled to be operational by October 2012.
The two 1,000 MW units of KNPP were initially scheduled to be completed in Dec 2008.
"The project was initially delayed due to non-sequential receipt of equipment from Russia and subsequently due to local protests impeding the work during September 2011 to March 19, 2012," minister of state V Narayanasamy told Lok Sabha.
"The government has taken steps to allay the legitimate apprehensions of the local people. Work has resumed round-the-clock since March 20," he said.