'Earthquake at N-plant site can't be ruled out' | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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'Earthquake at N-plant site can't be ruled out'

In what may further fan protests against the controversial Jaitapur nuclear plant, a research paper has revealed that an earthquake measuring more than six on the Richter scale at the plant's site cannot be ruled out within its lifetime.

mumbai Updated: Nov 24, 2011 01:17 IST
Snehal Rebello

In what may further fan protests against the controversial Jaitapur nuclear plant, a research paper has revealed that an earthquake measuring more than six on the Richter scale at the plant's site cannot be ruled out within its lifetime.

The paper titled 'Historical and future seismicity near Jaitapur', which has been published in the latest issue of Current Science, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore states that the Jaitapur site lies in the same fault plane responsible for the 6.3 magnitude Latur and the 6.4 magnitude Koyna earthquakes.

Although Jaitapur has no record of local seismicity in the past century, the site is located only 110 km away from the epicentre of the Koyna earthquake that occurred in 1967.

"It can be argued that a similar-intensity earthquake could possibly occur directly beneath the power plant. The probability of an earthquake occurring is low but it is nevertheless possible, and is an important consideration in the analysis of power plant safety," reads the paper authored by geologists Roger Bilham at the University of Colorado, USA and Vinod Gaur of the CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation at Bangalore.

The paper has come at a time when there is a strong wave of opposition against nuclear power plants across the country, especially after the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in March, which was a result of an earthquake followed by a tsunami.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which builds and operates nuclear plants in the country, however, maintains that the Jaitapur site falls under seismic zone three and hence there is no threat of an earthquake or a tsunami. Officials said that apart from consulting leading geologists to understand seismicity concerns at Jaitapur, data of 1,000 years has been analysed from three agencies.

"When we construct a nuclear plant, we do not take the seismic zone into account. The reactors are built with advanced technology and are designed considering the fault line under the plant site to counter the worst-case scenario. The same will be done in Jaitapur," said CB Jain, project manager, NPCIL.

However, the paper's authors argue that the seismic record near Jaitapur dates back only 200 years with very little data from the pre-1800 period. "The risk assessed from only the past few centuries may not represent the true risk to the plant. Insufficient data is available to exclude the possibility of an earthquake," the researchers said. "It is important to plan for all possible futures in the design of nuclear plants."