In an order that can open up nuclear installations for public scrutiny, transparency watchdog, the Central Information Commission, has asked the government to release safety analysis report of Kudankulam nuclear power plant minus information of strategic importance.
It all started when the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) refused to provide safety analysis report and site evaluation report of reactors I and II of the Koodankulam plant to Right To Information (RTI) applicant SP Udayakumar, who is also leading the agitation against the nuclear plant in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Kumar, who has been accused of using foreign money to fuel the agitation, filed an appeal with the transparency watchdog claiming that the information sought was wrongly denied on the ground that it was “classified”.
Information Commission agreed with Kumar’s contention that terming a record as “classified” has not been stipulated as an exemption under the RTI law.
NPCIL’s public information officer SK Srivastava had also claimed that information contained in safety analysis report was of strategic, scientific and security importance and cannot be shared.
Gandhi, however, said that the officer had failed to give specific reasons, as required under the RTI law, for applying these exemptions. In addition, similar information is disclosed on the government websites in United States, United Kingdom and Canada and denied of such information would amount to treating Indian citizens differently, he said.
Srivastava’s only explanation was that the report contained designs of Russian manufacturers of the nuclear reactor, disclosing which may amount to breach of commercial confidence.
“The PIO can severe such design details which has been provided by the supplier as per the provisions of the Act,” the CIC order instructing the NPCIL to place the information on its website, said.
On the larger issue of putting such information in public domain, Gandhi said that disclosure of the reports would provide a comprehensive perspective to the citizens about holistic understanding of the Koondakulum nuclear power plant and will enable citizens to voice their opinions on nuclear safety issues.
“All Safety Analysis Reports and Site Evaluation Reports, Site Evaluation reports and Environment Impact Assessment reports prepared before setting up nuclear plants should be displayed suo motto…such practice would be in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the RTI Act and would result in greater trust in the government and its actions,” the CIC order said.