The apex court had earlier granted NPCIL time till May 30 this year for setting up the Away From Reactor Facility to store radioactive spent nuclear fuel
The Supreme Court, on Monday (July 2) granted time till April 2022 to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) to set up a facility for safe storage of radio-active spent nuclear fuel generated from the controversial Kudankulam Nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.
The decision of the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud to extend the earlier deadline of May 30 this year by a generous four years, is likely to trigger some protests from environmentalists and human rights groups who have been protesting against the lack of adequate safety mechanisms at the mammoth nuclear power facility.
It may be recalled that the apex court had earlier granted the NPCIL time till May 30 to set up the ‘Away From Reactor Facility’ (AFR) to store the radioactive nuclear spent fuel.
On Monday, the bench of Chief Justice Misra, Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud considered submission of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the corporation, that the deadline for setting up of the storage facility should be extended till April 30, 2022.
Mehta submitted that for the period till the completion of the safe house, the nuclear waste could be dumped in a landfill within the power plant – a proposal that activists at the Kudankulam power plant have been fighting against for years.
Justice Chandrachud responded to Mehta’s submission by stating that while the extension for deadline to set up the safe house may be granted as it was understood that such a facility “cannot come up overnight”, he along with the other judges on the bench made it clear that no further extension of time shall be granted to NPCIL for setting up of the AFR.
The apex court had earlier allowed the Centre to operationalise the nuclear plant subject to compliance of various safety measures including the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.
Counsel for the petitioners who want the safe house to be situated away from the nuclear power plant argued that dumping of spent fuel in-situ could trigger a “Fukushima-like” nuclear accident any time and that storing the nuclear waste at a site which has hundreds of people is “dangerous”. The counsel submitted that “no nuclear power plant across the world works like this”.
Justice Khanwilkar then told the petitioner’s counsel that objections, if any, to the proposed site of the AFR and the issue of storage of nuclear spent fuel, must be made in the form submissions made through a formal application so that the government could be directed to respond to the same. Justice Chandrachud then added that “not granting an extension (for setting up the AFR) will serve no purpose”.
—India Legal Bureau