Unconvinced by a claim that a 'sub-marine volcano' was located 110km inside the Bay of Bengal and that it erupted in 1757, the Madras high court has dismissed a PIL which said the Kalpakkam atomic power station was located in a 'seismic region' where the volcano might 'erupt' again.
"This court is of the opinion that the apprehension expressed by the PIL-petitioner is unfounded and therefore, no positive direction can be issued," ruled the first bench comprising Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan.
The PIL filed by advocate M Vetri Selvan, besides apprehending threat to the nuclear power facility from the sub-marine volcano, said the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) Units I and II at Kalpakkam were functioning without obtaining environmental clearance.
His counsel M Radhakrishnan argued that in the event of tsunami or earthquake, the spent fuel stored at MAPS would get exposed, adversely affecting employees and villagers nearby. He said mandatory requirements under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 have been given a complete go-by insofar as MAPS, as environmental clearance for the plant had expired long back.
Additional solicitor-general of India P Wilson, however, said the two units were in operation since July 1983 and September 1985, and had generated and supplied 57,000 million units of electricity. Noting that spent fuel facility was operated strictly in accordance with the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) guidelines and requirements, Wilson said that even during tsunami in December 2004, nothing untoward had happened at the site.
The first bench, agreeing that the units were in operation from 1983 and 1985 while the Environment (Protection) Act, came into being only in 1986, said no environmental clearance was required.
"The petitioner proceeds on the footing as if everything is not in order with regard to the functioning of MAPS units I and II at Kalpakkam, whereas the counter statement filed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) would disclose that safety measures are in place," the judges said.
The PIL's apprehensions about the submarine volcano too are unfounded, the bench said, adding: "The volcano event was without any scientific evidence and the Geological Survey of India earlier negated the existence of volcano activities at the said location and their surveys so far neither indicate any signature of volcano eruption in the sediments nor existence of any ephemeral island said to have formed due to the event. Seismic data in the vicinity did not indicate any volcanic intrusion".