People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013


Don't Sign Areva Reactors Agreement for Jaitapur


The National Committee in Solidarity with Jaitapur Struggle urged the union government not to sign any deal for procuring nuclear reactors for Jaitapur on the occasion of the French president Hollande’s visit to India. Below we reproduce the statement issued in a press conference held at CPI(M) headquarters, A K G Bhavan in New Delhi on February 13, 2013. It was addressed by Prakash Karat, CPI(M) general secretary, Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), D Raja from CPI, and Prabir Purkayastha. Besides them, the signatories to the statement were SitaramYechury, A B Bardhan and Ramvilas Paswan.



THE National Committee in Solidarity with Jaitapur Struggle had written to the prime minister in August 2012 that the costly imported Areva reactors would result in very expensive power to the consumers. It had also brought out that apart from high costs, there are   major concerns with the Jaitapur project.


The Committee had pointed out that the 1650 MW EPR is an untested design, and has caused serious concerns among the nuclear safety agencies of different countries. The project has not been subjected to an independent, rigorous, scientific techno-economic scrutiny and safety audit in the public domain. Regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project, it is important to note that NEERI, the agency that prepared the EIA, is admittedly not competent on matters concerning nuclear hazards.


The Jaitapur project is being pushed against the will of the people of the region. Any nuclear plant has to work with the people of the area if it has to operate safely. It must also work out safety drills and evacuation procedures in the case of an accident. All this requires taking the local people into confidence, and not suppressing them with full force of the State as is being done currently.


Post Fukushima, France's  Nuclear  Safety  Regulatory Authority (ASN)  has  completed  a  thorough  re-assessment  of  Areva's  EPR  reactor, one of  which  France  is  building  in  Flamanville. As  a  result, several  substantial  modifications  to  its  hardware  and  subsystems, as  well  as  design and safety  re-analyses, have  been  mandated  by  ASN.  This has resulted in a further increase in costs of Flamanville by about 30 per cent. The  Finnish  safety  regulatory  body STUK  has also asked  for  a  set  of  post-Fukushima  modifications  to  be  incorporated  in  their  EPR. 


The French electricity company, Electricité de France (EDF), has announced recently that after this latest escalation, the cost of the single, 1650 MW reactor in Flamanville now stands at 8.3 billion Euros, far beyond its initial projected cost of 3 billion euros.


At the current euro-rupee exchange rate (Rs 72), this works out to a cost of Rs 36 crores per MW. Based on Flamanville costs, the Phase I capital cost of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) would be of the order of Rs 120,000 crores for two reactors, with a capacity of 3,300 MW. With this amount of investment, India can install more than 20,000 MW of coal fired plants.


The NPCIL and the government have refused to disclose the costs and resultant tariff for the JNPP. If the above costs are any indication, the electricity tariff from Jaitapur would not be less than Rs 12-14 per unit. This is not viable as it would impose very high rates of tariff for Maharashtra and other consumers. The 2,000 MW Dabhol plant is currently producing only a sixth of its capacity, as its high cost power prohibits any significant grid off-take. If the same course is pursued in Jaitapur as was done with Enron's Dabhol plant, Jaitapur is also likely to become a stranded asset.


After EDF's announcement about the increase in costs, a number of companies have pulled out of EPR projects. Siemens had withdrawn from Areva even earlier. Now the Italian energy company Enel has terminated the strategic partnership it signed with EDF 2007, announced the withdrawal of their 12.5 per cent stake in EDF's Flamanville project, and their withdrawal from five other EPR projects in France. Centrica of Britain has also announced its withdrawal from a joint venture with EDF to build EPR nuclear plants in Britain.


The trends in the share price of the EDF are also indicative of the crisis of its EPR program. Five years back, in March 2008, the EDF share price was at around 70 euros. Today it stands at 13.9 euros. Similarly, Areva's share prices have also fallen.


A  matter  of  great  concern  is  the  earthquake  hazard  study  for  the  Jaitapur  site carried  out  by  NPCIL and its consultants. Prof Vinod Gaur, distinguished  Professor of  Geophysics  and  Seismology at  the  Indian  Institute  of  Astrophysics  at  Bangalore, a  senior  US Seismologist  Professor  Roger  Bilham,  in   an article  on  Jaitapur  seismicity  in  the  Current  Science  journal  of  the  Indian Academy of  Sciences  last  year, have raised serious  doubts  about  the  prudence of  setting  up  six  1650 MW  nuclear  reactors  at  this  site. In  Fukushima  also, the  authorities  had  ignored  or  suppressed  few  of  the  early  independent  expert  views  on  the  likelihood  of  a  higher  strength  earthquake. Prof Gaur  has  stated  that  NPCIL  has  intimidated  and  silenced  other seismologists,  who  have  views  opposing  the official  assessments, for example  denying  Prof Bilham entry  into  India ever  since  he  co-authored  the  article  on  Jaitapur  seismicity.


We understand that NPCIL is planning to sign an agreement with Areva during the visit of the French president. Given the range of issues with the Jaitapur project, it would not be in the interests of our country to sign any agreement with Areva on the EPR reactor. The Jaitapur plant and designs must be subjected to a public scrutiny, both on techno-economic grounds and on questions of safety, before any decision is taken.


The Committee opposes setting up nuclear plants with costly imported reactors and also believes that without a thorough safety review and a detailed techno-economic analysis of India's nuclear energy program, no expansion of the nuclear power programme should be undertaken in the country.