11th International Public Forum Dialogue, Moscow
Bonafide People Welcome Safe and Environmental-friendly Nuclear Power Plants
Need to be wary of vested interests
The two-day 11th International Conference on held in Moscow with a theme – “Nuclear Energy, Environment, Safety – 2016” – was a run-away success with participating countries expressing their elation as well as satisfaction over the increasing participation of the civil society in the dialogue with the Nuclear Energy experts.
The crux of the two-day brain storming session was that the people with bona-fide intention and with genuine concern for energy will wholeheartedly support the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) if the authorities convince the civil society about the efficacy and efficiency of the NPP as well as the project being environmental-friendly and ecologically-compatible.
What the international experts from over 16 countries, however, did not say explicitly but “loudly meant” was that the NPP authorities need to directly negotiate with the civil society having bona-fide intention instead of allowing the situation to be taken over by “unscrupulous” elements having vested interest and mala-fide intention and oppose the project on one pretext or the other thus causing needless delay in the coming up of the project as well as in terms of cost.
The idea of taking up this important issue of “the need to have meaningful dialogue with the bona-fide people of the civil society and not with unscrupulous elements and vested interests” was borne by the bad experience the Russian Operator as well as the Government of India had with respect to Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. Thousands of protestors launched dharna at the site of Kundankulam opposing the project for several months.
After a thorough study by the Intelligence Bureau about the nature & character; tone & tenor; content & intent of the protest, the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Power Ministry understood that the protest was sponsored by some vested interest who did not want a Russian Project to come up.
Nearby villagers, poor, uneducated and gullible, were mobilised obviously for a consideration and protest demonstration was organised to oppose the coming up of NPP. The argument was that the plant would destroy ecology, environment and marine life besides the plant posing a security threat to the people on account of radiation.
Interestingly, what the IB (Intelligence Bureau) found out was none of the so-called leaders of the protest movement had any knowledge either of the ecology & environment or about the marine life or about the radiation! The protestors were hardly aware of why they were protesting and against whom. The IB also found out that the protest against Kundankulam was aided, abetted and funded by some international agencies which did not want India to become self-sufficient in power.
It was only after the handlers of this “professional protest demonstration” was held the strike came to an end abruptly thus proving that the strike was the handiwork of mischievous elements and vested interests who were inimical to India’s interest. Holding dialogue with well-meaning elements in the society who has a genuine concern and interest in the development of the country becomes absolutely necessary and crucial for ROSATOM as well as the Government of India because the Russian Company (ROSATOM) is planning to build 20 NPPs throughout the country. “The sites for the construction of these 20 NPPs will be chosen by the Indian Government. Our job is just to build the plant,” authorities of ROSATOM said to Uday India.
This bad experience that cost the project heavily in terms of money and time made ROSATOM to become pro-active and mooted the idea of conducting back-to-back dialogues with the well-meaning and bona-fide people of the civil society. And the result was there for all to see in Russia as well as in other countries.
This exercise of having a meaningful and concrete dialogue with the civil society was first successfully experimented by ROSATOM, said Mr Alexey Likhachev, CEO of ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation in his welcome address. “Constant interaction with the general public has become a good practice in the atomic industry. Today we have a direct and open dialogue between atomic scientists and the society and I believe that is a big gain,” he remarks.
Likhachev admitted that after Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters it was feared that comparitively new atomic projects might be dangerous too but these concerns were largely connected with insufficient public awareness of safety and reliability in the atomic industry. “As leader of the Nuclear Energy, ROSOTOM has done a lot of Research and Development in the field of safety of the nuclear power plant per se in general as well as ecology and environment in particular. If somebody feels more interaction is needed, then we are open to it,” he added.
The credit for bringing in greater transparency and constant interaction/dialogue with the people rightly goes to ROSATOM which made the way from complete secrecy to the present public participation of its results and building trust relations with the general public”. There are numerous engineering tours to nuclear power plants, round tables with participation of the public, dialogue forums and the public council which has already proved its efficiency,” said Mr Yuri Ipatov, the member of the council of federation, one of the participant in the International Forum Dialogue.
According to Mr Likhachev, a positive example for such interaction was the international environmental review of constructed power units at the Leningrad NPP which was arranged by the public organisation Green Cross this spring. “The review was held by experts from seven countries; Russia, Finland, Lithuania, Hungary, Belarus, Kazhakastan and Armenia. Opinions of independent experts representing the general public are always well regarded by the international community, especially in countries that are only planning to develop the atomic industry,” he added.
ROSATOM is the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation bringing together over 2.55 lakh people in 360 enterprises and scientific institutions including all Russian civil nuclear companies, research organisations and the world’s only nuclear-propelled icebreaker fleet. With 70 years of expertise in the nuclear field, ROSATOM remains its leader. ROSATOM is the number one in the world simultaneously implementing projects of Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) construction; nine in Russia and 34 all over the world. ROSATOM is the global leader in technologies and competencies offering cutting-edge industry solutions. It works on a global scale to provide comprehensive nuclear services that range from uranium enrichment to nuclear waste treatment.
It is the only company in the world able to offer the complete nuclear plant cycle, which ranges from the nuclear fuel supply to reprocessing of spent fuel; as well as technologies for safe storage of nuclear waste; from nuclear power plant (NPP) construction and operation to decommissioning, and from nuclear medicine to water treatment, application of irradiation technologies in agriculture, security systems solutions. And even more – ROSATOM provides engineering solutions for traditional electrical energy industry, hydro energetics, gas and petrochemical industry and composite material.
Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamil Nadu
The agreement for a NPP construction was executed by Russia and India as far back as 1988; in 1998 an addendum was signed. In 2002, the plant construction began at a site located in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu. The first power unit was connected to the national power grid in 2013; the second unit was connected in 2016.
The design for Kudankulam NPP was developed by JSC Atomenergoproekt. Later, addenda to the design were issued on the use of advanced equipment, which complies with stricter safety standards that were set forth after 2000. The key equipment has been manufactured by Russian companies OMZ and SiloviyeMashiny; all in all, over 100 Russian Companies were engaged in the project. The NPP first stage consists of two VVER-1000 pressurised water power reactors that use low-enriched uranium dioxide as fuel and are moderated and cooled by light water. The units’ combined capacity is 2000 MW. As part of the NPP Construction Project, a small harbour has been built near it; Russian equipments are brought here by sea. The contract includes training of the Indian staff in Russian training and education centres, as well as Kudankulam site visits by Russian professionals. At the same time, installation works have been carried out by the Indian team only. Plans exist to construct at least six new power units.
“ROSATOM has been able to overcome distrust in atomic projects among the general public”
The Russian Atomic Industry has managed to overcome the distrust of some sectors of society in various atomic projects and new projects are always discussed with the public. After Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, it was feared that comparatively new atomic projects might be dangerous, too. According to specialists, these concerns were largely connected with insufficient public awareness of safety and reliability in the atomic industry.
“Over the last one decade, the situation has changed and now atomic projects are actively discussed by industry specialists and members of the public. Combination of the professional control with the public one is a big gain,” Mr Alexey Likhachev added.
– Alexey Likhachev, Director General, ROSATOM
THE SIBERIA ICEBREAKER
The Nuclear icebreaker Siberia was built in 1977 and became world’s third nuclear-powered icebreaker and the world’s second surface sea-craft to reach the pinnacle of the world; in 1987, the icebreaker reached North Pole. She left the home harbour on May 8, 1987 and 10 days later the icebreaker reached the North Pole-27 research station. The ship covered a 1360 mile distance, including 1020 miles of ice working. IL-24H aircraft and Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters did the reconnaissance of the ice fields ahead of the icebreaker. The voyage was more than just a research mission; the drifting research station had to be urgently rescued, as the size and the condition of the ice-floe on which it had been stationed made it impossible for helicopters to land upon it. Siberia was later equipped with a satellite navigation and communication system; she has a spacious dining hall, a library, a recreation hall, a gym, a swimming pool and a sauna. However, Siberia icebreaker has now been decommissioned, and various options of scrapping her are being discussed.
“RUSSIA TO ASSIST INDIA IN CONSTRUCTION OF 20 MORE NPPs”- Vladimir Angelov
“ROSATOM has agreed with the Indian side with road map for the furthering of cooperation in nuclear power industry. This road map proposes the construction of additional 20 units in India. This is over and above the six units that is coming up in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu,” Vladimir Angelov, Director for Projects in India said in a chat with S.A. Hemantha Kumar, Special Correspondent, Uday India, in his modest but well-equipped office at Moscow during the latter’s visit to Russia
Angelov created an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie in the initial moments of the commencement of the interview but was measured in coming out with information; he weighed every word before uttering, thus demonstrating that he is a thorough professional and would have a business-like approach but with a re-assuring smile on his face. Excerpts of the interview.
Kudankulam plant (Unit 1) started its work in 2013 and the last 6th unit is going to be commissioned in 2025 that is almost 10 years. Can the time be reduced?
Actually the design principles were changed during the 10 years because during the last ten years new requirements were put forward in relation to the seismic stability of the units. And the requirements of both Indian and International Regulatory Authorities become much more toughened, which has affected over the project in general. So that means we had to do more paper work in relation to the justification of the project and manufacturing technologies have already changed as well.
What else you can say about Kudankulam NPP?
When singing of the contracts for units 3,4,5,6 took place despite the fact that units 1 and 2 are considered to be referent units, it should be noted that the technologies for manufacturing and for the safety systems have been changed considerably during this one decade of time. That means that the key events in the time schedule for the manufacturing of the long-term equipment – the key stages – didn’t coincide in comparison with 1 and 2 units. For example, when taking such a uncomplicated from the design point piece of equipment as the pressure vessel, nevertheless the production technology stages have changed during the 10 years period so significantly that we had to reconsider in cooperation with the Indian side.
What can you say about localisation? And what is the percentage of the foreign participation.
Actually there are three directions of localisation. From the view point of the design work of the units 3 & 4 in comparison with units 1 and 2, actually the contribution of the Indian side in the design process (unit 3 and 4) is twice higher than for units 1 and 2. I can’t say the exact percentage of the contribution, but it is not a huge mistake to say that the Indian contribution amounts to some 30 per cent to 40 per cent in the design of the buildings and structures. In accordance with our plans in the design of units 5 and 6, the contribution of the Indian side will be close to the contribution of the Russian side. That means it would be a 50 per cent to 50 per cent contribution.
In relation to hardware equipment for units 3 and 4, in comparison with unit 1 and 2, the contribution of Indian side in the supply of equipments have grown up.
These are the two directions of localisation. The third direction is about several items of equipment of the reactor island (reactor installation itself). And we work in with the involvement of Russian manufacturers to transform the know-how of the production experience to Indian manufacturers including the supervision of such transform. The list of such equipments is being prepared and is in the process of approval.
You spoke of non-Russian equipments in units 3 and 4. So how do you plan to ensure that they are absolutely safe?
The safety of the equipment is envisaged by the design principles of the construction of a reactor installation and nuclear power plant in general. This is the first point. In accordance with the contract we hand over to the Indian side the reports of safety of the equipment. And we help the Indian side to prove the safety level of the equipment to the Indian Regulator Authority. And that relates to the initial stage of the works and final stages of safety justification report.
In accordance with the contract the safety justification of the project shall be performed by the Indian side to the national regulator. But the Russian side is responsible for performance of all justification calculations and prepare the relevant reports to prove design principle design basis and as well as to prove of the safety of the works during the commissioning stage and startups.
Making a strong pitch for NPPs, Mr Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), asserted that nuclear energy was the only viable answer for the problem pertaining to shortage of power in the 21st century. “What we need to ensure in terms of thrust and focus is zero percent negative impact on ecology and environment,” he said, in his key note address, thus setting a tone and content for the two-day International Public Forum Dialogue.
“Renewable energy of all forms and types has its own limitations especially in the area of quantum of generation, logistics and infrastructure. Nuclear Power Plant is the buzz word for power-related issues in the 21st century if countries want to gallop in the field of alround development,” Chudakov added. He heads the 60-years old IAEA which is functioning with the theme “Atom for Peace and Development”.
Stating that energy was the pre-requisite as an engine for growth, Chudakov, who is also the head of the department of nuclear energy, Government of Russia, said that the fears being expressed in many quarters about the safety of nuclear power plant have been effectively addressed over a period of time. “We have learnt lessons from previous unfortunate incidents. We are moving ahead with greater confidence, clarity of thought and stronger in purpose,” he added. It is estimated that about 1.1 billion people does not have access to energy while 2.6 billion rely on biomass whereas 1 billion suffer from want of proper health care due to energy policy. “Nuclear energy has the potential to qualitatively transform the world,” he said and added, “It is heartening to note that more and more countries are coming forward to adopt nuclear energy as their engine for growth.”
The Public Forum Dialogue also felt that to ensure the successful functioning of Nuclear Power as well as its long-term and large-scale development, it is necessary to solve a number of issues, including social and environmental ones. The increase in the standard of living, the high level of education and healthcare, and the advancement of sport and culture in the regions where nuclear enterprises are situated are essential prerequisite for the development of nuclear power, but they may also become the drivers of the development of the entire country.
The International Public Forum Dialogue also discussed in detail the vital issue of de-commissioning of the Nuclear Power Plants, also called as nuclear legacy liquidation. This crucial subject was summed up by Mr Likachev, Head of the ROSATOM, who said that the implementation of the Federal Target Program Nuclear Radiation Safety allowed them to relieve the most acute environmental and radiation problem left after implementation of NPPs in USSR. Among the largest projects, he mentioned liquidation of the open water area of Lake Karachay in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, the most hazardous radioactive waste storage and rehabilitation of the Techa Cascade.
On a comprehensive over view, the participating countries in the two-day 11th International Public Dialogue Forum held in Moscow, on Nuclear Power, Environment, Safety -2016 “emerged stronger in purpose and clearer in mind” on the need to carry forward the Safe and Environmentally -friendly, NPPs to the “right people” and avoid getting blackmailed by “professional protestors” who launch agitation at the drop of the hat, sometimes on their own or most of the times at the behest of powerful forces working inimical to India’s interests.
By S. A. Hemantha Kumar