http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/erg2004.pdf  [emergency-response system]


Prof.T.Shivaji Rao,

Director, Centre for Environmental Studies,

Gitam University, Visakhapatnam-530 045


The Vengurlekar Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission having considered the impact of low flows in summer into rivers and lakes and increasing need for water to cool the condensers suggested that the reactors must be located on the sea coast. The location of the Tarapur and Kalpakkam reactors are in tune with the stipulated siting criteria.  Experts criticized that Kota was not a suitable location for he Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant and the fish culture in Rana Pratap Sagar is reported to suffer from high levels of radiation whose long-term consequences on environment will be more clearly seen in the next few years.  To avoid these problems the reactors are generally located on the coastal sites in Britain, Sweden and Norway.  By violating all these norms why should the proposed nuclear plant be sited at Nagarjuna Sagar?

For a design basis accident in a pressurized water reactor, a core-melt down is accompanied by a steam explosion due to the contact of the molten fuel with the water that remains in the reactor vessel.  Even if such an accident were to occur once in a million years, the radioactive substances are expected to get released into the atmosphere about 2.30hours after the accident.  Although the population is likely to be moved radially away from the reactor upto about 30km. the adverse health impact causes 3300 early fatalities.  45,000 early illnesses and 1400 cancers per year.  In Chernobyl people were evacuated upto 30km around the nuclear plant.  In addition to loss of life, damage to public health and properties estimated at $5,000 deformed off-spring will be borne to humans and animals.  Under the circumstances, opinions of experts must be taken into account before making a proper environmental assessment of the proposed reactor.

Nagarjuna Sagar:

Dr.David E Lilienthal, the first Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission in his book “Atomic Energy – A New Start” has admitted belatedly that “nuclear technology is not really so advanced as was assumed in 1950’s.  It is not dependable enough. It is not safe enough”.  And he rightly questioned “the moral right to promote and sell such a complicated, immature and fundamentally unsafe nuclear system particularly to societies whose technology is far less developed”.

In fact, public acceptance of nuclear plants today and that too in the aftermath of Chernobyl, is a coin with two sides.  On the one side, the safety of the reactors has to be ensured through proper understanding and application of the scientific principles of physics, technology, engineering quality control and non-destructive testing and inspection.  On the other side the nuclear industry after making the greatest efforts to achieve the safety and reliability of the plant have to still promote the acceptability of nuclear plants not only to political leaders and officials but also to the public by pointing to the golden balance to be struck between the energy, economic, ecological and public health objectives of the project.  In short, the Atomic Energy Commission must prove to the public that it has not only good physicists, technologists, safety engineers, quality inspectors and dedicated workers but also human experts who recognize that there is more to perpetuate civilization than bare technology.

These radiation safety criteria require the establishment of an exclusion zone around the plant without access to the public and a sterilised zone around the exclusion zone within which only natural growth of population is permitted.  The population distribution upto 30kms  around the plant is kept in view to ensure that in the unlikely event of a serious accident, effective emergency actions, including evacuation of population  can be taken up  immediately.  The sterilized zone is often called as a low population zone with very few people who can be evacuated should the need arise.  According to the siting criteria approved by the experts in 1963, the population upto 16km around the reactor should be within 10,000 and upto 40km it should be below one lakh.  The Russian stipulated long ago that the distance between a major town and the reactor should be 35km.  According to the US standards that within 20km distance from the reactor, the population should not exceed 25,000.

 By stating there is no township with a population exceeding one lakh within 30kms from the proposed site of the reactor at Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, the Atomic Energy officials cannot deny the violation of safety norms and environmental protection guidelines as Vijayapuri township with about 40,000 population lies within 16km of the site.  Moreover the tiger sanctuary, the historical museum of ancient Buddhistic monuments, tourist centre and the major Sagar lake with abundant fishery resources lie within close proximity of the reactor site.  Vijayapuri town does not possess a road lay-out with connections in different directions and the existing mountainous tract with many curves becomes an obstacle for evacuation the population during accidents.

Since the waters intended for drinking, food fisheries and animal husbandry will get polluted  public health in coastal districts as also Nalgonda and Khammam districts is bound to suffer.

If the socio-economic consequences scenario of he SIZE-WELL reactor of UK for an accident is super imposed over Nagarjuna Sagar, people upto Vijayawada will have to be evacuated during the Monsoon period (June to September) and people upto Hyderabad will have to be evacuated during the winter season.  The procedures for evacuation, rehabilitation and the consequences of an accident will be similar to those already predicted for Koodankulam Nuclear Plant.

All the people within the zone of influence from the reactors proposed at Nagarjuna Sagar must be evacuated.  Evacuation must be completed within 6 hours for 2 to 5km, 12 hours for 5 to 25km; 24 hours for 25 to 75km and 48 hours for distance beyond 75km down wind from Nagarjuna Sagar as per the British accident scenario for the 1100MW.  Size-Well reactor based on a wind speed of 5 meters per second.; rainfall of 1 milli-meter per hour and neutral stability  conditions of the atmosphere.

After thorough scrubbing and decontamination of lands, equipment, roads and residences due to radioactive pollution from an accident people may be permitted to return to their original homes along with their properties and cattle after about 3 weeks upto 170km one year upto 140 km, 5 years upto 115km, 10 years upto 98km and 20 years upto 77km distances from the Nuclear Plant site at Nagarjuna sagar.  Depending upon the weather conditions during the accident, some places will be more affected than others.  The villages, towns and cities that will be affected during an accident are shown in the figure.

While Vijayapuri, Devarakonda, Miryalguda, Nalgonda, Suryapet, Huzurnagar, Macherla, Gurazala lie within 77km, Hyderbad, Bhngir, Jangaon, Kodada, Khammam, Jaggayyapet, Nandigama, Sattenapalli, Narasaraopet, Chilakaluripet fall within 115km distance from the proposed nuclear plant site.  While Wanaparti, Kolhapur, Guntur and Vijayawada lie within 140km, Sangareddi, Tiruvur, Nuzvid,Gannavaram, Vuyyuru, Tenali Nidubrolu and other important towns and villages in the districts of Medak, Nalgonda, Warangal, Khammam, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasm districts lie within 170km distance from Nagarjuna Sagar.

Without placing the risk and environmental impact analysis  reports before the people of Andhra Pradesh, the atomic energy experts are denying them their right to healthy living.  Without sincre efforts to explain the levels of air and water pollution expected from the nuclear power plants and its waste treatment systems and their immediate short-term and long-term impact on health and environment they cannot force the State Pollution Control Board to grant permission and thereby sign the death warrant of the people. 

In the light of the bombing of nuclear reactors in Iraq and Iran and the terrorist attacks on reactor sites in Spain and pilferage and theft of plutonium from some plants, how can any expert rule out any nuclear accidents due to bombing, terrorism, sabotage or human failure at Nagarjuna Sagar? Under the circumstances, the people of Andhra Pradesh should not blindly believe the atomic energy experts on their assurances of safety but must organize mass movements for locating the proposed reactor underground or in rock caverns at a safer place on the East coast around Gudur, Nellore, Machilipatnam or Visakhapatnam.  They must demand for inherently safe reactors in place of the proposed unsafe ones.