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Department of Atomic Energy says Jaitapur site not earthquake prone, plant will be ‘benign”

The Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India’s Atomic Energy wing, has denied allegations that the Jaitapur Nuclear plant is situated in an earth-quake prone zone.

It said the nearest tectonic fault — an area where one underground earth ‘plate’ meets another — is at least 30 km away. The plant has come under increasing pressure, especially after environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who had been batting for it throughout, said he favored a ‘pause’ on the implementation, over the weekend.

The plant has is fast becoming a bone of contention between the Prime Minister Manmonhan Singh, who controls the Atomic Energy department, and others within and without the government who oppose the plant in the light of the Fukushima disaster. Jairam Ramesh has opposed the Prime Minister at several occasions, including in reportedly refusing environmental clearance to some industries and projects.

“As per the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) codal requirement, there should not be any active fault within 5 km radius from the proposed site of an Nuclear Power Plant. Further, based on the studies carried out by various government institutes/ organisations, there is no active fault found up to 30 km radius from Jaitapur site,” the Department of Atomic Energy said.

“As per seismic zoning map of Government of India, Jaitapur site falls within zone III… Hence, the site is not considered earthquake-prone,” it added.

It also said that all the structures, buildings and equipments of Jaitapur plant would be designed to qualify the ‘ground motion acceleration,’ norms — to withstand earthquakes, it added.

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, along India’s western sea-coast in Maharashtra, derives its name From Jaitapur lighthouse which is mentioned in many international maps. Government of India accorded its sanction in October 2005 to set up the Nuclear Power Plant at Jaitapur besides three other locations.

The Department said the site has been chosen due to a host of criteria like availability of land vs. population density, available source of cooling water , seismicity [earthquake], safe-grade elevation at site (flood analysis), environment aspects and proper access for transportation of heavy/over-dimensional equipment to plant site.

It also pointed out that the project is a “benign and environment-friendly way” of producing electricity, increase development of areas around project site, create direct and indirect employment opportunities.

There will be six reactor units of 1650 MWe each at JNPP. The distance between each adjacent reactor unit is planned to be 250-300 meters. The time required for completion of each unit is approximately six years from the start date.

Approximately all the six units of 1650 MWe each will be constructed in a twin-unit mode in phased manner and implemented in a period of 15-18 years. The uranium will be supplied by AREVA, France, which will be also supplying the reactor units.

All safety guidelines based on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) regulations are strictly adhered to by the Nuclear Power Corp (arm setting up the project) to ensure that there is no adverse effect on environment, health and life of people through air, sea and land as a result of the operation of the plant, it added.

The plant has been opposed by local political groups, including Maharashtra opposition led by Raj Thackeray and Uddav Thackeray.

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