Coalition For Nuclear Disarmament And Peace
Press Statement | March 12, 2016
We are concerned about the leak in the Primary Heat Transfer System(PHTS) of Unit-1 of the Kakrapar Nuclear Power Station in Gujarat.
This accident, on the 5th year of the ongoing accident in Fukushima, raises serious questions about safety of nuclear power plants. Such accidents have the potential of putting both workers at plants, and neighbouring residents at risk.
The plant authorities claim that there has been no radiation leak. While, we very much hope that this is the case, we would like to urge the NPCIL to ensure the protection of workers at the plant who are involved in cleaning up the spilled heavy water. By its very nature, some of the heavy water that is in the primary coolant circuit would have been absorbed neutrons to be converted into tritiated water. Tritium is a radioactive isotope and thus the tritiated water will be automatically radioactive.
This is important, since in the past, heavy water leaks have occurred on many occasions at our nuclear plants and often contractual workers have been exposed to the tritiated water, which behaves similarly to water if ingested or inhaled. The radiation doses that would accrue to workers exposed to this substance would be considerable.
Second, we are disappointed at the public statements made by officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Reportedly, the secretary of the AERB apparently likened the accident to “the coolant system of a car engine engendering a leak”. This is a seriously misleading statement. Unlike a car engine, just “shutting down” a nuclear reactor does not mean that cooling is no longer required, because the radioactive material in the reactor continues to produce large amounts of heat well after the reactor has been “shut down.” This is what caused the accident at Fukushima.
This just reinforces the point that the AERB is an ineffectual organization, and rather than functioning as an independent regulator whose primary responsibility is to the public, it often functions as a mouthpiece of the DAE and the NPCIL.
We demand that an independent and transparent inquiry must be conducted in the incident, involving experts and citizens. This incident once again highlights the urgency of introducing accountability in the Indian nuclear establishment.