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Review of nuclear reactor safety on, says PM

Review of nuclear reactor safety on, says PM
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First Published: Tue, Mar 15 2011. 12 53 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Mar 15 2011. 12 53 AM IST
Mumbai/ New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Monday a review of all nuclear reactors in India in view of the radiation leak in tsunami-devastated Japan.
Atomic energy authorities and the state-run company that operates Indian nuclear plants have been ordered to check the safety features of the installations, Singh told lawmakers in Parliament. “Government attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety,” he said.
The review will look at the ability of nuclear reactors to withstand the impact of natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes. “We are open to review safety practices and systems in current Indian nuclear plants and also those which will come in future,” Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and secretary of the department of atomic energy, said in Mumbai.
Japan is scrambling to avert a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant complex after it was damaged in Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.
The risk of radiation from nuclear plants following a natural disaster has raised fears in India, which has 20 nuclear power plants, mostly located along the coast.
“In light of the incident in Japan, after all relevant information becomes available on the incident, we will do a detailed review of practices and systems at all our plants and if any lacunae are found similar to the Japanese plants, they will be immediately rectified,” Banerjee said.
India’s nuclear establishment is in denial, said activist Vivek Monteiro. “If we look at the Three Mile nuclear accident (in the US in 1979), the Chernobyl accident (1986) and the Fukushima accident, all are results of a failure of cooling systems and it can happen due to a variety of reasons and not just a tsunami or an earthquake,” Monteiro said. Although such a possibility is remote, it exists, he added.
Singh assured lawmakers that Indian nuclear reactors had an impeccable record and operated safely during an earthquake and the 2004 tsunami.
When the tsunami struck, a nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu was safely shut down and restarted a few days later without any problem.
makarand.g@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Mar 15 2011. 12 53 AM IST