There are 20 nuclear power stations in India with excellent safety record. The establishment often tell us that nuclear reactors in India are designed to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. So far they are more than vindicated, says Rajan Alexander
The Cyclone Thane that struck the southern coast of India on Friday did not damage the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS). In fact, operations at the MAPS, in located at Kalpakkam, 70km from Chennai on the east coast, continued unhindered when the cyclonic storm crossed the TN coast yesterday morning.
There are 20 nuclear power stations in India with excellent safety record. The establishment often tell us that nuclear reactors in India are designed to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. So far they are more than vindicated, says Rajan Alexander.
He adds that during the massive Gujarat earthquake in 2001, with Bhuj as epicentre, the Kakrapar nuclear power plant was unaffected. In 2004 Tsunami that hit Tamil Nadu and Andhra coasts, the reactors at Kalpakkam were unaffected. Now comes further confirmation that despite the ‘very severe’ Cyclone Thane, the Kalpakkam reactor worked as usual. Surely, Cyclone Thane inflicted a massive blow on the Kudankulam anti-nuclear movement. Let’s hope they fizzle out soon.
Station director of MAPS K Ramamurthy said, “The units experienced slight variations in condenser vacuum due to increase in back pressure caused by high tide and due to ingress of shells and silt. In the last 24 hours, the maximum wind velocity was 45-50 kmph and the rainfall 96.6 mm.”
“As on December 30, MAPS UNIT-2 has completed 305 days of continuous operations” he added.
The cyclonic storm killed at least 33 persons in Tamil Nadu and left a trail of destruction and threw life out of gear in Cuddalore district and adjacent Union Territory of Puducherry.
The cyclonic storm Thane, however, left Andhra Pradesh coast unscathed after keeping everyone in the state on toes for the last two days. The two southern states were on high alert.
Cuddalore was the most affected, with damaged roads making it difficult for rescue teams. Rail services from southern Tamil Nadu were hit as many trains were running late or stopped at nearby stations while flights from Chennai to international destinations were cancelled
Puducherry: Cyclone Thane hit the coast of Tamil Nadu on Friday, making landfall between Puducherry and Cuddalore that has resulted in the death of 19 people so far. So far 12 people have been reported dead in Cuddalore and seven dead in Puducherry, says a blog maintained by Rajan Alexander (http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2011/12/cyclone-thane-19-dead.html).
Five people died in Cuddalore in incidents of wall collapse and electrocution, officials said. A 45-year old man of Vanarampet village in Puducherry died in house collapse.
The landfall happened very close to Cuddalore, southeast of Puducherry. The system is likely to move westwards and cross north Tamil Nadu coast, close to south of Puducherry, within a few hours and weaken gradually. As a result very heavy rainfall will continue over Northern Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Rayalseema.
Puduchery District Collector SB Deepak Kumar said that rescue operations were in full swing in the union territory. Uprooted trees were being removed from the roads.
Rail services from southern Tamil Nadu were hit as many trains were running late or stopped at nearby stations while flights from Chennai to international destinations by private carriers including to Kuwait and Malaysia were cancelled.
Cuddalore was the most affected, with damaged roads making it difficult for rescue teams, including those from National Disaster Response Force and fire and rescue services, to reach the cyclone hit fishing hamlets.
District Collector Amuthavalli said even as communication lines remained affected, over 5,000 houses belonnging to fishermen had been damaged.
"We don't know what is happening in the outside world. All that we have been hearing since last night is the howling of the wind. Several trees have fallen down. Even mobile phone signals are not proper," S Ravikumar, a Puducherry resident, was quoted as saying.
Storm surge of about 1.0 to 1.5 meter above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate the low lying areas of Puducherry, Chennai, Tiruvallu, Kanchipuram and Villupuram districts of north Tamil Nadu.
Even after the landfall, the system is likely to maintain its intensity for 12 hours even after landfall weakens gradually. Under its influence rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy fall is likely to continue over north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in next 24 hours.
Eight teams of the National Disaster Management Force (NDRF) have been sent to the coastal areas. Two of these teams will be in Andhra Pradesh, rest six in Tamil Nadu in view of the cyclone warning. Another 15,000 men of the NDRF are on alert.
Schools buildings in Chennai have been turned into shelter homes and the entire city is on high alert.
A weather scientist had earlier said that Cyclone Thane would probably be half in intensity than that of the super-cyclone that struck Orissa in 1999 which packed wind speed of more than 220 km per hour.
Chennai Helpline Numbers: (ISD/STD code for Chennai is +91-44)
Chennai Corporation - 1913, 25619237; Kancheepuram District Administration - 1077, Police Control room - 9445465536, 27238001; Tiruvallur District Administration - 27661200; Police Control Room - 27661010
IRDA had been in news this year with a slew of changes affecting both the life and general insurance industry. It’s been a tumultuous ride for both—the insurer and insured
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) finally launched mediclaim portability in October this year after delaying the initial launch date. Pension products have now been revamped again, after September 2010 new look was rejected by insurers as well as the insured. Despite mechanical rejection of medical claims by some insurers on flimsy technical grounds, IRDA only issued a circular which has hardly made any impact on the ground.
Portability – Mediclaim portability has been on a slow take-off till now. According to Fali Poncha, a veteran of the Indian insurance industry and executive chairman, IRICS insurance broking, “The need for portability is very real and it is a step in the right direction. The real hurdle to making portability a success lies in the fact that the terms and conditions relating to pre-existing diseases (PED) and time-bound exclusions are not common to all insurers. The laid-down time schedule is fraught with practical difficulties.”
No-Claim-Bonus (NCB) allows a policyholder to get an increased sum insured (usually 5%) for a claims-free year without paying additional premium. Portability will be limited to the sum insured (including bonus). Clarity was needed on whether the new insurer will allow bonus sum insured without extra premium. Not addressing this issue will ensure that the new insurer will charge a premium on the bonus sum insured, as well. Consequently, the net effect is that the policyholder loses the real benefit of NCB.
Pension - ‘No-guarantee’ option is not on the table. With a requirement to offer non-zero guarantee, high exposure to debt will continue. The annuity phase of the product will also be from the same insurer. Captive customers for annuity phase may ensure less motivation for insurers to offer best rate.
The annuity rates will be decided at the time of vesting of pension. If at that time another insurer offers better annuity rates, the insured is stuck with existing insurer—literally rest of life. To top if off, annuity in India is taxable which itself is the biggest snag. At the time of vesting, one-third of the corpus can be taken out tax-free and the remaining will now be enforced as annuity. There is no option for taking out the balance after paying tax. Anyone still interested in pension?
Mechanical claims rejection - IRDA has issued a circular to life and non-life companies asking them not to reject claims on technical grounds like a delay in filing. Some insurers including United India Insurance were rejecting claims mechanically based on delay in hospitalisation intimation and claims filing. Many claims continue to get rejected even after IRDA’s circular. With no warning or penalty for specific insurers, will the IRDA circular be taken seriously?
Cashless mediclaim elusive – Preferred-Provider-Network (PPN) has been created by government insurers to restrict cashless claims at hospitals who agree on the tariff rate for procedures. Government insurers have seen some success in adding high-end Mumbai hospitals like Jaslok and Fortis to its PPN list; however, the majority of big names like Breach Candy, Hinduja and Lilavati remain elusive.
ULIP to Traditional – It’s like jumping from frying pan into fire. With reduced upfront commission in ULIP, intermediaries are pushing traditional products. The acting chairman of LIC was quoted as saying, “In the past two years, we have tried to consciously shift to traditional products. Earlier, we had ULIPs and traditional products in the ratio of 60:40, which has now reversed.”
VIP – Last year it was Universal Life Policy (ULP) that IRDA suddenly discovered was toxic and decided to scrap it after it was in the market for over a year. It found its way back re-christened as Variable Insurance Policy (VIP). LIC Bima Account 1 and 2, SBI Life Flexi Smart Insurance are new VIPs in the market. A VIP worth skipping in your portfolio!
Highest NAV product - Insurance companies Moneylife has interacted with recently are not happy with the IRDA’s hint at scrapping highest NAV products. The hot topic seemed to have cooled down with IRDA still unable to make up its mind. Time will tell if highest NAV survives year 2012.
Online aggregators squeezed – IRDA’s stringent guidelines for comparison websites are seen as a deathblow for likes of PolicyBazaar.com, Myinsuranceclub.com and ApnaPaisa.com. Clamping down on advertising, ratings, endorsements or bestselling insurance products will surely help customers to get unbiased information for making a good buying decision, but restricting the lead generation fee to Rs10 is shutting the business door.
Motor insurance premium rise - In April, IRDA raised premiums for motor third-party liability insurance by up to 65%. The third-party pool has been in severe losses. From April 2012, third-party motor pool will work as a new ‘declined pool’ concept. The end result is that third-party premiums are likely to go up in 2012.