Citizens' Issues
Fuel loading not started at Kudankulam: AERB chairman

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman said it would give clearance for fuel loading at KNPP only after receiving and reviewing report from its ground team

Mumbai: As anti-Kudankulam protests intensified, India's nuclear regulator on Thursday said it was yet to give final clearance for loading of enriched uranium fuel into the first 1000 MW atomic plant built with Russian collaboration, reports PTI.


"Fuel loading has not yet begun," SS Bajaj, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) told reporters at a briefing on safety measures at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).


Bajaj said a seven-member AERB team was carrying out last minute checks at the first 1000 MW unit of KNPP located at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.


"As soon as those (checks) are completed we will get the report from the ground team. We will then review the report and only then give clearance for fuel loading," he said.


Bajaj said it was the responsibility of the plant operator -- Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) -- to meet all the regulatory parameters after which a go ahead can be given to load fuel in the plant.


"We do not know how much time it will take. It is the responsibility of the utility (NPCIL) and not AERB. We will only ensure whether safety measures have been met or not," he said.


Kudankulam and its adjoining villages are witnessing a fresh wave of protests led by anti-nuclear activists and the locals against commissioning of the atomic power plant.


Bajaj refused to be drawn into a debate on the timeframe commissioning of the plant and made it clear that it was the responsibility of the operator.


"Timeframe for commissioning of the plant are issues with the utility. Regulatory body will only give clearances when the safety measures are met. It can be done tomorrow or one year later. If we are satisfied we will clear it," he said.


On the safety of the Kudankulam plant, Bajaj said an AERB committee had said the plant was safe and robust as far as tsunami-like conditions are concerned.


He said the committee had made 17 recommendations for incorporating additional safety measures in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.


Bajaj said the recommended actions were to be reviewed and resolved and AERB has set up a timeframe ranging from six months to two years for their implementation.


"Already implementation of some recommendations has begun. There are working groups who will review it. Without that kind of satisfaction, we will never give any clearance," he said.


On the recent CAG report on the functioning of the AERB, Bajaj said the nuclear regulator was an autonomous body and does not get its regulatory decisions cleared from anybody.


"We would like to clarify that with regards to regulatory decisions, AERB is an autonomous body and we do not report to anybody to clear our regulatory decisions," he said.


Bajaj said AERB has taken many enforcement actions in the past and will continue to do it in future as well.


"We will not agree to that we are not effective," the AERB Chairman said.


He refused to comment any further on the findings of the CAG report which would be taken up by a parliamentary committee for examination.


"CAG report is with Parliamentary committee and it is not advisable that I talk about it as it will be inviting privilege issues of Parliament," Bajaj said.


SpiceJet in talks with Gulf airline for investment

SpiceJet said as the framework for FDI in Indian aviation is not yet in place, overseas carriers were reluctant to enter more formal negotiations

Dubai: SpiceJet has held 'preliminary discussions' with a Gulf airline for potential investment in the Indian budget carrier, reports PTI quoting a news report.


"There have been preliminary discussions to check in principle whether there is interest on both sides and the confirmation there would be 'yes there is'," SpiceJet CEO Neil Mills told Arabian Business.


Any such tie-up depends on a policy shift in India's aviation industry, which currently prohibits foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector.


Mills said as the framework for FDI in Indian aviation is not yet in place, overseas carriers were reluctant to enter more formal negotiations.


"(Talks have) been on a preliminary basis, because they've quite rightly said what's the point in investing money in due diligence if the rule to enable (an investment) doesn't even exist," Mills was quoted as saying.


Mills, however, declined to reveal whether UAE-based Etihad Airways, which owns minority stakes in airberlin and Virgin Australia, and Qatar Airways were among the interested parties.


SpiceJet has a network of 41 destinations across South Asia and the Middle East.


Any future tie-up, Mills said, would provide reciprocal benefits.


"We've got a good network and we're carrying 36,000 people a day (and) about one million people a month now, so we've got good feed and good catchment," he said.


A partnership with an international carrier would give SpiceJet access to economies of scale on procurement contracts and long-haul options for its passengers, he added.


On the possibility of any change in India's aviation policy, Mills said a part of the issue is that the majority of carriers have realised "they cannot use (FDI) anyway".


"Either their debt burden is so large that nobody would want to take a stake in them because you inherit a stake of the debt, and other carriers are already owned up to 49% on an offshore basis anyway," he said.


SpiceJet will begin a daily service to Riyadh from its hub in Delhi by October, he said, adding that the airline is currently not assessing any other Gulf routes.


IMG recommends de-allocation of four coal mines

IMG has recommended de-allocation of four coal mines that were allotted to private companies and encashment of bank guarantee of three others on the ground of non-development of mines within the prescribed time

New Delhi: The Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on coal blocks allocation has recommended de-allocation of four mines allotted to private firms and encashment of bank guarantee of three others on the ground of non-development of mines within a prescribed time, reports PTI.


"The IMG, which reviewed eight cases yesterday has recommended de-allocation of four coal blocks including two alloted to private firm Field Mining and Ispat," a Coal Ministry official, who did not wish to be named, told PTI.


Field Mining and Ispat was slapped a show cause along with 58 others for delay in development of Chinora and Warora Southern Part coal blocks in Maharashtra.


This is the first recommendation by the IMG ever since controversy broke out over the allocation of coal blocks after the recent Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that criticised the government for allotting them in a non-transparency.


The IMG had scrutinised eight cases on Wednesday in a marathon six-hour meeting out of a total 29 reviewed by it last week in the context of why production had not started within the prescribed timeline.


It had heard representatives of 29 coal block allottees on 6, 7 and 8 September out of of 58 allocations under focus.


Meanwhile, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters that he was hopeful that the IMG would submit its first report by 17th September, two days after the 15th September deadline set earlier.


"I am hopeful that IMG will submit its report by 17th September," Jaiswal said.



anantha ramdas

5 years ago

IMG should be given more time if needed to do a good job, not submit report in a hush-hush and hash manner!

No one should expect IMG to be able to unravel the mystery that surrounds these allocations where the block holders have hardly done any spade work.

Please permit IMG to handle this herculean task in the best way possible; let them do justice to this great monumental work. In a way, this will set precedent for other similar work, as next in the line would be the Iron ore mining!

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