Some extracts from the Supreme Court Judgment on appeals related to Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4440 OF 2013
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.27335 of 2012)
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4441 OF 2013
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.27813 of 2012)
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4442 OF 2013
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.29121 of 2012)
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4443 OF 2003
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.32013 of 2012)
178. Much hue and cry has been raised by some sections of the people about the possible impact of radiation from KKNPP Units 1 and 2, a point which has been addressed by the AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and all the Expert Committees constituted to go into the impact and effect of radiation from the units not only on humans but also on ecology. Experts Committees are of the unanimous opinion that there will not be any deleterious effects due to radiation from the operation of KKNPP, and that adequate safety measures have already been taken. We cannot forget that there are many potential areas of radiation reflected in many uses of radioactive materials. Radioactive materials are used in hospitals, surgeries and so on.
179 We have, therefore, to balance “economic scientific benefits” with that of “minor radiological detriments” on the touchstone of our national nuclear policy. Economic benefit, we have already indicated has to be viewed on a larger canvas which not only augment our economic growth but alleviate
poverty and generate more employment. NPCIL, while setting up the NPP at Kudankulam, have satisfied the environmental principle like sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, precautionary principle, inter – intra generational equity and so on to implement our National Policy to develop, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people and for economic growth of the country. Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21.
180. Public money running into crores and crores rupees have already been spent for the development, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people and hence, we have to put up with such “minor inconveniences”, “minor radiological detriments” and minor environmental detriments” in our lives because the benefits we reap from KKNPP are enormous since Nuclear energy remains as an important element in India’s energy mix which can replace a significant part of fossil fuels like coal, gas oil etc.
181. The necessity of establishing KKNPP at Kudankulam has elaborately been discussed in the earlier part of the judgment, hence not repeated. Justification for establishing KKNPP at Kudankulam, therefore has been vindicated and all safety and security measures have already been taken, necessary permissions and clearances have been obtained from all statutory authorities. Apprehension expressed by some sections of the public that if the units are commissioned or put into operation, it will have far reaching consequences, not only on the present generation, but also on the future generation, of the possible radioactive effects of the units, in our view has no basis. Few of them raised the apprehension that it might repeat accidents like the one that had happened at Three Miles Island, Chernobyl, Union Carbide and Fukushima etc. Apprehension, however, legitimate it may be, cannot override the justification of the project. Nobody on this earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny. But once the justification test is satisfied, the apprehension test is bound to fail. Apprehension is something we anticipate with anxiety or fear, a fearful anticipation, which may vary from person to person.
182. Power generation through a nuclear plant set up after following all safety standards, rules and regulations, is for the welfare of the people and for the economic growth of the country, which is the object and purpose of the Atomic Energy Act. Nuclear energy assumes as an important element in India’s energy mix for sustaining economic growth of natural and domestic use which in future has to replace a significant part of fossil fuel like coal, oil, gas etc. Electricity is the heart and soul of modern life, a life meant not for the rich and famous alone but also for the poor and down trodden. They should also have an adequate means of livelihood, job opportunities for which we have to set up Industries and commercial undertakings in the public as well as private sector anand also have to invite foreign investment. Generation of electricity is of extreme importance for their establishment and functioning and also for domestic consumption. Power generation with the traditional means, through hydro, thermal electric project, coal etc are not effective substitution to the power generation through Nuclear Plant. India has a mammoth population unlike developed countries, and the consumption of electricity in domestic, industries, agricultural sector etc. is going up day-by-day. Most of the States are in the grip of power cut; day and night, for a number of hours, which has adverse effect on their economic and industrial growth. To sustain rapid economic growth, it is necessary to double the supply of energy. Energy tariff is also increasing, nuclear power in the long run will be much cheaper than other forms of energy.
183. This Court in Chameli Singh and others v. State of U.P. and another (1996) 2 SCC 549 held that an organized society right to live as a human being is not ensured by meeting only the animal needs of man, but secured only when he is assured of all facilities to develop himself and is freed from restrictions which inhibit his growth. Right to shelter includes adequate living space, safe and decent structure, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, pure air and water, electricity, sanitation and civil amenities like road etc. so as to have easy access to his daily avocation.
184. Nuclear power plant is being established not to negate right to life but to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. The petitioner’s contention that the establishment of nuclear power plant at Kudankulam will make an inroad into the right to live guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, is therefore has no basis. On the other hand it will only protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution for achieving a larger public interest and will also achieve the object and purpose of Atomic Energy Act.
188. We have noticed that, so far as this case is concerned, from the safety and security point of view of life and property, on environment and all that related aspects, all the Expert Bodies are unanimous in their opinion that KKNPP has fully satisfied all safety norms to safeguard the human life, property and environment which, we are sure, will allay the fears and apprehensions expressed by the people living in and around Kudankulam. The Court, in our view, cannot sit in judgment on the views expressed by the Technical and Scientific Bodies in setting up of KKNPP plant at Kudankulam and on its safety and security.
189.KKNPP has, therefore been set up as part of India’s National Policy so as to develop, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people of India. Policy makers consider nuclear energy as an important element in India’s energy mix for sustaining economic growth of natural and domestic use. For setting up the project, the project proponent has taken all safety requirements in site and off site and has followed the code of practices laid down by AERB, based on nationally and internationally recognized safety methods. Safeguarding the nuclear plants, radioactive materials and ensuring its physical security have become a central part of Nuclear Law. Adequate measures have, therefore, to be taken for storage of NSF at site, and also for the physical safety of stored NSF. Of the seventeen suggested safety measures, by AERB, LWR, twelve have already been implemented and the rest, in a phased manner have to be implemented which the experts say, are meant for extra security. DMP is already in place, so also the emergency preparedness plan, off site and on site and all programmes under CSR are progressing in the right direction with the co-operation and assistance of the District Administration.
190. NPCIL, has also received necessary environmental clearance from MoEF, TNPCB, etc for Units 1 to 6. No violation of CRZ is also noticed. Desalination Plant is also established after following rules and regulations and there is no violation of CRZ. Experts say that there will be no impact on the marine eco-system due to discharge of +7ºCC, CCW over and above
the ambient temperature of the sea. Radiation impact on the eco-system is also within the standard set by AERB, MoEF, EAC, Pollution Control Board etc., so opined by the Experts. In other words, all the expert teams are unanimous in their opinion of the safety and security of the KKNPP both to life and property of the people and the environment which includes marine life. Court has to respect national nuclear policy of the country reflected in the Atomic Energy Act and the same has to be given effect to for the welfare of the people and the country’s economic growth and it is with these objectives in mind KKNPP has been set up.
229.Before proceeding to issue certain directions, it is required to be stated that the appellant, by this Public Interest Litigation, has, in a way, invoked and aroused the conscience/concern of the court to such an issue. True it
is, the prayer is for the total closure of the plant and the Court has not acceded to the said prayer but his noble effort is appreciated to put forth the grievance of the local people and the necessity of adequate safety measures as is perceived. When such cause comes up before this Court, it is the bounden duty to remind the authorities “Be alert, remain always alert and duty calls you to nurture constant and sustained vigilance and nation warns you not to be complacent and get into a mild slumber”. The AERB as the regulatory authority and the MoEF are obliged to perform their duty that safety measures are adequately taken before the plant commences its operation. That is the trust of the people in the authorities which they can ill
afford to betray, and it shall not be an exaggeration to state that safety in a case of this nature in any one’s hand has to be placed on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”.
The Supreme Court delivered the judgment on May 6, 2013. The Court gave nod for commissioning the project after NPCIL,MOEF and AERB and DAEcomply with some additional directions.