New Delhi, April 11: An international group of nuclear scientists, including Indias former atomic energy chairperson Anil Kakodkar, has proposed steps to bolster nuclear safety to prevent severe accidents and to limit their consequences if they occur.
The scientists have also called for fresh initiatives to improve training and preparedness of nuclear power personnel, amid widespread concerns over the future of nuclear power after the tsunami-triggered crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station in Japan.
It is important to finalise in-depth safety assessments of severe accident vulnerabilities for each nuclear power plant design and to develop severe accident management provisions for operating nuclear reactors, the 16-member group from 11 countries said.
The group has also raised a question whether the world might need an international regulatory agency entrusted with issuing binding international safety standards and performing compulsory inspections.
In a statement issued early last week, the group called for backup equipment and procedures to restore core heat removal before fuel melting.
A nuclear power plant needs to be cooled even after it has shutdown to prevent any overheating of the core. The tsunami that struck Japan had knocked off emergency power generators at Fukushima, preventing water from being pumped into the reactor cores, and leading to fuel overheating — despite shutdown.
The group said it appears that the site and the design of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant did not sufficiently take into account the unlikely combination of low probability events — a historic earthquake and a tsunami and loss of electrical power.
The scientists said complex combinations of initiating events unforeseen in plant designs had resulted in the incidents in Fukushima this year as well as the incidents at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979 and the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986.
The scientists have called for special attention to the quality of personnel training to ensure that professionals involved in nuclear power can deliver difficult and critical decisions well in time to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
They said future nuclear power plants should be located away from areas of extreme natural or man-made hazards.
Indias nuclear power programme has always made unrealistic projections and has seen great cost overruns, said Suvrat Raju, a member of the Coalition of Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, a non-government body campaigning against nuclear power.
He said the indigenous nuclear power projects in Narora (Uttar Pradesh), Kakrapar (Gujarat) and Kaiga (Karnataka) had all experienced cost overruns — their price tags exceeding double their initial projected costs.
Indias Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) currently has an installed capacity of 4,780 MW of nuclear electricity but plans to expand this capacity through indigenous as well as imported nuclear reactors.