The Centre’s decision to shift a proposed nuclear power project from Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh has triggered widespread agitations in Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district. The proposal has received opposition from farmers in Srikakulam as well as neighbouring districts. While the Left parties have demanded a public hearing in the affected villages and compensation to the affected people under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, the AP government is hopeful that the land survey for the project will be completed in a week.
Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) last year to build the biggest power plant at Kovvada with an original capacity of 6,000 MWe. The proposed nuclear plant is a light-water nuclear power reactor. The plan is to build six 1,000 MWe light water nuclear power reactors. However, fishermen, representatives of civil society groups, anti-nuclear activists, leaders of political parties are expressing anguish stating that the project lacks safety with no relief measures for the displaced and affected people.
As a part of the Indo-US nuclear deal signed almost a decade ago, India had offered both GE and Westinghouse one site each for setting up six units of 1,000 MWe. While Srikakulam was offered as a site to GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse was offered the Mithivirdhi site in Gujarat. Facing protests of the local people and various environmental objections in Gujarat, NPCIL decided to abandon its Mithivirdhi plans and offered the Srikakulam site to Westinghouse.
Talking to FE, GV Ramesh, project director of the Kovvada nuclear power project, said that the nuclear power project will be safest in the country. “NPCIL recently has submitted new Terms of Reference (ToR) to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). We will be taking up new environment impact assessment (EIA), which is necessary followed by a public hearing,” he said, confirming about the ongoing agitations by the farmers.
“The NPCIL has already deposited Rs 389 crore with the Srikakulam district collector out of Rs 500 crore and as the work progresses, Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked for the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) plan,”’ he said. “While the investment details are still under negotiation, the gestation period for the project completion is five years and may become full operational in nine years with six reactors,’” he added.
“The originally planned Kovvada nuclear power plant of 6,000 MWe capacity will displace more than 20,000 persons belonging to the agricultural and fishing families and affect a total population of 6,27,000 living within 30km potentially exposed zone. NPCIL and the state government are trying to push through land acquisition despite stiff public opposition,” says EAS Sarma, former Union energy secretary.