Details of Supreme Court of India’s Judgement in “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant” Case

The Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and  the President of Soviet Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev  signed a mutual agreement for the construction of 2 nuclear reactors in India in the year 1988.

However, the agreement was inactive until the year 2001, due to the political changes in Soviet Russia and the objections raised by the United States of America.


“Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant”/KKNPP  at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district started the construction work in March 2002.

After more than 10 years, the first unit of the nuclear energy  plant was ready for commissioning in June 2012.

The KKNPP project had been opposed by many ‘anti-nuclear’ protestors, such as,the ‘People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy and ‘Poovulagin Nanbargal’/’Friends of Earth’  and the local people of Kudankulam.

One of the trustees of the “Poovulagin Nanbargal”-G.Sunder Rajan filed Public Interest Litigation/PIL petition to the Madras High Court on 19th Ocober 2011,  against:

  • Union of India, represented by the Secretary to Govt. of India,  Department of Atomic Energy,
  • Union of India, represented by the Secretary to Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests and
  • The Chairman,  Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
pleading for court’s  directions to the Union of India not to commission the “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant”, until the review of the project is completed in all respects in accordance with law, as the review of the project undertaken by the Union of India through the Task Force constituted post Fukushima, involving inviatation of suggestions from all corners of the world and holding  public hearings, under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

In the order the Madras High Court quoted the suggestions given by the  former President of India and a renowned ‘Atomic Scientist’- Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, who  visited the “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant”.
Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, after visiting the plant-site had  declared that inasmuch as the ‘KKNPP’ is situated 1500 Km away from the epicenter, the place is a safe one and there is absolutely no possibility for any danger.
Having found that after’ Fukushima’ accident people in the area are in an agitated mood out of fear of such occurrence in KKNPP, Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam had in a very confidential way stated that natural calamity is the ‘Act of Nature’ and if humankind was afraid of such calamity, the mankind could not have developed and the ‘KKNPP’ is a project of God, since for fulfilling the electricity production and need of this country, which is 50000 MW in 2030, the KKNPP is a necessary project. 
Having taken note of the fact that the population in nearly 50-60 villages in and around ‘KKNPP’ is 1,00,000, he has also suggested a special programme in the name of- “Kudankulam PURA” (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) with the cost of Rs.200/- Crores.
Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam had given the following 10 constructive suggestions  on visiting the “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant”:-
  • Around 30 Kms within the Kudankulam from various villages bus facilities should be provided for the people to reach Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Madurai with four-way roads.
  • Employment opportunity must be provided for 10,000 people by creating industries beyond 30 Kms up to 60 Kms of Kudankulam and youngsters should be provided with bank loan facilities to start self-employment with 25% concession
  • On the beach area of Kudankulam, green houses;  multistoried buildings; community halls; play grounds with all infrastructure facilities must be provided, apart from providing generator bodies, jetties, cold storage facilities for preserving fish for the benefit of fishermen of the area
  • One Million Litre of potable water must be prepared from sea water every day and pure potable water must be given for drinking purposes to the people living in the area
  • To enable the agriculturists in the area to irrigate their lands and also for the purpose of drinking water steps must be taken to draw water from Pechiparai dam
  • A multi-specialty hospital with all infrastructure facilities of world class standards with 500 bed facilities must be constructed and ll villages must be connected with two mobile medical diagnostic facilities;
  • Five schools in CBSE as well as the Tamil Nadu Education System along with hostel facilities must be established to provide quality education to the children of the area
  • Broadband internet facilities must be provided in all villages
  • The security protection station must be established, in which training must be given in respect of safety measures.  Groups must be created for establishing relationship between the atomic reactor and people and to develop social awareness and economic development, apart from providing the methods to be followed during emergency situations and
  • In each of the villages, the youngsters must be given training to go for higher studies in order to provide them permanent employment opportunities.

On 31st August 2012, the Madras High Court closed the PIL petition of the “Poovulagin Nanbargal” along with various petitions related to the same matter of commissioning of the  “Kudankulam Nuclear Power plant” project.

The petitioners of the PIL’s appealed in the Supreme Court of India, against the order of the Madras High Court.

The Supreme Court of India, on 6th May 2013, disposed of a bunch of  appeals in PIL petitions , rejected by the Madras High Court, pleading  to stop the commissioning of the “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant” project.

The Supreme Court of India has allowed the “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant” project to commission with directions to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India/NPCIL and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board/AERB to take all the steps for ensuring the safety of the plant and a direction to the Union Government of India to submit a report of compliance of all safety steps taken before the plant is commissioned.

The Supreme Court has  directed that endeavour should be made to withdraw all the criminal cases filed against the anti-KNPP-agitators,  so that peace and normalcy be restored at Kudankulam and nearby places, and steps should be taken to educate the people of the necessity of the plant which is in the largest interest of the nation particularly the State of Tamil Nadu.

According to  the Supreme Court of India:

  • Nuclear energy is extremely important for the country’s growth and a balance has to be struck between the right to life and sustainable development
  • Various expert groups have opined that there would be no impact on the life around the plant because of radiation
  • The larger public interest should prevail over the minor inconveniences that may be caused to the people
  • There is no basis to the fear that the radioactive effects of the ‘Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant’, when commissioned, will be far reaching
  • The apprehensions of the petitioners, that it might repeat accidents like the one that had happened at ‘Three Mile Island’, ‘Chernobyl’, ‘Union Carbide’ and ‘Fukushima’  and so on.  Apprehensions, however, legitimate  they might 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.”
  • A report of the International Atomic Energy Agency/IAEA has highlighted  that  to sustain rapid global economic growth, it is necessary to double the supply of energy and tripling supply of electricity by  the year 2050 and  billions of poor people need energy and other life-saving and job-creating technologies.

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