The Koodankulam Mystery (1): Indian Officials’ Exodus


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy – TRANSCEND Media Service

May 22, 2013

It is beyond any doubt that there has been massive theft, financial irregularities, corruption and wastefulness in the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP). In this day and age of scientific corruption, asking the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for the income and assets details of some of the senior leaders of the Indian nuclear establishment would be useless as they would vehemently defend themselves with the help of their political patrons and they all would protect each other. We would rather point out the intriguing change of guard that took place at Koodankulam and in the Indian nuclear establishment last year and request you to draw your own conclusions.

Mr. M. Kasinath Balaji, who was about to retire from service on May 31, 2012, was promoted as Executive Director (Operations – Light Water Reactor) of NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) and transferred to Mumbai. He was also given service extension since he was promoted 30 days before his superannuation. Mr. Balaji was posted at KKNPP in July 2003 as Chief Superintendent and was responsible for establishment, commissioning, operation, maintenance, technical support, training and overseeing of all these activities for successful commissioning and operation of Unit 1 and 2 of KKNPP.  Later he was promoted as the Station Director of KKNPP and also as the Site Director of KKNPP. It is really very intriguing why he was not asked to stay put at Koodankulam and complete the task he had been groomed for all along. After all, he was the one who was more familiar with the overall project and had been handling all the different aspects of the project for almost 9 years after the death of Mr. S. K. Aggrawal.

Just as the head of the Koodankulam project left for Mumbai in a hurry, Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, the head of the Indian nuclear establishment, retired on April 30, 2012. It is not clear why Dr. Banerjee was not given any extension. Dr. Banerjee, a leading expert in Materials and Technology in the country and director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, was appointed as chairman of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 2009. Having been the head for two-and-a-half years, Dr. Banerjee assured that the change of guard in the DAE would not result in any major deviation in its 12th Plan program which had just been finalized.

Just like the Balaji-Banerjee combine, another important leader of the Indian nuclear establishment, Dr. S. K. Jain, left in a hurry also when his term ended on May 31, 2012. Although he was considered for the top AEC/DAE job along with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Director Mr. Ratan Kumar Sinha, and the DAE Director (strategic planning group) Mr. Ravi B Grover, Dr. Jain opted to be the head of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and moved to Tokyo. It is not clear why Dr. Jain did not try to get the top nuclear job in India. After all, the central government had, in the past, appointed Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, the then chairman and managing director of NPCIL, as the chairman of the AEC.

Moreover, Dr. Jain was instrumental in expediting the indigenous and foreign reactor-based nuclear capacity addition and was keen on increasing India’s nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW by the year 2032. He had played an important role in the revival of the 2000-MW Kudankulam project and the development of the 9,900-MW Jaitapur nuclear project in Maharashtra. After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in March 2011, Jain appointed six task forces to prepare reports on nuclear safety measures in India. It is not at all clear why Dr. Jain did not choose to be in India and complete all the important and ambitious tasks he had undertaken.

Another important person in the Indian nuclear establishment, Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, former head and present member of the AEC, has also been playing a dubious role in the Koodankulam game. He was the one who chose the site for the KKNPP and fought so hard for Russian reactors in the face of stiff opposition from the likes of Dr. P. K. Iyengar and others who objected to foreign reactors on the Indian soil. It is Dr. Srinivasan who is said to have altered the original design of the Russian reactors, done a refit, participated in the Tamil Nadu government’s expert team and submitted a report in support of the project without disclosing the redesign and refit details etc.

It is really strange that all these important nuclear leaders ran away from the KKNPP in a hurry and haste, and dumped the huge responsibility of commissioning the largest, imported, corruption-ridden, sub-standard and non-functioning KKNPP reactors on the much junior, mechanical engineer and most importantly, a local Tamil officer, Mr. R. S. Sundar. In another desperate move, the Indian nuclear establishment has recalled Mr. M. I. Joy from Russia to Koodankulam where he had already worked as Additional Chief Engineer (Site Planning). It is rather mysterious why Mr. Joy was sent to Russia in the first place, what he was actually doing in Russia and what his role was in the procurement of equipment and components for KKNPP. The Joy story sounds rather a joyous story for the nuclear leaders but a joyless one for the Koodankulam project.

Which of the above leaders are responsible for buying all the substandard and shoddy parts from ZiO-Podolsk, Izhorskiye Zavody, Informteck, and Czech valves, pumps, and cables? Why are they stubbornly refusing to give copies of the Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) even after the Central Information Commission (CIC) orders? What are these leaders hiding about the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) of the KKNPP Unit 1 and 2? We are accusing openly and loudly that these leaders are willfully hiding important quality and safety-related information and corruption from the Indian public and are putting the lives of millions of Indians in harm’s way for personal gains.

In the light of the above, we, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and struggling people, demand a comprehensive, complete, independent inquiry into the financial and technical dealings of the Koodankulam project one more time! This is a frantic appeal of the people of India to the “leaders” of India in the larger interest of India! Truth may be hidden for the time being with paisa, power and political patronage but will never be killed! Truth will triumph! And come to haunt!

The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 May 2013.

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