State’s pollution regulator stumps top nuclear body

Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to clarify why it has employed a consultant that is not accredited to assess either nuclear power plants or category A thermal power projects to draw up a draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for its proposed 6,000-MW nuclear power plant at Mithivirdi in Bhavnagar.

At the end of the draft EIA report for the NPCIL's project, Engineers India Limited (EIL), a public-sector undertaking, has attached a copy of its QCI-NABET certification in which it shows the PSU has been given conditional accreditation to assess category B thermal power plants.

Category B Thermal Power Plants are those with a capacity of 500 MW or less, which can be cleared by state authorities. Category A power plants, on the other hand, refers to power plants of higher capacities, and need clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). All nuclear power plants also come under category A.

The letter seeking the clarification was issued two days ago. NPCIL's chief engineer for the Mithivirdi project, P M Shah, said his company had forwarded it to EIL for a reply.

"No agency in India is accredited to assess nuclear power projects and all our other projects have also been assessed by PSUs such as NEERI and MECON. Besides, EIL has applied for accreditation. However, all NPCIL's projects are assessed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) as far as radioactive emissions is concerned," Shah said.

If a clarification is not received soon or if it is not satisfactory, the issue could lead to the state pollution regulator either postponing or cancelling the public hearing, a senior official in the GPCB said. He, however, added it could also be bundled with the rest of the public hearing proceedings and sent to the MoEF for consideration.

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