Radiation Protection and Environment

: 2011  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 159--163

Fukushima to Jaitapur: Battling fear of unknown

Tushar P Ghate, MG Takwale, Sanjay Dhole 
 Department of Physics, School of Energy Studies, University of Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Tushar P Ghate
Department of Physics, School of Energy Studies, University of Pune, Maharashtra


After-Fukushima incident, various concerns were raised by public and media about the safety of nuclear installations operating all around the world. All nuclear related eventualities of the past were meshed with the present, adding disproportionate factors, unrealistic conclusions were framed based mostly on notions. Fear of unknown radiation syndrome has played up on the minds of common man. India, on a verge of entering path-breaking nuclear energy arena, obviously could not be isolated from such concerns. Such issues were discussed with ongoing protests at Jaitapur and Kudankulam. This paper discusses various concerns expressed after Fukushima incident, overview on proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant and justifications to the raised concerns.

How to cite this article:
Ghate TP, Takwale M G, Dhole S. Fukushima to Jaitapur: Battling fear of unknown.Radiat Prot Environ 2011;34:159-163

How to cite this URL:
Ghate TP, Takwale M G, Dhole S. Fukushima to Jaitapur: Battling fear of unknown. Radiat Prot Environ [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Jan 26 ];34:159-163
Available from: https://www.rpe.org.in/text.asp?2011/34/3/159/101687

Full Text

 1. Introduction

March 11, 2011 disaster caused due to 9.0 Richter earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant on the coast north of Tokyo and resulted in radiation crisis and widespread contamination. About 80 000 residents orderly evacuated a 20-km (12-mile) area. After the incident, the world woke up to numerous issues, mostly misconceptions concerning the radiation levels prevailing in the area and its likely effects. The newspapers and electronic media flooded with the so-called disastrous radiological aftermath. The same references and terms were added with the ongoing protests against Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP). Apart from the obvious fear about radiation, other economical, social, and regional aspects were also added to the radiation concern. This paper discusses various issues with reference to Fukushima incidents and JNPP protests.

 2. Fukushima Incident

Units 1, 2, and 3 at the plant site were operating at the time of the earthquake but were automatically shut down due to in-built safety features at the onset of the earthquake. The earthquake also destroyed external power supply, resulting in loss of offsite power. The emergency diesel fired generators and battery backups were severely damaged due to the tsunami wave, resulting in overheating of reactor cores due to insufficient cooling. This grim situation further aggravated with cascading events resulting in core meltdown and hydrogen explosions. The situation was subsequently brought under control with prolonged and relentless efforts of plant operators and emergency response workers. No one received unduly high doses, namely, more than the dose limits considered safe for such situations. No member of the public exceeded the limits set for such situations.

2.1 Concern raised in the USA

In June 2011, an article [1] claimed "Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of Fukushima Fallout." The author claimed a statistically significant increase of infant mortality deaths after the Fukushima accident in eight selected cities in the Northwest USA.

After the fact finding analysis, it was revealed that the author did not include all cities in the area of survey and omitted two major cities of that area. As per the data given in [Figure 1], the analysis has been carried out starting from two weeks prior to the Fukushima incident. [2] {Figure 1}

As the analyzed numbers are quite low, the random variations are very sensitive. For example, the drastic increase in San Jose city from a single infant death in week 14 to seven in week 18 does not corroborate the claim. In most of the other cities, the numbers of infant deaths tend to be three or less for the entire time period.

It can be concluded that there is no cause-to-effect relationship. Minuscule increase in radioactivity level in fish (much below the set limit for fish consumption in the coastal USA) cannot be attributed to any deleterious effect noticed in wider sections of the U.S. population. The effects attributed to radiation take several years to manifest and not in 14 week's time.

 3. Jaitapur

Government of India, for the present, and "in principle" has approved in October, 2005 setting up of six numbers of 1650 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWR) type Nuclear Power Plants at Jaitapur. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is the notified project proponent for establishment of Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park.

The total power generating capacity proposed on a narrow strip of coastal land 50 km-90 km wide and 200 km long is around 33 000 MW. It will be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net electrical power rating once completed.

3.1 Value additions in reactor design

Heavy Neutron Reflector is a solution adapted to PWRs and featured on the evolutionary power reactor (EPR) designs: achieving ~3% fuel savings and 60 years of reactor pressure vessel lifetime certainty.Core Catcher safety to mitigate and manage a potential core melt.

3.2 Other safety features

Large commercial airplane crash resistance.Optimized level of redundancy, diversity of system, and incremental mitigation of abnormal events.

In addition, nuclear reactors of today are designed and adequately safeguarded against earthquake expected in the region. However, as a result of the combination of earthquake and tsunami severely interrupted emergency power required for safe shutdown of reactor. Future reactor design should consider such eventualities to ensure safety.

3.3 Environmental protection features

Lower volume of final wasteReduced collective dose

3.4 Viability aspects

The site offers following parameters and characteristics that are suitable for establishment of any Nuclear Energy Park:

The adequate land required to set up multiunit nuclear power plants (NPPs). Water availability and drawl of condenser cooling water from sea is assured.Foundation conditions are favorable with rocky substrata.The average elevation of the site is about RL +24.5 m above the mean sea level.Power evacuation "in principle" is feasible initially for 3300/2000 MWe power from site depending on the capacity of the units.Average population density within 10 km around the site. The nearest National Highway is NH-17 at 38 km distance from the site. The nearest railway about 60 km from site.The proposed site for the project is rocky and almost barren with no sensitive species, such as mangroves, are present up to 5 km from the site. Nuclear power station does not affect the flora around and release no pollutants to affect the flora. In fact, such barren sites, after setting of nuclear plants, have seen abundant growth of planted vegetation, e.g., the shrubby area. For example, Kudnankulam has now luxuriant growth of vegetations in the plant premises.

3.5 Safety concerns

There were concerns over the safety of JNPP, especially at the backdrop of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island (TMI), and Fukushima accidents.

Chernobyl accident took place in the year 1986, about 25 years ago. The plant was of a 1950 vintage design with no multilayered containment structure enclosing the reactor core to prevent release of radioactivity and had little in terms of engineered safety features. The reactor also employed graphite as moderator, contrary to water/heavy water in most of the modern reactors. The Chernobyl reactor, a reactor of world war vintage was an intrinsically unsafe reactor with positive temperature coefficient of reactivity and the graphite used as moderator, a substance intrinsically dangerous due to the stored energy release and catching fire. Nuclear power plant designs have evolved ever since, employing proven reactivity control systems, diverse and redundant safety systems, "double containment" reactor building, and several other advanced features, in line with the philosophy of defence-in-depth, thus assuring highest level of safety. The nuclear power reactors to be set up at Jaitapur, the EPRs (termed as Generation III+ nuclear power reactors) are state-of-the-art in terms of safety. A Chernobyl type of accident is just unlikely in case of these reactors.

The safety of each individual reactor and system is ensured and there is no bearing of multiple units or unit size on safety.

Also, countries like Japan, France, South Korea, and several others have a far greater density of nuclear power plants relative to the geographical sizes of these nations, many of which are smaller in size than the state of Maharashtra and yet have many times more number of nuclear power plants. France, for example, has 58 nuclear power plants operating, producing close to 80% of the total electricity produced. This corroborates that even far greater density of nuclear power production capacity distributed in the smallest geographical areas has no adverse effect on either environment or population.

It is pertinent to mention that till date, there has not been any event in any of the nuclear power plants of India, which has resulted in adverse radiological impact on the environment. Globally, commercial nuclear power has registered over 14 000 reactor-years of safe and reliable operation so far, Chernobyl and Fukushima being an exception. There are 440 nuclear reactors operating worldwide and there has not been any other nuclear accident otherwise.

3.6 Radiation dose apportionment

3.6.1 Water route [3]

Dose limit of each site as per AERB = 1 millisievert per year (from all routes);Dose limit of each unit of JNPP = 0.1 millisievert per year (from all routes);Dose limit of each unit of JNPP from water route = 0.02 millisievert per year;Radionuclide mixture without tritium (H-3) = 0.01 millisievert per year;Tritium (H-3) = 0.01 millisievert per year.

The above data confirm that condenser cooling water (CCW) will not have any adverse effect on the sea water.

3.7 Radiation (Airborne)

The radioactive release due to operation of JNPP is expected to be insignificant and impact would be negligible.

The radiation from nuclear power plants to the environment is so little and insignificant. For instance, against an average background radiation level of 2400 microsievert (μSv), the radiation from existing nuclear power plants for years has varied from 1.11 to 26.67 μ Sv ranging from 0.05% to 1% only.

3.8 Siting considerations for earthquake and tsunami

Since Jaitapur [4] being seismically sensitive area, the danger of an accident has been foremost on the minds of people. According to the earthquake hazard zoning of India, Jaitapur is under Zone III. This zone is called the moderate Risk Zone.

The details of seismic zones and their classification globally vis-à-vis Indian classification is given in [Table 1].{Table 1}

The different regions in the country are categorized in Seismic Zones II-V depending on the severity and frequency of earthquake damaging potential. Nuclear power plants can be set in any zone by having suitable design features and provisions. It is also brought out that there are nuclear power plants located in some of the most earthquake-prone zones of the earth, like Japan (54 reactors are under operation currently) and the west coast of the USA (10 reactors are under operation in this part of the USA currently).

These reactors have been designed to withstand earthquakes and have testified the design by withstanding many severe earthquakes already. And thus the adage: Nuclear power plants are the safest places to be during an earthquake.

Further, nuclear power plant structures, systems, and equipment are designed and qualified for a maximum possible earthquake at the site. This has been amply demonstrated as Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) kept operating during the Bhuj earthquake, which was quite devastating to the town of Bhuj in the nearby Kutch. Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS) located in Zone IV has withstood several hundred tremors in the last two decades since its commencement of operation in 1989. All nuclear power plants in the country have operated safely during earthquakes. The details are given in [Table 2]. The details of seismic zones of nuclear power plants in some countries are given in [Table 3].{Table 2}{Table 3}

The site at Jaitapur is located in Seismic Zone III as per the Indian Standard IS 1893 (2002), and not in Seismic Zone IV as is being talked about by a section of opponents of this plant. Jaitapur site meets the requirements for sitting as stipulated in the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board's code on safety in nuclear power plant sitting, including absence of any capable faults within 5 km. The Jaitapur project site actually has much greater safety margins in this regard as there is no capable fault within 30 km. Thus, the site is safe and engineerable from seismic criteria.

The existing nuclear power plant sites in the country are located in Zones II, III, and IV as shown in [Figure 2].{Figure 2}

There was a concern that likely damages as a result of tsunami have not been taken into account while clearing the site.

The average elevation of the site is about RL +24.5 m above the mean sea level. The detailed analysis/studies have been carried out by Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune to arrive at the safe grade elevation for proposed JNPP due to flood/tsunami.

Safe grade elevation of +7.0 m with respect to Chart Datum has been recommended for proposed JNPP site. This safe grade elevation has been estimated considering the highest astronomical tidal level of +3.3 m, 2.5 m of tsunami, or the 1000-year return period storm surge of 2.7 m, maximum wave setup of 0.5 m, and the free-board of 0.5 m. Hence, the site is considered to be safe from flooding/tsunami view point. However, further studies will be carried out to fix grade level elevation at the design stage, taking into account the need to reduce pumping head.

3.9 Radioactive waste disposal

It is not clear where the nuclear waste emanating from the site will be dumped. The plant is estimated to generate 300 tonnes of waste each year. The EPR waste will have about four times as much radioactive bromine, iodine, cesium, etc., compared to ordinary PWR.

3.10 Biological environment

The project area is occupied by barren land with grasses and scrub vegetation. Thus development of JNPP would not affect the green cover of the area. On the contrary, JNPP has extensive developmental plan for green belt and plantation in plant and residential complex area resulting in increase in green cover and biodiversity of plants and birds in the area, apart from creation of beautiful landscape. There is no discharge of conventional pollutants into the aquatic environment; so marine fauna and flora would not be affected.

 4. Conclusion

Post Fukushima, law makers, social activists, and scientific communities strived to bring forward unbiased facts before the local population. Fear of unknown must not be encouraged to be exploited by the opportunistic movements. Nuclear power generation and safety records demonstrated in France, Japan, and the USA undoubtedly attribute to success of nuclear energy. We must recognize its existence, importance, relevance, and nurture it for the posterity.

 5. Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to Dr. K. S. Pradeep Kumar, Head, ERSM and S, RSSD, and Dr. D. N. Sharma, Associate Director, HS and E Group, BARC for their valuable support in the study.


1Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, June 10-12, 2011 by JANETTE D. SHERMAN, MD And JOSEPH MANGANO, available from:http://www.counterpunch.org. [Last accessed on 2011 May 10].
2Available from: http://nuclearpoweryesplease.org/blog/2011/06/17/shame-on-you- janette-sherman-and-joseph-mangano/. [Last accessed on 2012 May 17]
3AERB Safety Directives on radiation dose apportionment. AERB Directive No. 01/2011
4A document published-Misconceptions and Facts about Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) by NPCIL.