MAC: Mines and Communities

India update

Published by MAC on 2007-06-13

India update

13th June 2007

Opposition to the Jindal's proposal to open up bauxite mining on tribal (Adivasi) land in Andhra Pradesh has incited the wrath of a broad raft of political parties.

[see our report last week:]

The chairman of India's nuclear power corporation promises to overcome the "mismatch" between the country's burgeoning plans for more nuclear power stations, whatever the consequences for communities in the uranium-rich areas.

But students from one of those communities have made it clear that uranium has no place in their state.

Parties join hands against bauxite mining move in agency area

Staff Reporter , The Hindu

12th June 2007

* Plan meeting with representatives of tribals on future course of action

* Public interest litigation will be filed, says TDP MLA

* CPI wants TDP to be consistent in its approach

VISAKHAPATNAM: Opposition parties came together to chalk out an action plan opposing bauxite mining in the agency area of the district citing overwhelming opposition to setting up of a refinery at a recent public hearing. Representatives of TDP, CPI and BJP were present. Leaders of the CPI(M) could not attend the meeting as there was a protest in the agency.

Addressing the media on Monday, TDP MLA from Chodavaram, Ganta Srinivasa Rao, said that coordinated efforts would be made by involving people from the plains and the tribal area as both of them would be affected by the mining.

A meeting with representatives of tribals would be conducted to discuss future course and a public interest litigation would be filed.

He wanted the government to answer questions on whether mining would affect water sources in the agency, impact on wildlife, highly water consumptive nature of the industry and the water contamination because of fly ash and slurry produced in the processing.

TDP demand

The MLA also wanted the government to make it clear whether Raiwada water would be given to farmers and questioned the action of the GVMC Commissioner assuring water to the refinery without taking the council into confidence.

Former minister and TDP (rural) president Bandaru Satyanarayana Murthy wanted a public hearing to be held in Araku. The TDP would take up protests in the agency and stay put there, he said and warned of a `Nandigram-like' situation if the government went ahead with mining. He recalled that the TDP government dropped the proposal for mining after it was opposed in the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) meeting. CPI district secretary J.V. Satyanarayana Murthy said the party had been opposing the mining and wanted the TDP to be consistent in its approach. Chintapalli MLA G. Demudu accused Commercial Taxes Minister Konathala Ramakrishna of not keeping his word on conducting an all-party meeting.

Tribals were ready for an attack if mining was taken up, he warned. J. Pridhviraj of BJP criticised the double standards of the Congress in favouring mining here and opposing it in Orissa and accused it of being hand in glove with the Jindals.

TDP (urban) president C.M.A. Zaheer Ahmed said the party would agitate against the decision to supply water by the municipal corporation. Samata executive director Ravi Rebbapragada made a presentation on the high water consumption of the industry and environmental impact.



13th June 2007

Shillong: Authorities in Meghalaya yesterday held a public hearing seeking the views of tribal villagers about uranium mining amid a general strike and protests by several groups opposing the government move.

"The hearing concluded peacefully with some 400 to 500 people participating. Some of them were against the move while there were people who supported the government's plans for uranium mining," H.S. Shylla, chairman of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), a constitutional body to preserve traditional laws and culture, told IANS.

The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board had called for the public hearing at village Nongbah Jynrin, about 135km west of capital Shillong, to elicit local opinion on mining the yellow cake.

The mandatory hearing was necessary to get clearance from the Environment Ministry and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for carrying out opencast mining.

"We are yet to get full details of the views expressed by the locals at the hearing," said Shylla.

The hearing was held amidst tight security with the powerful Khasi Students' Union (KSU) enforcing a 36-hour general strike from 5am on Monday to prevent the meeting from taking place, saying emission of radioactive uranium would pose serious health hazards.

Life in Shillong has been paralysed with all shops, businesses and government offices remaining closed for the second day Tuesday due to the strike called by KSU. "We shall continue with the fight and see to it that the Uranium Corporation of India is not able to take up exploration work. The health hazards and risks involved in such a mission are tremendous and we cannot allow our people to die," John F. Kharshiing, chairman of the Federation of Khasi states, a powerful tribal group, told IANS.

Surveys conducted by the Atomic Energy Department show that there could be up to 10,000 tonnes of uranium in and around Domiasiat, 150km from Shillong.

Tribals strike over uranium plans

BBC News South Asia

12th June 2007

A strike called by a tribal youth group to oppose the mining of uranium in part of northern India has caused severe disruption in the area.

Rich uranium deposits have been discovered in the Meghalaya hills bordering Bangladesh.

Plans to mine the ore have generated fierce resistance among local political parties and youth groups.

They say the mining will ruin the health of villagers and destroy the local environment.

About 400 villagers ignored the strike to attend a local consultation organised by the Indian government.

MP opposes uranium mining

Nagaland Post

6th June 2007

SHILLONG, JUNE 5: Simmering discontent over the proposed uranium mining in the state has refused to die even as Meghalaya Rajya Sabha MP Robert Kharshiing mooted the idea of involving MPs cutting across party lines to oppose uranium mining in tribal areas.

The chief whip of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Rajya Sabha also said that he would take up the matter with CPM, Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh to oppose Uranium mining in any tribal areas of the country.

Meanwhile, the Khasi Students' Union (KSU) today gave a fresh call for a four-day road blockade as second phase of agitation starting Wednesday after two days of office picketing. Security has been tightened ahead of the KSU blockade in Meghalaya opposing the proposed public hearing on uranium mining.

The hearing called by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board is scheduled to be held on June 12 at Nongbah Jynrin near the proposed mining site at Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong Uranium ore and processing plant at Mawthabah.

"The district administration has been instructed to maintain law and order and to clear highways for movement of vehicles to Mizoram and Tripura," chief minister D D Lapang said.

"The KSU leaders should withdraw their agitations as it will pay no dividends to them," he added.

India, facing uranium fuel shortage, presses on with nuclear power programme

New mines, mills planned in Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya; five reactors under construction

T.S. Subramanian, The Hindu

15th June 2007

CHENNAI: Firm plans are under way to press ahead with India's indigenous nuclear power programme should, for some reason, the proposed Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement not come through. The focus in the immediate future will be on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) that have become the workhorse of the Indian nuclear power programme. These PHWRs use natural uranium as fuel, and heavy water as coolant and moderator.

S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which designs, builds, and operates nuclear power reactors in India, told The Hindu : "As far as the indigenous PHWR programme is concerned, it is moving at the right pace, and the future is bright."

Preparations are on course for the fifth nuclear power reactor at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan to reach criticality in August or September 2007. "Work is also progressing well," Mr. Jain said, on two more heavy water reactors — Rajasthan-6 and Kaiga-4 in Karnataka — to be started up by March 2008. These three reactors have a capacity of 220 MWe each.

Mr. Jain noted that India would take a big step forward in its indigenous nuclear power programme when excavation will begin by the end of 2007 for two PHWRs of 700 MWe each at Kakrapar in Gujarat. "The design of the 700 MWe PHWR has been completed. Detailed engineering is in full swing." These will be the biggest PHWRs to be built by the NPCIL.

India currently has 17 operating reactors, with a total installed capacity of 4,120 MWe. Of these, 15 are PHWRs. The other two are light water reactors (LWRs) built by the U.S. at Tarapur in Maharashtra. These LWRs use enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as coolant and moderator.

Real challenge

The real challenge is the nuclear fuel constraint. If the capacity factor of the indigenous PHWRs was at a high of 90 per cent in 2002-03, it has declined to 65 per cent. This reflects the serious shortage in the supply of natural uranium to fuel the PHWRs.

The opening of new uranium mines and mills has lagged behind the demand for the metal. There are uranium mines at Jaduguda, Turamdih, Bhatin, and Narwapahar, all in Jharkhand. A mill is operating at Jaduguda for processing the natural uranium into yellow cake, which is sent to the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad to be fabricated into the fuel bundles that power the PHWRs.

According to Ramendra Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, the situation will soon be under control when a new mill at Turamdih for processing the natural uranium into yellow cake "will be commissioned for trial run" by the end of June 2007. A new mine at Bandurung in Jharkhand is already producing natural uranium ore, and the stockpile will be sent to the Turamdih mill once it is commissioned.

Land acquisition

"We have started the construction of a new mine at Mouldih, also in Jharkhand," Mr. Gupta said. Environmental clearance has been given for constructing a uranium mine and mill near Thummalapalli in Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh. Land acquisition is on.

A public hearing was held at Nongbah Jynrin in Meghalaya on June 12 on a uranium mine and mill to be set up near Domiasiat. "We will get over the mismatch era in the near future," said Mr. Jain.

Five reactors are now under construction. They include the fifth and sixth PHWRs at Rajasthan, and the fourth at Kaiga, each with a capacity of 220 MWe. The NPCIL is also building two LWRs, each with a capacity of 1,000 MWe, at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu.

The Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy, is building a 500-MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu. These six reactors will have a total capacity of 3,160 MWe.

Of these six, Rajasthan-5 will attain criticality in August or September 2007. Rajasthan-6 and Kaiga-4 will be started up by March 2008. The PFBR will be commissioned in 2010.

The NPCIL has had a difficult time, over the past year-and-a-half, with the delay in the arrival of equipment from Russia for the two reactors at Kudankulam.

S.K. Agrawal, Director (Projects), NPCIL, told The Hindu : "The situation is under control now. Things are picking up. All the major equipment for both the units has arrived. Civil works had been completed 100 per cent for both the units." Major equipment in the reactor building, including equipment for the nuclear steam supply system for unit-1, has been erected.

Installation on

"We are pulling up unit-2 to follow unit-1 closely," Mr. Agrawal added. "Electrical systems are in an advanced stage of installation for this unit. Close monitoring is going on." With "all-out efforts being made" to speed up the work, Kudankulam-1 will be operational in 2008 and its twin six months later.

As far as the new projects are concerned, the breaking of ground for the construction of two PHWRs of 700 MWe each will take place at Kakrapar by the end of 2007, and in Rajasthan for two more PHWRs of similar capacity in 2008. "Environmental clearance has been obtained for the projects at both the sites," Mr. Agrawal explained.

Public hearing

A public hearing was held on June 2 at Tirunelveli for the construction of two more Russian LWRs of 1000 MWe each at Kudankulam (units-3 and 4).

In anticipation of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement fructifying, pre-project activities are going on at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra for building two LWRs of 1,000 MWe each. According to informed sources, "If the agreement does not come through, we will build four more PHWRs of 700 MWe each at the existing sites. The next three years will be tough. After that, the situation will be under control."


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