Lanka To Raise Concerns Over Indian Nuclear Power Plants At The Next IAEA Confab
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
The government is to discuss the threat to Sri Lanka due to the nuclear power plants in the South Indian coastal area and the need for a disaster mitigation plan at the next International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confab.
Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka said the next IAEA sessions are in September this year and he would raise the issue about nuclear power plants in South India at the forum. He said the issue was raised at the last IAEA forum as well.
“The IAEA said the best way to deal with the matter was to enter into a mutual agreement,” he observed.
The Power and Energy Ministry has through the External Affairs Ministry called for a discussion between the two countries on reaching a disaster mitigating process in the event of a disaster in one of the nuclear plant on the South Indian coast.
“After speaking about the matter at the IAEA confab, we sent a proposal to India and they have sent a note back. We want to have a specific agreement on nuclear disaster management,” the Minister said.
The Indians it is learnt have responded with a wide scope to discuss on with regard to the energy sector including nuclear disaster management.
The Sri Lankan authorities on the other hand are keen on reaching an agreement only on nuclear disaster mitigation.
The Power and Energy Ministry has also made contact with the Indian authorities through the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority and its Indian counterpart.
Local authorities have expressed concerns over India’s decision to add another 500Mw nuclear facility to the already existing 1000Mw plant in Koodankulam.
The expansion of the Koodankulam plant was under debate and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jeyaram gave the green light to the project just a few weeks back.
The Power and Energy Ministry says it knows of three nuclear power plants on the South Indian coast that could have an impact on Sri Lanka, especially in the Mannar coastal belt up to the Jaffna peninsula, in the event of a leakage in one of the plants.
Ranawaka explained that nuclear power plants are usually located in the middle of deserts or sea.
“In this case, Sri Lanka is in the direct path of the impact in the event of a disaster in one of the nuclear power plants,” he said.
Ranawaka noted that the Power and Energy Ministry is currently conducting a baseline survey in the Mannar coastal belt up to the Jaffna peninsula, which is identified as the area that would be affected by any disaster in the South Indian nuclear plants.
The baseline survey would be the benchmark for the local authorities to monitor the levels of radiation in the area.
“We will continuously monitor the area and record if there are any changes in the levels of radiation experienced. That will help us determine if there have been any changes in the radiation from the plants,” the Minister observed. However, the baseline survey is expected to take close to a year to be completed.
“Given the nuclear disasters in Fukoshima and Chernobyl, it is only wise to take the necessary precautions now,” Ranawaka said.