Nuclear safety flaws played down

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 1996, 12:00am

Several safety-related shortcomings in the country's many atomic power and research plants require attention, but none is likely to be serious, say nuclear officials.

A recent Atomic Energy Regulatory Board report said improvements in the emergency core systems of reactors were 'desirable'.

The report also recommended closer evaluation and inspection of pressurised heavy water reactors, further reduction of workers' exposure to radiation, and lowering the potential for leakage from radioactive waste management systems.

But media reports said yesterday the board had listed more than 150 'hazardous areas' in nuclear installations which could prove to be disastrous.

Quoting official sources, the Indian Express said storage tanks holding radioactive waste at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's plants at Tarapur and Trombay had developed leaks.

The storage tanks containing liquid waste from the Trombay plutonium reprocessing plant also had ageing welded joints which led to small but frequent leakage of radioactive material, the report said.

And the Tarapur plant was located next to an active earthquake zone and tremors were increasingly being recorded in the region.

Radioactive material from Tarapur's waste immobilisation plant leaked into the subsoil in April last year, contaminating the drinking water supply of about 3,000 villagers.

Nuclear officials admitted that even though the storage tanks were shut down after the leak was discovered, radioactive water had been seeping into the ground for at least 45 days.

India's burgeoning nuclear facilities include 10 power stations, four research reactors, six heavy water plants and several related facilities.

According to a recent parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or 'safety-related unusual occurrences' were reported in 1992. Five led to shutdowns.