You are here

India: Jaitapur NPP site not immune to earthquake

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Lauri Myllyvirta, Energy campaigner, Greenpeace International

Two leading geologists have warned that a magnitude 6-plus earthquake cannot be ruled out in Jaitapur - the proposed site of India's largest 9,900 MW nuclear power plant on the west coast that has seen protests against it for safety reasons - and that it could occur within the lifetime of the power plant.

On November 23, a scientific journal in India published an important article on earthquakes in that country. The article comes out in Current Science, the most prestigious scientific journal in India. The article essentially says the Indian government and companies involved in building new reactors at the Jaitapur site are grossly underestimating the earthquake risk of  what would be the biggest nuke site in the world - six EPR reactors.

"Since Jaitapur lies in the same compressional stress regime that has been responsible for generating both the magnitude 6.3 Latur and magnitude 6.4 Koyna earthquakes in the past five decades, it can be argued that a similar sized earthquake could possibly occur directly beneath the power plant," they say in the article in Current Science Vol. 101, November 25 2011, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore.

The article published by two geology experts shows that the Indian government and the nuclear utility NPCIL are grossly underestimating the risk of an earthquake in India at the proposed site. The plant, consisting of six French EPR reactors, would be sited on the western coast of India, in the populous state of Maharashtra that has been hit by two devastating earthquakes in the past 50 years.

The methodology used by the Indian government and proponents of this massive nuclear project to determine the maximum strength of an earthquake at the site relies on geological data from only the past 200 years and risks grossly underestimating the maximum strength of an earthquake at the site. The concern is that while there has been a lack of recent earthquakes during that 200-year period at that specific location there have been earthquakes in the wider area in the past 50 years. A lack of earthquakes in a short period of 200 years in a prone area can be an indication of higher, just as well as lower, earthquake risk in the future, as major earthquakes at any given quake-prone location in the region occur at intervals of millennia rather than centuries.

French Atomic Energy Commission chairman Bernard Bigot said on November 28 that work on the Jaitapur nuclear power project was unlikely to start before 2014 due to regulatory hurdles. He referred to the delay in concluding the commercial contract between Areva and the government-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL) in remarks to reporters in Mumbai after meeting Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission.

The findings in the Current Science article constitute another reason to abandon this environmentally and economically risky project.

Environmental organization, like Greenpeace, call on French Coface and on commercial banks such as BNP Paribas not to finance the irresponsible project and on the Indian government not to waste money on the expensive and risky reactors. The fastest, safest and most effective way to power India's growing economy is with modern renewable energy technologies.

Sources: Lauri Myllyvirta, 23 November 2011 / The Economic Times (India), 23 November 2011
Contact: Lauri Myllyvirta, Energy campaigner, Greenpeace International Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 6535 04 711
Mail: lauri.myllyvirta[at]
Skype: laurimyllyvirta