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India on Guard against Terrorist Attacks on N-Plants

Nuclear Power Corporation of India LimitedIndia’s nuclear establishment has tightened security at its various atomic reactors and power plants across the country In wake of the recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai in which nearly 200 people were killed.

According to Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, the security of the nuclear power plants across the country is being reviewed and any additional measures required to protect them will be put in place.

“Already several security measures have been put in place. We are reviewing in the context of what happened in Mumbai and certainly whatever additional (security), which are necessary, we will put in place”, Kakodkar said in the southern Indian city of Chennai.

A terrorist attack on a commercial nuclear power plant with a commercial jet or heavy munitions could have a similar affect to a radiological bomb. It can cause greater casualties. If such an attack were to cause either a meltdown of the reactor core, or a dispersal of the spent fuel waste on the site, extensive casualties could be expected. In such an instance, the power plant would be the source of the radiological contamination, and the plane or armament would be the explosive mechanism for spreading lethal radiation over large areas.

S Basu, Facilities Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), who visited Kalpakkam in Tamil Naeu, welcomed the Government’s announcement declaring Kalpakkam nuclear power plant and 10 km radius around it as a “no fly zone”, following heightened threat perception to sensitive installations.

Almost in every security meeting held following the recent Mumbai attacks, the intelligence agencies had been stressing the need to declare Kalpakkam a no fly zone.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) chairman S K Sharma who together with Basu visited Kalpakkam to take part in a seminar on safety, said that the nuclear installations in the country are safe as the ‘in-built’ security system of reactors made them immune to any attacks, including from air.

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sent notice to all airlines, prohibiting all flying activity up to a height of 10,000 feet over the Kalpakkam area.

The government declared the Kalpakkam nuclear power plant a no fly zone to prevent any 9/11 kind of targeting of this sensitive site. Kalpakkam now joins the only other atomic installation, Tarapur in Maharashtra, to have flights barred over its immediate airspace.