Although activists had demanded a temporary shutdown of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant until an "Away from Reactor" facility was built to store spent nuclear fuel, India’s apex court rejected the plea and instead granted five more years to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to build the facility

New Delhi: In a major relief to the Indian government, the country's apex court on Monday has rejected an application filed by activists to shut down the Kudankulam nuclear power plant until an "Away From Reactor" (AFR) facility is built.

On behalf of the activists, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan pleaded before the three-judge bench chaired by Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra to halt the operation of the nuclear power plant in the absence of an AFR facility, arguing that the continued operation of the nuclear plant without a "deep underground repository" to store radioactive spent fuel is an open invitation to a catastrophe.

However, the court granted a deadline extension for building the AFR sought by the NPCIL till 2022 under the condition of no "further extensions" beyond this date.

"I don't want to stop anything … but how can they store spent fuel in the plant itself? What if there is an accident in the plant … spent fuel is radioactive and generates heat. In Fukushima, the spent fuel was stored in fuel storage ponds. Spent fuel was discharged into the atmosphere. … Even now, after many years, the atmosphere remains contaminated there," Bhushan submitted before the bench, according to The Hindu.

The AFR repository was scheduled to be ready by July 2018, but the NPCIL had requested an extension, citing several reasons for the project's delay.

Bhushan said he was not against the NPCIL's plea for a deadline extension to build the AFR facility. "But it is absolutely essential that the reactor is shut down for the time being till it is built … spent fuel cannot be stored in the same compound," he submitted.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had passed a judgement wherein it had ordered the NPCIL to built a deep geological repository (DGR) in five years so that spent nuclear fuel could be transported from the nuclear plant to the DGR.