A thermal power plant of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation which was operational since 1962 was decommissioned last year.

Thermal Power Station II Neyveli Lignite CorporationTPS-II, Neyveli Lignite Corporation
Money Power Monday, February 22, 2021 - 20:05

The National Green Tribunal has sought the Union government’s response to frame guidelines to decommission old power plants. This comes after the Neyveli Lignite Corporation decided to decommission its Thermal Power Station I in Tamil Nadu on September 30 last year after being in operation since 1962.

The Southern Zone Bench of the NGT in Chennai, comprising Justice Ramakrishan and Expert Member Saibal Dasgupta, issued notices after a petition was filed by Dharmesh Shah demanding that hazardous substances be disposed of properly while decommissioning a state-owned thermal power plant. 

Notices have been issued to the Union government, the Central Electricity Authority, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Neyveli Lignite Corporation after a hearing was held on February 12.

According to the petitioner, project owners often prioritise economic concerns over environmental ones in such a scenario, leaving the plant sites environmentally unsafe.

The petitioner has sought for the Central or State Pollution Control Boards to ensure that decommissioning is done in an internationally accepted and scientific manner to prevent the contamination of water, air and soil. He also demanded the court to direct the respondents to place the decommissioning process on record. Further, he asked that in the absence of proper scientific procedure, the CPCB should develop and ensure the implementation of the scientific process to decommission power plants. 

The petitioner also asked the court to direct that a committee comprising experts be formed to oversee the decommissioning process.

“According to the applicant, if there is no proper guideline provided, then it will have a greater impact on the environment due to non-disposal of fly ash that is left and also other hazardous substance that has been produced as by-products during the period of its operation,” the NGT order stated. 

It added that it is satisfied that the questions need to be addressed in a scientific manner as “it is required to have some guideline to be followed by the Thermal Power plants that want to decommission.”

The application filed to the court demanded that the proper disposal and related site remediation costs be borne by NLC.

The Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016 make the occupier responsible for the safe disposal of hazardous substances, but no procedure has been notified for the same. According to the petitioner, the management of hazardous substances does not find a mention in the decommissioning tender guidelines or contractor deliverables issued by plant operators.

Chemicals such as asbestos, arsenic, lead and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), which have been linked to fatal diseases, are commonly used in thermal power plants. Coal ash, another toxic by-product is known to contaminate soil and water, as well as harm human health and ecology.

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