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India has 19 online nuclear power plants generating 4,560 megawatts of electricity. Electricity generated by thermal, hydro and wind power exceeds more than what nuclear power generated. Even so, to meet the soaring demand for electricity, the government of India seeks the development of the nuclear-power industry.
On March 11, 2011, the tsunami developed after a tremendous earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale, devastated Japan’s Daichi nuclear power plant complex. It took all six Tokyo Electric Power Company’s reactors offline.
“THE LIGHTS ARE not going off all over Japan, but the nuclear power plants are. Of the 54 reactors in those plants, with a combined capacity of 47.5 gigawatts (GW, a thousand megawatts), only two are operating today. A good dozen are unlikely ever to reopen: six at Fukushima Dai-ichi, which suffered a calamitous triple meltdown after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, and others either too close to those reactors or now considered to be at risk of similar disaster. The rest, bar two, have shut down for maintenance or “stress tests” since the Fukushima accident and not yet been cleared to start up again. It is quite possible that none of them will get that permission before the two still running shut for scheduled maintenance by the end of April.” – Oliver Morton (in “The dream that failed” – www.economist.com)
Since the coastal areas in India are prone to both earthquake and tsunami, certain sectors of the public in India have now raised objections to the proposed nuclear-power generation programs.
The antinuclear protests staged by the local villagers spearheaded by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) has prompted the government to put on hold the commissioning of the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamilnadu.
PMANE, an antinuclear group in Tamil Nadu led by Mr. S. P. Udayakumar, a teacher, which urges the government to shut down the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant to preserve the ecology of the largely untouched coastal landscape also educates the locals about the harm nuclear power could cause.
Mr. Udayakumar and his PMANE group beleive that nuclear power benefits “industrial India” only and not the average person. “Our end game is to close down this nuclear power plant. We think that this (the nuclear power plant) will have a disastrous impact on our livelihood, on our future generations. Because the Indian government never talks about waste, never talks about decommissioning. It does not tell us the full story,” he said.
In early March 2012, Udayakumar said: “We have been carrying out hunger strikes, rallies, public meetings, seminars, conferences, and other demonstrations such as shaving our heads, cooking on the street, burning the models of the nuclear plants. This struggle has been going on for the past 197 days and the morale of the people is still very very high”.
In Early February this year, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering in Indore, “All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes.”
But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.
The Madras Atomic Power Station is located at Kalpakkam, situated about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Chennai, India. In 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
- “The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE, which sends out high-ranking officials with bland assurances for the public about the nation’s NPPs while privately compiling reports about their health effects, concerns that can only grow as New Delhi presses forward with its nuclear program. Furthermore, the statements that Indian NPPs can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, made in a country vulnerable to both, smacks of more than a little hubris, as Tokyo Electric and Power Co. made similar pronouncements before the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex.” – John Daly, Sun, 26 February 2012, (in “The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals” oilprice.com)
The following documentary video produced by the Tamil news paper Nakkeeran of Chennai affirms the concern of the people living in and around Kalpakkam. Though all reporting and conversations are in Tamil, the images tell the story vividly.
1:12 – 1:33 Shows the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project
1: 34 – 1:58 Atomic Energy Township, Kalpakkam in Kancheepuram District,Tamilnadu. There are many vilages surrounding Kalpakkam.
1:59 – 2:58 shows 13-year-old mentally retarded Arjun from birth and born with 6 fingers on his right hand. His father was a contract labourer at the nuclear power plant. Arjun speaks like a 5-year-old.
2:59 – 3:20 3-year-old infant Bhuvaneswari born with a stump for a right hand.
3:21 – 3:46 Gokhul, the son of a temporary supervisor, born with a stump for a left hand.
3:47 – 4:04 Jothika studying in standard 3, mentally retarded. Her father Venkatesan worked at the nuclear power plants.
4:05 – 4:50 Suriyaprakash with a deformed left leg.
4:51 – 5:12 A woman king coconut vendor with a gout like swelling.
5:13 – 8:15 A woman complains about breathing, throat infection and swelling of limbs. She further tells about children being born with stumps for limbs, deaf, dumb and other abnormalities. She also says can’t do any agricultural work because the crops are attacked by radiation. The air that she and others breath makes them ill.
8:16 – 8:58 Another woman complains about radiation affecting their health.
8:59 – 7:16 A man says that the birth of deformed and retarded children can be due to the radiation.
7:17 – 7:31 Another man says that plants don’t grow well. Trees don’t bear fruit.
7:32 – 7:56 A young man says that the Kalpakkam plant has been shut down for repairs very often. He says that he has worked there for the past 18 years. He says that there is a rumour that many have died due to radiation but he is not sure whether its rumor or fact. But he affirms that the people of the villages around Kalpakkam are being affected due to radiation.
7:57 – 8:14 – Another young man affirms that children are born deformed, deaf and dumb.
8:15 – till end people living in Kalpakkam talk about the hardships they face and talk vehemently against the Kalpakkam Nuclear plant.
- Work resumes at Kudankulam nuclear power plant (ibnlive.in.com)
- Thousands of Anti-Nuclear Protesters Face Police in India, 200 Arrested | Common Dreams (2012indyinfo.com)
- India’s Government Grudgingly Releases Report on Nuclear Power’s Effect on Human Health (Guest Voice) (themoderatevoice.com)
- Jaya’s U-turn: approves Kudankulam nuclear plant (ibnlive.in.com)
- The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals ( oilprice.com)
- The dream that failed (www.economist.com)
- Tohoku Electric may be forced to look at costly upgrades or decommissioning after hiding data about new earthquake faults under Tsuruga Reactor (enformable.com)
- Kudankulam on fire … (tvaraj.wordpress.com)
- Open letter to Kalam on Koodunkulam Nuclear Plant shutdown response time (tvaraj.wordpress.com)
- The Great Indian Nuclear Maya (tvaraj.wordpress.com/)