Islands in the Gulf of Mannar: Part 1 – Adam’s Bridge


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Laccadive Sea

The Laccadive Sea or Lakshadweep Sea is a body of water that includes the Lakshadweep islands, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

Laccadive Sea

Laccadive Sea

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Laccadive Sea as follows:

  • On the West. A line running from Sadashivgad Lt., on west coast of India (14°48′N 74°07′E) to Corah Divh (13°42′N 72°10′E) and thence down the west side of the Lakshadweep and Maldive Archipelagos to the most southerly point of Addu Atoll in the Maldives.
  • On the South. A line running from Dondra Head in Sri Lanka to the most southerly point of Addu Atoll.
  • On the East. The southeastern coast of India and west coast of Sri Lanka.
  • On the Northeast. Adam’s Bridge between India and Sri Lanka.

The Gulf of Mannar and Adam’s Bridge

The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay, a part of the Lakshadweep Sea between the southeastern coast of India and the West coast of Sri Lanka. The estuaries of the river Thamirabarani of south India and the river Aruvi Aru of Sri Lanka drain into the gulf.

Adam's Bridge separating  Gulf of Mannar from Palk Bay

Adam’s Bridge separating Gulf of Mannar from Palk Bay

An isthmus composed of limestone shoals, and coral reefs, popularly known as Adam’s Bridge or Ramsethu, lies between Pamban Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka.

Aerial view of Mannar Island and Adam's Bridge.

Aerial view of Mannar Island and Adam’s Bridge.

The bridge is 18 miles (30 km) long. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge formerly connected India and Sri Lanka.

The Rameswaram cyclone of 1964 started with the depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964. On December 19, it intensified into a severe cyclonic storm. From December 21, it moved westwards, 400 km to 550 km per day. On December 22, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka with a wind speed of 280 km per hour. On December 22-23 night, the cyclone and moved into Palk Strait and made landfall in Dhanushkodi, India. The devastating tidal waves that were 7 metres high submerged all houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi town. The death toll rose to 1,800.

In the past too, high-intensity cyclones and storms often ravaged the area around Rameswaram in India.

Records from Hindu temples say that Ramsethu was completely above sea level that could be traversed on foot, until a cyclone in 1480 AD submerged it.

A study conducted by the Geological Survey of India indicated that in 1948-49 the southern part of erstwhile Dhanushkodi Township, facing Gulf of Mannar, sank by
almost 5 meters due to vertical tectonic movement of land parallel to the coastline. As a result of this, a stretch of land of about half a kilometre wide and 7 km in length,
along North-South direction, submerged into the sea together with many roads, residential areas, places of worship, etc.

Now, some sandbanks of the Adam’s Bridge are dry, and the sea is very shallow, only 3 feet to 30 feet (1 metre to 10 metres) deep. This geographical feature of the Adam’s Bridge acts as a barrier to heavy vessels that cruise from India’s west coast to India’s east coast, and ships have to take the long circuitous route around Sri Lanka.

The chief seaports on the Gulf of Mannar are Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu, India and Colombo in Sri Lanka. These ports can accommodate deep-draft vessels, but the shallow sea in the Adam’s Bridge region allows only small shallow-draft vessels.

In July 2005, the Indian Government envisaged the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project to dredge and scrape out a deep channel to open a direct shipping route for heavy vessels to ply from the southeastern Gulf of Mannar to the northeastern Bay of Bengal and avoid the long trip around Sri Lanka. However, environmentalists have warned that the project could cause grave damage to the sea life of the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and thereby affect fisheries in both the southeastern coast of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka.

.                                                                     Next: Part 2 – The 21 Islands of India →

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Why We Should Plant More Trees …


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Here is the best ad concept for afforestation …

An add for plant more trees

The above image is a Hindustan Times Public Service advertisement for “Plant more trees.

How about these?

Dog urinating

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 2

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 3

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 4

This long queue happens to be one of the problems caused by DEFORESTATION.

Shouldn’t we be worried?

Let us plant more trees at least for the sake of our dogs!

 

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Sterlite Industries Back in Business


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its judgment upheld its interim order of May 31, 2013, and has allowed the Tuticorin Copper Smelter of Sterlite Industries to continue to operate.

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Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)

Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)

Based in Mumbai, India, Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources is a diversified and integrated metals and mining group operating in Tuticorin, India. It has the country’s largest copper smelter which produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper a month – or more than half of India’s total production. The company produces copper cathodes and cast copper rods for use in the transformer and the wires and cables industries. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The company has diverse operations. It mines bauxite, and produces aluminum conductors and various other aluminum products; mines zinc ore, and produces zinc ingots and lead ingots. In addition to these products the Sterlite Industries produces various chemical products, such as sulphuric acids, phosphoric acids, phospho gypsum, hydrofluosilicic acids, and granulated slag.

Further, the company is involved in paper business as well as in trading gold. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter was commissioned in 1996. From the beginning, the plant has been mired in controversy. Originally it was planned to erect the plant in Maharashtra and Goa, but it faced severe opposition from the people there. However, the AIADMK regime under Jayalalithaa welcomed the project by allotting land at Tuticorin. Since then, Mr. V.Gopalswamy (Vaiko), the general secretary of MDMK party has protested against the project.

On March 23, 2013, massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, caused suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant between 5 am and 8 am. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas. Following the alleged leakage of noxious gas, residents of Tuticorin town, New Colony, market area, Perumalpuram and SIPCOT area said they experienced sneezing and a few complained of asphyxiation.

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Following the incident, environmental activists blamed the Sterlite Industries. They staged a demonstration near Rajaji Park on Palayamkottai Road and sought the closure of the copper smelter. Officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Revenue Divisional Officer K. Latha, and Tuticorin Tahsildar Alwar reached the Sterlite company and inspected the copper smelter unit.

TNPCB officials said a sensor in the smelter’s smokestack showed sulphur dioxide levels were more than double the permitted concentration at the time emissions were reported and had “breached limits prescribed by the Board”. TNPCB ordered the shutdown of the smelter with immediate effect until further notice.

However, Sterlite Industries denied the smelter was the source a gas leak. The smelter’s general manager of projects said there were no emissions at the time because the plant shut down for maintenance from March 21st to March 23rd was starting up after two days of maintenance, not producing copper, and high readings in the smokestack were likely a result of workers recalibrating the sensors.

Ashish Kumar, Collector of Tuticorin, said that preliminary inquiries suggested that there was a leak of sulphur dioxide.

The TNPCB issued the order to shut down the plant with immediate effect and the power utility on Friday night disconnected the power supply to the plant. We are in the process of stopping operations

The process of shutting down the plant began on Friday (March 29) night with the disconnection of the power supply to the plant.

MDMK’s general secretary Vaiko, thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for ordering closure in the interests of the public and to protect the environment.

National Green Tribunal (NGT), a fast-track court hearing the case on allowing the plant to reopen, set up an expert committee to measure emissions and check the working condition of machinery, among other things.

On May 31st, the NGT had, in an interim order, allowed Sterlite to commence operations under the supervision of the expert committee set up by the tribunal.

The expert committee submitted its report on July 10, 2013. “The emissions from all the stacks were well within the permissible limit prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board when the plant was in normal operation. … Upon stack sampling or ambient air quality monitoring, it is not being found that the industry was emitting sulphur dioxide gas or substances when the plant was in normal operation, which were in violation to the prescribed standards,” the report states,” said the report by P.S.T. Sai and Ligy Philip.

The apex environment court said further in its order that the expert committee had made certain recommendations to improve the working of the plant. It also noted that Sterlite Industries has agreed to comply with the recommendations within a time-bound schedule.

Justice Swatanter Kumar

Justice Swatanter Kumar

On August 8, 2013, the National Green Tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar suppressed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board closure notice served to Sterlite Industries. It upheld its interim orders of May 31 and July 15, which permitted the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite copper smelter factory in Tuticorin to resume full operations on the basis of the report submitted by the expert committee appointed by the tribunal. The National Green Tribunal gave its final clean chit to the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter plant in Tuticorin. At the same time, keeping in mind the issues raised by the state pollution control board, the tribunal has issued a host of conditions which the factory must comply with. It has also set up a committee to check the health of people around Tuticorin and Sipcot industrial area in the district.

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Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline


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Indrani Bagchi

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By 

Posted on May 16, 2013 in THE TIMES OF INDIA.

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tirunelveli district, Tamilnadu, India

NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPPshould be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).

Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.

A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.

Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.

NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.

This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.

These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.

While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”

Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”.

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Re-posted from THE TIMES OF INDIA

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On Modi’s Social Engineering


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Subhash Gatade

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By Subhash Gatade

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The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables? - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Manual scavenging - 04

Whether Shit Collection or cleaning of gutters – which has condemned lakhs of people to a life of indignity since ages – could be considered a ‘Spiritual Experience.’ Definitely not. Everybody would yell. Well, Mr Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, has a different take on this, which he mentions in the book ‘Karmayog’ (Publication year 2007).

The said book is basically a collection of his speeches to high profile IAS officials. Herein he discusses the age old caste-based vocation of the Valmikis as “experience in spirituality’. He writes: “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation….At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.”

Looking at the fact that a section of the dalits themselves -especially its upwardly mobile and more articulate section – has joined with the Hindutva bandwagon, it was expected that there were no angry reaction to his utterances within the state. A section of the Ambedkarite Dalits and many human rights activists did protest but their voices got drowned in the cacophony of voices of Modi supporters. It is a different matter that when Modi’s remark got published in the Times of India in mid-November 2007, which was later translated in few Tamil newspapers, it resulted in a massive reaction of Dalits in Tamilnadu. Not only they staged protests for calling their menial job “spiritual experience” but Modi’s effigies were burnt in different parts of the state. Sensing trouble Modi immediately withdrew 5,000 copies of the book, but still sticked to his opinion. Two years later, addressing 9,000-odd safai karmacharis , (cleanliness workers) he likened the safai karmacharis’ job of cleaning up others dirt’ to that of a temple priest. He told them, “A priest cleans a temple every day before prayers, you also clean the city like a temple. You and the temple priest work alike.”

One was reminded of these ideas of Mr Modi, when news came in that the budget for the coming year passed by the Gujarat state assembly, has allocated a sum of Rs 22.5 lakhs for giving training in Karmkand (rituals) to Safai Kamdars themselves. The idea is to train them in scriptures so that they can perform pujas (organise worships). It is clear that the ‘new scheme’ as it was presented before the people was just a revised version of its earlier scheme wherein members of the scheduled communities were given training to become ‘Gurubrahmins’ so that they could also perform pujas . Insiders can also share with you that the said scheme has miserably failed and people who were trained to perform pujas   are still searching for jobs.

It could be asked if Modi values safai karmacharis so highly, why is it that he has begun outsourcing all the menial jobs for a very low pay, between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500 per month per worker. Why they are not being employed on a permanent basis? A leading Dalit poet raised an altogether different question “Why didn’t it occur to Modi that the spirituality involved in doing menial jobs hasn’t ever been experienced by the upper castes?”

It is worth emphasising that the day when Gujarat government declared its intention to train safai kamdars in Karmkand , supposedly to integrate them closely in the mainstream of Hindu society, also happened to be the period when the anti-dalit stance of the people in power was very much evident in two clear examples. The manner in which state officials tried to cover up social boycott of dalits in a village and the way they tried to save guilty police officials involved in dalit killings had already reached headlines.

Not very many people would have heard about village Galsana, Dhanduka tehsil, Ahmedabad district, which is around 100 kms from the city. The dalits in the village who are about 500 in numbers, are not allowed entry into any of the five temples in the village. The younger generation of dalits protested this ban which resulted in their social boycott. When the news last came in, the boycott was already few months old. Incidentally when officers from the social justice department visited the village, they even did not acknowledge that dalits are facing social boycott, forget asking the police to take action against the guilty.

The other news concerned the arrest of guilty police officials involved in the gruesome killings of Dalits at Thangarh.(Sep 2012) After four months cop Jadeja and other two accused police officials in Thangadh dalit massacre case were arrested on February 23 2013. It is reported that the killings at Thangarh were fallout of a minor clash between Dalits and Bharwads over auctioning of stalls at an annual fair organised by the Thangarh municipality. When the dalits filed a complaint against the Bharwads at the police station, the police refused to take any action ; the anger of the dalits spilled over onto the streets next day which saw participation of dalits in large numbers and police’s resorting to strong arm tactics resulting in the killings. Despite knowing the fact that the infamous police officer, had on earlier occasion also fired upon the dalits, without any provocation, the administration tried every trick in the kitty to save him and his colleagues. It was only because of judicial intervention that they were ordered to be arrested.

Galsana and Thangarh can be said to be tip of the iceberg as far as dalit deprivation and denial of justice is concerned. In fact much has been written about the way the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Atrocities prevention) act, 1989 is implemented in the state. One finds that the rate of of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat is mere 2.5 per cent while rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23 page confidential report submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006).

The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during time of trials.

- Act clearly stipulates that offences which are registered under this act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector or Police Sub Inspector.

- Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers

- Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a central act

- Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.

In this backdrop it is worth underlining what little did Mr Modi knew about this important law and its implications. One could rather say that in Gujarat chief minister is directly responsible for the non-implementation of the Atrocity Act. As Raju Solanki, famous poet and dalit rights activists writes in his blog :

It was on 16 April, 2004, that a question was asked to chief minister Modi in Gujarat legislative assembly: “Honorable chief minister [Home] may oblige us to tell, is it true that the DSP is responsible for the appointment of an officer not below the rank of DySP as investigating officer in the offenses under atrocities act? The answer of our chief minister was shocking. He said: “No, but there is a provision under rule 7 (1) of SC/ST act, 1995 to appoint officers not above the rank of DySP to inquire into all cases booked under atrocities act. It is not the responsibility of DSP.”

In the end, one would like to put on record the way the presence of dalits in record is obliterated without any fuss. During panchayat elections, Nathu Vadla, a small village of Gujarat with hardly 1000 population had suddenly reached headlines. The panchayat election in this village was to be conducted on the basis of 2001 data. The village has at least 100 Scheduled Castes people and one seat was to be reserved as per law, but the census data has not been modified and in 2001 the population of SC was nil in the village, the election in 2013 was to be conducted on the basis of 2001 census. Here also courts had to intervene to stay elections in the village. Gujarat High Court stayed elections in the village saying that it would be ‘mockery of democracy’.

Subhash Gatade is a Writer and social activist based in New delhi. Subhash also edits a Hindi Journal Sandhan. His most recent book is “Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India” Email. : subhash.gatade@gmail.com

Re-posted from COUNTERCURRENTS.org

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Koodankulam: A Court in the Supreme Contempt of its People


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P K Sundaram

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By P. K. Sundaram

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The Supreme Court’s verdict on Koodankulam rests on three hugely contested premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of the nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the country’s nuclear establishment to perform its role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should make way for the country’s progress. Not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable propositions, but have also completely overlooked the Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

Broken justice

The Supreme Court’s judgement on Koodankulam would go in India’s history in line with the Narmada Dam verdict and other judicial pronouncement reflecting the inability of our post-independence democratic institutions to overcome the narrowly defined confines of ‘larger public interest’, ‘development/growth’ and ‘national conscience’.

Whose interests are larger?

While the petition filed by the Chennai-based environmentalist group Poovulagin Nanbargal presented specific concerns of safety hazards and violations of the government’s own norms in implementing the project, India’s growth and the assumed indispensability of nuclear energy for it is a recurring rationale in the Supreme Court’s final verdict. The judges have gone beyond the scope of the prayer and have extolled nuclear energy as essential for India’s growth, terming the ‘fears’ of people as misplaced. The judgement goes on to prescribe that ‘minor inconveniences’ must be tolerated in the larger interest of the nation.

People’s Movement is Emotional fear, Nuclear Establishment has the Expertise

The second paragraph of the judgement itself calls the people’s massive agitation in Koodankulam an “emotional reaction” to the setting up of the reactor. It almost mocks the people’s concern saying the “fears and unrest” might not have been thought of by Enrico Fermi who set up the first nuclear power plant. Since then, the judgement says, people have reacted emotionally when every new reactor is commissioned. The judgement goes on to add that the people’s concern was mooted even the constituent assembly when the Constitution was being drafted. Does this imply that nuclear energy in India should be regarded a fait accompli?

The judgement accepts the establishment’s narrative on nuclear energy in India unquestioningly.

  • The judgement extols the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as the repository of final authority on everything nuclear and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as a competent regulator, glossing over its dependence on the AEC for funds and human resources and its being obliged to report to the AEC whose activities it is essentially mandated to regulate.
  • The verdict also reposes complete faith in the national policy on nuclear energy and the existing framework to control and regulate all radioactivity-related activities in India.
  • Under the title ‘National Policy’ (page 9) the judges narrate the evolution of India’s 20 nuclear power stations built over last four decades producing 4780 MWs today with a rare clinical coldness, without questioning the nuclear establishment’s claims and its performances in the same period, while under the same title on page 10, it mentions that renewable sources provide “small share” of our total electricity – 15%, which is actually 6 times more than the share of nuclear energy. 
  • In its overview of the global status of nuclear energy, the rapid downward trend of the industry post-Fukushima doesn’t find a mention – France produces 74.6%, US has 104 reactors, world had 439 reactors in 2007 producing 13-14% of total energy. The reality is, nuclear power produced just 11% in In 2011 and thedownward trend is expected to continue due to larger number of reactors ageing and lesser numbers being built today.
  • It doesn’t even question the NPCIL’s claims of producing 20,000 MW by the year 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2030.
  • Transgressing the scope of the petition, the judges have mentioned that “one of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significance of the fossil fuel like coal, oil, gas etc.” The judges have not bothered to see that each of these adjectives have been questioned and have led to review of national policies, including in France where a national energy transformation law is underway.

As the questions raised in the petition involved technical problems plaguing the Koodankulam project, the Court consulted the government’s experts – officials from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Unfortunately, no independent institutionalised expertise on nuclear issues exists in India outside the confines of the Department of Atomic Energy.  This led to a situation in which the Judges have no option than to believe the same official experts against whose refusal to acknowledge the risks was the petition filed. While this made the entire proceeding lop-sided in the first place, there was still scope for the judges to look into the glaring violations and specific risks in Koodakulam which do not fall strictly under nuclear expert issues.

The crucial issues of supply of sub-standard equipments by ZiO-Podolsk, violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone stipulations and Environmental Impact Assessment norms, lack of clarity on the crucial issue of spent fuel storage, non-compliance with proper mock evacuation drill required by the AERB norms, much larger population in the vicinity than stipulated etc. have either been glossed over or have been legalized post-facto.

Court validating a political deal?

The judgement mentions India’s civil nuclear agreement with the US in 2005 and then with France and UK in 2008 and 2010, and explains them as the govt’s effort give effect to the “National Policy for development” for which “India has entered into various bilateral treaties and arrangements with countries which have considerable expertise and experience”. It is a well known fact that the nuclear deal came from the US side and the energy justification was a later concoction to justify it. The integrated energy policy of 2006 came one year after the Indo-US nuclear deal. In fact, it was the nuclear establishment in India which was the first one to get surprised with the news of Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005. The deal was essentially about the US manoeuvring internationals institutions norms of the  NSG and the IAEA to legitimise India’s nuclear weapons and ensure its entry into global international commerce. India’s compulsory purchase of the French, American and Russian reactors was a price it paid to achieve this. Former AEC Chairman Anil kakodkar himself has admitted in the past that importing foreign reactors, with an embarrassingly low liability cap,  had to do with accommodating these countries’ interests.

 Nuclear Energy and National Policy

After enthusiastically elaborating India’s national policy on nuclear energy, the judges say, “it is not for Courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfilment of a policy, is fair” (page 13). Precisely. The petition before the court nowhere sought to discuss the rationale or desirability of the nuclear policy, if at all India has one. The petition raised concrete questions about safety norms and their violations. Then why the judges have went on to declare nuclear energy is green, clean and essential for India’s development? The judges quote an old case in Lodon to undermine that its “only duty is to expand the language of the Act in accordance with the settled rules of construction”, and hence “we cannot sit in judgment over the decision…for setting up of KKNPP in Kudankulam in view of the Indo-Russia agreement”. Fine, but what about ensuring that the inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia is made public and the liability provisions within it be made compliant to the law of the land?

After the aforementioned introductory part, the SC verdict has two parts – the first deals with safety and security of NPP, International COnventiions and Treaties, KKNPP Project, NSF and its management and transportation, DGR, Civil Liabilities, DMA, CSA and other related issues. Part II deals with environmental issues, CRZ, desalination plant, impact of radiation on eco-system, expert opinions, etc.

In part I, the verdict seeks to find out whether the project has adequate safety measures. In doing so, it starts with elaborating the Safety Codes of the AERB (in 12 full pages), without questioning its institutional autonomy or making mention of the CAG’s report on the AERB in which it strips down the myth of AERB’s independence and its efficacy. Details of India’s international obligations and its adherence with IAEA safety norms, based on the AERB’s submission, take several pages more.

IAEA’s 2008 report emphasizing tripling of electricity supply by 2050 is highlighted by the judges. The IAEA’s contested claim of nuclear energy being a low-carbon electricity is adopted unquestioningly.

The verdict reposes its complete faith in “the safety and security code of practices laid down by the AERB, the IAEA and its supports so as to allay the fears expressed from various quarters on the safety and security of KKNPP”

The judges mention PUCL vs Union of India and others case of 2004, where the court upheld that the AEC deals with a sensitive subject. The veil of secrecy remains intact in 2013 even if the civilian and military nuclear facilities are separated as per the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Safety Issues:

Reading the Supreme Court verdict’s sections on Koodankulam’s safety is not much different than reading AERB’s or NPCIL’s stated policies on nuclear safety. Elaborate claims of safety standards and practices, but very little about whether these guidelines sufficiently address the specific questions raised by the protests, even less on how efficient and democratic these procedures are.

In the section under part-II titled “KKNPP  Project” the judges have looked into site selection procedures and site-specific vulnerabilities of Koodankulam. The judges come out convinced that Koodankulam is totally safe for the reactor project – having absolutely no potential of earthquake, Tsunami or other geological disturbances. The evidences presented by the petitioners about the area being geologically unstable and having a history of earthquakes, volcanism and karst have gone completely unheard.

Much attention has been given to the questions of safely storing Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) and finding a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) for KKNPP. These are generic issues plaguing nuclear reactors everywhere and globally the nuclear industry has been struggling to find the answers for several decades. Not surprisingly, there are ready-made and extremely tentative solutions: the NPCIL has agreed to find a repository to store nuclear waste and has given details of its long-term pursuits in this direction, and it has assured the court to safely story the SNF. The AERB’s code of “Management of Radioactive Waste” has been discussed at length, to be found sufficient to address the problem. Typically, Indian nuclear establishment does not acknowledge nuclear waste as waste, because it claims it will reprocess most of it for the second phase of its 3-phase  nuclear programme, to which even the judges have shown admiration. Lost of course is the fact that reprocessing leads to more harmful and long-term wastes and India’s phased nuclear program has been too far from becoming a reality. The judges note : “the experts feel that setting up of a DGR is not much of a technological challenge…but more of a socio-political issue”. The massive  disapproval of proposed waste repositories in the US and elsewhere was based on independent expert opinion is lost again. The verdict mentions a proposed DGR in the abandoned Kolar mines of Karnataka. Of course on this and other several important issues, the NPCIL retracting publicly from its position taken in affidavits filed in the SC had its own trail over last 6 months.

The judges have noted that the Koodankulam reactor has its Spent Fuel Pool inside the primary containment, with a capacity to store fuel equivalent to 7 years of full power operation of  the reactor. That the presence of SFP close to the reactor core complicated the accident in Fukushima and is a concern even today in Japan finds no mention, of course.

Fukushima never happened !

While the judges mention the post-Fukushima safety review ordered by the Prime Minister, they have failed to take into account the critiques of the whole process and the serious risks of relying on such an internal safety review without any independent supervision or assessment. On the 17 Koodankulam-specific recommendations, the court is assured by the AERB that the NPCIL will implement them satisfactorily. In the subsequent paragraphs, the verdict rhymes the nuclear establishment’s lullaby on radiation: We are exposed to radiation in our daily lives, cosmic radiation, radiation from earth’s crust, air travel, X0ray, CT-Scan, angiography, angioplasty etc etc.

In the section titled ‘Response to People’s Resistance’, the Supreme Court gives a sanitized, government version of the dialogue with people. It makes no mention of the fact that the 15-member expert committee appointed by the government did not even bother to meet the protesting people in Idinthakarai, declined from sharing essential safety-related documents with people and completely failed to address the questions raised by the movement. While this sham of a dialogue was on, the state government kept on piling false police charges, the local congress goons kept beating the protesters, the local media kept provoking against the movement leaders and none other than the PM indulged in maligning the people’s genuine struggle. The judgement quotes the government experts group’s conclusion at length and feels satisfied. It also takes no notice that the fact that the Ex-AEC Chief’s appointment as the head of expert committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu State Government subsequently reflected a seriosu conflict of interests.

Under the heading ‘Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage’, the judges in principle agree to the importance of strict liability in nuclear sector, but fail to address the Koodankulam-specific problem of opacity on liability issue. The Russian officials have been claiming they have an exemption from liability under the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA)

Discussion on Disaster Management Plan (DMP), the SC verdict elaborates about the guidelines of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on radiological emergencies and has pressed for better coordination between the NDMA, the DAE, and the state administration to ensure swift evacuation and management in case of a disaster. Much emphasis has been given on the need to spread awareness among the people about nuclear accidents, however, the brazen violation and bluffing by the NPCIL on disaster management receives no attention.

Although the Supreme Court quotes AERB’s norms on population near a reactor sites and specifically mentions that no public habitation should be there within 1.5 km radius of the reactor, it has failed to take into account the Tsunami Colony in Koodankulam where more than 2500 people reside at a distance of just 700- metres from the reactor. Also, the judges have held that the emergency preparedness plan (EPP) for KKNPP is adequate for around 24000 people in the 5 km radius called ‘sterilised zone’ while the norms stipulate not more than 20000 people. The catch here is, the even the 24000 figure used by the SC is taken from 2001 census, not the 2011 census!

The judges admit the importance of the mock-drills and off-site emergency exercises, but strangely caution that ‘such mock-drills are conducted to educate the public not to scare them away, but make them understand that the project is part of the national policy, participatory in nature, and hence we cannot remain as a nuclear-isolated nation’. This would only ensure that the nuclear establishment remains insulated from public scrutiny. The judges’ faith in the affidavit filed by the district administration on off-site emergency exercises flies in the face of reality.

In the last paragraphs of part-I, the Supreme Court judges have iterated their faith in NPCIL’s promise to fulfill its corporate social responsibility (CSR) – millions of rupees allotted for building schools, hospitals, roads and so on. From Tarapur to Rawatbhata to nearby Kalpakkam, local people have seen the realities of such promises.

The second part of the verdict, focused on environmental impacts, again starts with the need to look at environmental issues in the perspective of indispensability of nuclear power in the ‘national policy’ – nuclear energy has a unique position in the emerging economics in India, it is a viable source of energy and it is necessary to increase country’s economic growth !

The judgement in this part dwells elaborately upon the arguments presented by the both sides, but only to concur with the government that Koodankulam project does not violate environmental impact assessment guidelines as the project was notified in 1988, prior to enactment of EIA requirements in 1994! The flimsy affidavits filed by the NPCIL and the MoEF have found better audience with the Supreme Court judges. The court has elaborated upon the rather general and very lenient attempt of taking of environmental impacts in Koodankulam as per a letter written by the then Prime Minister, quotes the 1989 memorandum of the MoEF, the 1989 stipulations by the AERB for clearance, and finally with the MoEF’s letter dated 6 September 2001 in which it legalised the violations in the wake of 377.30 crores already spent on the project, feels confident that the environmental impacts have been taken care of and no violation of EIA stipulations have happened. In case of Coastal Regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance, it again validates the 1994 exemption given to the Koodankulam project.

The EIA reports for the proposed 4 other reactors in Koodankulam have used the EIA studies for Koodankulam 1 and 2 as base-line, which were prepared without a public hearing. Supreme Courts doesn’t find it worthy of objection.

Modifying the initial plan to take water from two nearby dams, construction of a desalination plant was started in 2006 in Koodankuiam. The petitioners had pointed out that the desalination unit would have its own hazardous environmental impacts and will also add to the overall pollution and hence had demanded a fresh EIA clearance. The court has said that desalination units are not listed under the 1994 EIA stipulations, so absence of such an EIA in Koodankulam is not a violation. Of course, the cumulative impacts also do not need any re-assessment then!

Similarly, the Supreme Court has brushed aside significant objections on CRZ clearance and post-factto legalization by TNPCB of the increased temperature of affluent water in Koodankulam. Under the heading ‘Sustainable Development and Impact on the Eco-System’, the verdict quotes elaborately from the Rolay Commission on Environment Pollution (UK, 1971), Stockholm Conference (1972), UNGA’s World Charter for Nature (1982), Rio Summit (1992), the UN MIllenium Declaration of 2000, UN Conference on Sustainable Development (June 2012) and so on, but only to conclude that “we have already found on facts that the KKNPP has been set up and is made functional on the touchstone of sustainable development and its impact on ecology has been taken care of following all national and international environmental principles” !

Larger Public Interests

Then the judges take it upon themselves to decide whether the claims of “smaller violations” of nearby population’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution should take precedence over production of energy, which is “of extreme importance for the economic growth of our country..to alleviate poverty, generate employment etc.” The judgement looks into various earlier cases of objections to ‘development’ projects on environmental and right to life grounds, and concludes that a balance between “economic scientific benefits” and “minor radiological detriments” has to be found. The pre-conceived notions of ‘development’ take over the judicial rigour and objectivity and in their hurry, the judges have done a grammatical faux pas: “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21″! We can over look the grammatical blunder of our judges, but what about terming the massive protests by thousands of people in Koodankulam, run for over 25 years in a thoroughly peaceful manner, as ‘individual apprehension’? Who is the ‘larger community’? Do the interests of the farmers, fishermen and poor people of India do not form the ‘larger public interest’?

The judges have gone ahead to claim that apprehensions of far reaching consequences of radioactive effects has “no basis”! The say: “Nobody on the earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny….Apprehension is something we anticipate with anxiety or fear, a fearful anticipation, which may vary from person to person.” The Court goes by the “expert opinions” of MoEF, EAC, TNPCB, Report of IOM, Report of Engineers India Limited, NEERI’s EIA etc and concludes that all expert bodies are unanimous that in their opinion KKNPP has fully satisfied all safety norms.

Justice Dipak Misra in his prologue emphasizes the need to “march ahead with life allaying all apprehensions with a scientific mindset accepting the nature’s unpredictability to survive on the planet earth on the bedrock of the doctrine – survival of the fittest”. He again goes on to describe how elaborate the DAE’s guidelines on nuclear safety are, and concludes that ‘all possible measures have been taken to avoid any kind of calamity’. He goes on to quote extensively from the IAEA’s 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent FUel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management 1997, to which India is not even a signatory, to appreciate the “world wide concern for public safety”. He again quotes in extenso from the AERB’s post-Fukushima Safety Review of KKNPP. However, an unquestioned faith in the nuclear establishment about adequacy of these recommendations and the establishment’s sincerity to implement leads to plain judicial reassurances.

Justice Misra looks into proportionality of safety vis-a-vis the necessity of nuclear energy development. While accepting the need for ensuring safety for present and future generations, he holds that ‘generation of nuclear energy is a necessity in a progressive modern state’ and ‘promotion of development and protection of the environment have to be harmonized’. Besides other cases, Justice Misra cites the Narmada case and quotes that “In a democracy, welfare of the people at large, and not merely of a small section of the society, has tobe the concern of a responsible Government.”

In the final judicial directions, the judges have asked the NPCIL to file a report before the Supreme Court before the final commissioning, certifying that each and every aspect of safety including environmental impacts, have been taken care of. For the periodical safety maintenance and reviews, safety of the spent nuclear fuel during transport, radioactive discharge to the atmosphere, compliance with the 17 post-Fukushima recommendations, and adherence to the NDMA guidelines, the court has directed the NPCIL, AERB, MoEF, TNPCB and other concerned bodies ensure strict compliance, but has essentially reposed faith in their efficacy and sincerity. The Supreme Court has ordered that a Deep Geological Repository should be set up at the earliest so that SNF can be transported from the nuclear plant to the DGR.

Withdraw Criminal Cases Against Protesters: The Supreme Court has directed to withdraw al criminal cases filed against the agitators in Koodankulam and to restore normalcy and peace.

The Supreme Court’s verdict rests on three major premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of the nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the country’s nuclear establishment to perform this role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should make way for the country’s progress. All three of these are immensely contested propositions. But not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable claims, but have also completely overlooked the Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

In retrospect, the struggling people of India would find approaching to the Supreme Court in such matters pointless, and counter-productive, as the courts themselves are part of the system which has failed to address the widening gap between the aspirations and lives of the deprived masses and the mainstream notions of ‘larger public interest’. Prayers before the judiciary on such matters ends up legitimising the same ‘experts’ and disastrous notions of progress that the people have been fighting against.

DOCUMENTS:

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Re-posted from DiaNuke.org

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The Chernobyl Disaster: April 26, 1986


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Model of the inside of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the disaster. The lid of the reactor (metal, center) was blown off. (Photo from Chernobyl Museum, Kiev, Ukraine.)

Model of the inside of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the disaster. The lid of the reactor (metal, center) was blown off. (Photo from Chernobyl Museum, Kiev, Ukraine.)

26 years ago, on April 26, 1986, a catastrophic nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant situated about 130 km north of Kiev, Ukraine, and about 20 km south of the border with Belarus. The explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere that spread over much of Western USSR and Europe, contaminating large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond in varying degrees.

The Chernobyl Disaster, the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, is the first of the only two classified level 7 events on the International Nuclear Event Scale; the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

The Soviet Union claimed that the Chernobyl Disaster, was a unique event and the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power, where radiation-related fatalities occurred. They said the design of the reactor being unique the accident is thus of little relevance to the rest of the nuclear industry outside the Eastern Bloc.

The Chernobyl Power Plant Complex consisted of four nuclear reactors of the RBMK-1000 design with units 1 and 2 constructed between 1970 and 1977, while Units 3 and 4 of the same design completed in 1983. Two more RBMK reactors were under construction at the site at the time of the accident.

To contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe, the Soviet Union employed over 500,000 workers and spent an estimated 18 billion rubles.

Chernobyl disasterAccording to the Soviets, the accident destroyed the Chernobyl unit 4 reactor, killing one person immediately while a second person died in hospital soon after due to injuries. A third person died from a coronary thrombosis. Out of the 237 people on-site originally diagnosed for acute radiation syndrome (ARS) during the clean-up, 134 cases were confirmed. Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident. Subsequently 19 more died between 1987 and 2004, however, their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposure. Nobody off-site suffered from acute radiation effects although a large proportion of childhood thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident is likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine fallout.

The official Soviet casualty count of deaths is under dispute. Long-term effects such as deformities and cancers are still being accounted for.

By October 1986, the Soviets enclosed Chernobyl unit 4 in a large concrete shelter to allow continuing operation of the other reactors at the complex. However, that concrete  structure is neither strong nor durable. Around 200 tonnes of highly radioactive material remains deep within it, and this poses an environmental hazard until it is better contained.

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Click here to see the video series “Chernobyl Disaster Incident PART 1-8

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Iran: 2013 Sistan and Baluchestan Earthquake (Magnitude 7.5). Reverberations in New Dehli, India


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Yesterday, April 16, 2013, at 15:14 p.m. IRDT (UTC+4:30), an earthquake struck the mountainous region between the cities of Khash and Saravan in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran, 83 km east of Khash, close to the border with Pakistan. It lasted about 25 seconds. The Iranian Seismological Center listed the earthquake as 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale.

Pakistanis evacuating nearby buildings following tremors in Karachi on April 16, 2013. (Photo: ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistanis evacuating nearby buildings following tremors in Karachi on April 16, 2013. (Photo: ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The quake was felt throughout much of eastern Iran and southern Pakistan, and as far away as Riyadh, Manama, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, some areas in the neighboring state of Pakistan, and in New Delhi, India. The tremors destroyed many buildings in Iran. People evacuated buildings in far away places such as Delhi, India, and on the Arabian Peninsula. Pakistani news channels showed buildings shaking in the southern city of Karachi. People in panic evacuated their offices and homes.

This earthquake closely follows the 6.1-magnitude quake that struck the southwest coast of Iran near the port city of city of Bushehr on April 9, 2013. Saravan is about 600 miles from Bushehr, on the south-eastern border of Iran near Pakistan.

Overview map of the Arabian tectonic plate boundaries with the Eurasian, African and Indian plates (U.S. Geological Survey)

Overview map of the Arabian tectonic plate boundaries with the Eurasian, African and Indian plates (U.S. Geological Survey)

Iran is well-known for its long history of disastrous earthquake activities. Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, crossed by several major fault lines that cover almost 90% of the country. The Iranian plateau is subject to most types of tectonic activity, including active folding, faulting and volcanic eruptions. Hence, earthquakes in Iran occur often and are destructive.

Yesterday’s earthquake was probably the strongest earthquake in Iran within the last 40 years, and possibly the strongest in the last half-century, equal in magnitude to the one that shook Tabas in 1978 killing 15,000.

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Inhuman Radiation Experiments


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by JOHN LaFORGE

Inhuman Radiation Experiments

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the declassification of top secret studies, done over a period of 60 years, in which the US conducted 2,000 radiation experiments on as many as 20,000 vulnerable US citizens.[i]

Victims included civilians, prison inmates, federal workers, hospital patients, pregnant women, infants, developmentally disabled children and military personnel — most of them powerless, poor, sick, elderly or terminally ill. Eileen Welsome’s 1999 exposé The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War details “the unspeakable scientific trials that reduced thousands of men, women, and even children to nameless specimens.”[ii]

The program employed industry and academic scientists who used their hapless patients or wards to see the immediate and short-term effects of radioactive contamination — with everything from plutonium to radioactive arsenic.[iii] The human subjects were mostly poisoned without their knowledge or consent.

An April 17, 1947 memo by Col. O.G. Haywood of the Army Corps of Engineers explained why the studies were classified. “It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans and might have adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits.”[iv]

In one Vanderbilt U. study, 829 pregnant women were unknowingly fed radioactive iron. In another, 188 children were given radioactive iron-laced lemonade. From 1963 to 1971, 67 inmates in Oregon and 64 prisoners in Washington had their testicles targeted with X-rays to see what doses made them sterile.[v]

At the Fernald State School, mentally retarded boys were fed radioactive iron and calcium but consent forms sent to parents didn’t mention radiation. Elsewhere psychiatric patients and infants were injected with radioactive iodine.[vi]

In a rare public condemnation, Clinton Administration Energy Sec. Hazel O’Leary confessed being aghast at the conduct of the scientists. She toldNewsweek in 1994: “I said, ‘Who were these people and why did this happen?’ The only thing I could think of was Nazi Germany.”[vii] None of the victims were provided follow-on medical care.

Scientists knew from the beginning of the 20th century that radiation can cause genetic and cell damage, cell death, radiation sickness and even death. A Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments was established in 1993 to investigate charges of unethical or criminal action by the experimenters. Its findings were published by Oxford U. Press in 1996 as The Human Radiation Experiments.

The abuse of X-radiation “therapy” was also conducted throughout the ’40s and ’50s. Everything from ringworm to tonsillitis was “treated” with X-radiation because the long-term risks were unknown or considered tolerable.

Children were routinely exposed to alarmingly high doses of radiation from devices like “fluoroscopes” to measure foot size in shoe stores.[viii]

Nasal radium capsules inserted in nostrils, used to attack hearing loss, are now thought to be the cause of cancers, thyroid and dental problems, immune dysfunction and more.[ix]

Experiments Spread Cancer Risks Far and Wide

In large scale experiments as late as 1985, the Energy Department deliberately produced reactor meltdowns which spewed radiation across Idaho and beyond.[x] The Air Force conducted at least eight deliberate meltdowns in the Utah desert, dispersing 14 times the radiation released by the partial meltdown of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.[xi]

The military even dumped radiation from planes and spread it across wide areas around and downwind of Oak Ridge, Tenn., Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Dugway, Utah. This “systematic radiation warfare program,” conducted between 1944 and 1961, was kept secret for 40 years.[xii]

“Radiation bombs” thrown from USAF planes intentionally spread radiation “unknown distances” endangering the young and old alike. One such experiment doused Utah with 60 times more radiation than escaped the Three Mile Island accident, according to Sen. John Glen, D-Ohio who released a report on the program 20 years ago.[xiii]

The Pentagon’s 235 above-ground nuclear bomb tests, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are not officially listed as radiation experiments. Yet between 250,000 and 500,000 U.S. military personnel were contaminated during their compulsory participation in the bomb tests and the post-war occupation of Japan.[xii]

Documents uncovered by the Advisory Committee show that the military knew there were serious radioactive fallout risks from its Nevada Test Site bomb blasts. The generals decided not to use a safer site in Florida, where fallout would have blown out to sea. “The officials determined it was probably not safe, but went ahead anyway,” said Pat Fitzgerald a scientist on the committee staff.[xv]

Dr. Gioacchino Failla, a Columbia University scientist who worked for the AEC, said at the time, “We should take some risk… we are faced with a war in which atomic weapons will undoubtedly be used, and we have to have some information about these things.”[xvi]

With the National Cancer Institute’s 1997 finding that all 160,000 million US citizens (in the country at the time of the bomb tests) were contaminated with fallout, it’s clear we did face war with atomic weapons — our own.

John LaForge works for the nuclear watchdog group Nukewatch in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

Notes

[i] “Secret Radioactive Experiments to Bring Compensation by U.S.,” New York Times, Nov. 20, 1996

[ii] Eileen Welsome, The Plutonium Files, Delta Books, 1999, dust jacket

[iii] Welsome, The Plutonium Files, p. 9

[iv] “Radiation tests kept deliberately secret,” Washington Post, Dec. 16, 1994; Geoffrey Sea, “The Radiation Story No One Would Touch,” Project Censored, March/April 1994

[v] Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power, “American Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Three Decades of Radiation Experiments on U.S. Citizens,” US Gov’t Printing Office, Nov. 1986, p. 2; St. Paul Pioneer, via New York Times, Jan. 4, 1994

[vi] “48 more human radiation experiments revealed, Minneapolis StarTribune, June 28, 1994; Milwaukee Journal, June 29, 1994

[vii] Newsweek, Dec. 27, 1994

[viii] Joseph Mangano, Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment, OR Books, 2012, p. 36

[ix] “Nasal radium treatments of ’50s linked to cancer,” Milwaukee Journal, Aug. 31, 1994

[x] “Reactor core is melted in experiment,” Washington Post service, Milwaukee Journal, July 10, 1985

[xi] “Tests spewed radiation, paper reports,” AP, Milwaukee Journal, Oct. 11, 1994

[xii] “Secret U.S. experiments in ’40s and ’50s included dropping radiation from sky,” St. Paul Pioneer, Dec. 16, 1993

[xiii] Katherine Rizzo, Associated Press, “A bombshell: U.S. spread radiation,” Duluth News Tribune, Dec. 16, 1993

[xiv] Catherine Caufield, Multiple Exposures, p. 107; Greg Gordon in “Wellstone: Compensate atomic vets,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mach 17, 1995; Associated Press, “Panel Told of Exposure to Test Danger,” Tulsa World, Jan. 24, 1995

[xv] Philip Hilts, “Fallout Risk Near Atom Tests Was Known, Documents Show,” New York Times, March 15, 1995, p. A13; and Pat Ortmeyer, “Let Them Drink Milk,” Institute for Environmental & Energy Research, November 1997, pp. 3 & 11

[xvi] Philip J. Hilts, “Fallout Risk Near Atom Tests Was Known, Documents Show,” New York Times, March 15, 1995

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Re-posted from counterpunch.org

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Lawsuit Seeks Evacuation of Fukushima Children


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AP –  April 14, 2013

An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.

An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. Their demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children. A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city. — FILE PHOTO: AP/KYODO NEWS

THEIR demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children.

A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometres west of the crippled nuclear plant that spewed radiation when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit it more than two years ago.

The lawsuit argues that Koriyama, a city of 330,000, should evacuate its children to an area where radiation levels are no higher than natural background levels in the rest of Japan, or about 1 millisievert annual exposure.

In a culture that frowns upon challenging the authorities, the lawsuit highlights the rift in public opinion created by the baffling range in experts’ views on the health impact of low dose radiation. Although some experts say there is no need for children to be evacuated, parents are worried about the long-term impact on their children, who are more vulnerable to radiation than adults. Consuming contaminated food and water are additional risks.

After the Fukushima accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, Japan set an annual exposure limit of 20 millisieverts for determining whether people can live in an area or not. The average radiation for Koriyama is far below this cutoff point, but some “hot spots” around the city are above that level.

“This is the level at which there are no major effects on health and people can live there,” said Keita Kawamori, an official with the Japanese Cabinet Office. “Academic experts decided this was the safe level.”

A prominent medical doctor in charge of health safety in Fukushima has repeatedly urged calm, noting damage is measurable only at annual exposure of 100 millisieverts, or 100 times the normal level, and higher.

A lower court rejected the lawsuit’s demands in a December 2011 decision, saying radiation had not reached the 100-millisievert cutoff. The International Commission on Radiological Protection, the academic organisation on health and radiation, says risks decline with a drop exposure, but does not believe there is a cutoff below which there is no risk.

An appeal filed is still before Sendai High Court in nearby Miyagi Prefecture more than a year later.

After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which emitted more radiation than the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the Soviet government made it a priority to evacuate women and children from within a 30-kilometre radius of the plant, bigger than the 20-kilometre no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The number of children behind the original lawsuit dwindled to 10 for the appeal, and is now down to one as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Legally in Japan, a city has responsibility for children only through junior high (7th-9th grades), since high school is not compulsory.

But the case serves as a precedent for other Fukushima children.

Toshio Yanagihara

Toshio Yanagihara, a lawyer representing 14 children from Fukushima who started a legal battle for the right to live free of radiation, holds a leaflet urging quick action be taken. Picture: Yuri Kageyama Source: AP

Toshio Yanagihara, one of the lawyers, criticised the government as appearing more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children.

“I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children – something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. “This is child abuse.”

After Chernobyl, thousands of children got thyroid cancer. Some medical experts say leukemia, heart failure and other diseases that followed may be linked to radiation.

In Fukushima, at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed among children, although there’s no evidence of a link with the nuclear disaster. There are no comparative figures on thyroid cancer in other areas of Japan.

The children in the lawsuit and their families are all anonymous, and details about them are not disclosed, to protect them from possible backlash of ostracism and bullying.

“Why is Japan, our Fukushima, about to repeat the mistakes of Chernobyl?” wrote a mother of one of the children in a statement submitted to the court. “Isn’t it up to us adults to protect our children?”

The trial has attracted scant attention in the mainstream Japanese media but it has drawn support from anti-nuclear protesters, who have periodically held massive rallies.

Among the high-profile supporters are musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, Manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.

“There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none or more vulnerable, or more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions,” Chomsky wrote in a message.

A 12-year-old, among those who filed the lawsuit but have since left the area, said she was worried.

“Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt,” she said in a hand-written statement.

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