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


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Indrani Bagchi

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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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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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KUDANKULAM N-PLANT IN DANGER? SUPPLIER HELD FOR SHODDY PARTS


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By Kumar Chellappan

Posted on April 8, 2013 in the pioneer

ZiO-Podolsk Engineering Plant manufactures steam generators for NPPs of the Russian design

ZiO-Podolsk Engineering Plant manufactures steam generators for NPPs of the Russian design.

Against the backdrop of the arrest of Sergei Shutov, a director of Zio-Podolsk, a subsidiary of Rosatom, on charges of corruption, fraud and supplying cheap Ukrainian steel blanks and steam generators in nuclear reactors, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Dr A Gopalakrishnan has demanded an immediate investigation into the safety of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India as it was Podolsk that had supplied components for the reactor.

He demanded constitution of an independent body of nuclear engineering specialists to ascertain the KNPP’s safety.

This is the first time in the history of the Indian nuclear establishment, a former chief regulator, who is respected all over the nuclear world for his no-nonsense approach, has questioned the claims of the Government that the plant is foolproof and “greener than even green”.

Gopalakrishnan, a nuclear power engineer with more than five decades of experience, said nothing was right with the 1,000 MW reactor built with Russian assistance. “The inordinate delay in the commissioning of the plant and the silence of the country’s nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, has substantiated our doubts about the safety and security of the plant,” said the country’s former chief nuclear regulator.

Addressing the delegates of the all-India convention on “approach to the power question in the country”, organised jointly by People’s Committee for Safe Energy (PECOSE, promoted by the Lefts) and Breakthrough Science Society, Gopalakrishnan, said the silence maintained by both the Department of Atomic Energy and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, was disgusting and dubious. “The AERB chairman should have been here to address the doubts in our minds. But they are avoiding the people,” he thundered.

He said there were many corruption charges. “Remember, these charges were made by the investigating agency in Russia, their equivalent of India’s CBI. There are charges that inferior quality materials have gone into the crucial components of the reactor being built at Kudankulam.

These are not allegations raised by journalists or social activists. The Russian Government itself had declared the other day about the arrest of Shutov, director of Zio-Podolsk, a Rosatom subsidiary, which supplied the KNPP reactor,” said Dr Gopalakrishnan.

Shutov was arrested on charges of corruption, fraud and for supplying cheap Ukrainian steel blanks and steam generators in nuclear reactors built by Rosatom. “The scope of this scandal could reach every reactor built and supplied by Russia over the past several years. This demands immediate investigation,” a spokesman of Russian security service had told the country’s media.

Gopalakrishnan pointed out that the initial agreement for building the nuclear plant was signed between India and the then USSR in 1988. By 1991 the USSR disintegrated. “The subsidiary units which were supplying the components for the Russian nuclear establishment too fell into undesirable hands. The arrest of the Zio-Podolsk executive in connection with the distribution of cheap and fraudulent materials to reactors is shocking because the same company had supplied components to the nuclear reactor at Kudankulam. Let the Russian authorities themselves come here, examine the entire components and certify that they are of good quality,” Gopalakrishnan said.

He described the claims of YN Dudkin, head of the Russian Specialists Group, that the Kudankulam reactors were the safest in the world as a ploy to hoodwink the people as well as the Centre. “It is the claim of a salesman. We want an official assurance from the Russian Atomic Energy Regulator. Then let’s constitute a body of independent nuclear engineering specialists and have a discussion on the thorny issues. The reactor should be cleared only after these formalities,” he said.

Dudkin had claimed that two Russian reactors, each of 1,000 MW are functioning normally in China. “Do you know that the Chinese are examining the entire reactor components following the arrest of the Zio-Podolsk executive,” said Gopalakrishnan.

The former AERB chairman was highly critical of the stance of APJ Abdul Kalam, former President, who declared the plant safer after a two-hour whirlwind tour in Kudankulam. “Who authorised Kalam to make such a statement? He is only a missile engineer and does not know anything about nuclear energy. How can such a person make a statement like that?” asked Gopalakrishnan.

According to Gopalakrishnan, more than the energy requirements of the country, what weighed in the minds of the people who lead the UPA Government was personal gains. “They have thrown to winds the well thought out Indian nuclear plan conceived and developed by Dr Homi J Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai. Dr Bhabha and Dr Sarabhai wanted India to be free from the shackles of the western world which controls the uranium reserve of the world. The Bhabha Plan was to build a network of nuclear reactors to harness the vast thorium reserve of the country. But we will never reach a stage where we can make use of the Thorium reserves if we import of nuclear reactors,” he said.

Gopalakrishnan pointed out that it is humanly impossible to meet 40 or 50 per cent of the country’s energy needs through nuclear power. “You require hundreds of reactors. Do we have the space for that? Remember that all the reactors we are planning to import run on enriched uranium. We do not have uranium resources. The companies selling these reactors to us will give fuel for two years which will be renewed subject to their satisfaction about our conduct. Our nuclear sovereignty has been surrendered to the western powers by the Manmohan Singh Government,” charged Gopalakrishnan.

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Nuclear meltdown

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TEPCO: Fukushima Fuel Cooling System Stops Again Leaking Radioactive Water


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo:  AP)

Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo: AP)

At every nuclear electrical power plant, spent nuclear fuel is kept cool to avoid it from overheating that may trigger a self-sustaining atomic reaction leading to a meltdown.

At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant there are seven vast clay-lined storage pits each measuring 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and 6 meters deep. Three layers of protective waterproof lining cover each pit.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said last Friday that one of the systems, pool #2 that keeps spent atomic fuel cool, failed temporarily at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. On Saturday, TEPCO said that around 120 tons of contaminated water with an estimated 710 billion becquerel of radioactivity probably leaked into the ground under the power plant. The process of pumping the remaining 13,000 tons of the water in the pool #2 into other tanks would take days. How the water escaped will remain a mystery until they drain and check the faulty pits. TEPCO did not give any explanation about where the leaked contaminated water might have ended up.

On late Sunday, TEPCO confirmed that a second underground storage pool #3, has leaked three liters of radioactive water at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant. However, the water level inside pool #3, has not gone down, indicating the leak is not that large. According to TEPCO, since this second leak is small, there are no plans to drain pool #3 into another storage area.

TEPCO is transferring the remaining water in pool #2 to two other pits. However, the water leaking from pool #3 is raising questions about the trustworthiness of all the pools and the risk to the environment.

Aside from the pools, the power plant has another headache. TEPCO stores tainted seawater perpetually needed to cool the melted fuel rods of the damaged reactors, in makeshift storage tanks. Unfortunately, the holding capacity of these makeshift tanks is running out quickly. On Sunday, Masayuki Ono, a senior TEPCO official said at a news conference that it is difficult for the plant to store all the tainted radioactive seawater in the temporary tanks.

At Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear crisis in a generation, reactors went into meltdown and spewed radiation over a wide area polluting farmland and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.

Although the natural disaster claimed around 19,000 lives, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the atomic catastrophe. However, activist groups such as Greenpeace say that the long-term health effects for people in the area are being vastly underestimated by a government pledged to a powerful nuclear industry. Although many voters in Japan distrust the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly said Japan must consider continued use of nuclear as a less-expensive energy source to power the world’s third-largest economy.

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Nuclear Radiation Impact Being Ignored?


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Dilnaz Boga

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By Dilnaz Boga

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Dr John ByrneOn his recent visit to Mumbai, Nobel Laureate Dr John Byrne, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, said that every society has to make a basic decision as far as use of nuclear power technology went.

“US has not ordered a nuclear plant in 35 years. There has been a record of incidents all over the world unanticipated by engineers and scientists, and that is why so many countries have had to rethink the viability of nuclear technology.”

But some Indian scientists feel otherwise, despite the fact that the ‘Interim Report on Tarapur’ has found indicators which show radiation-related problem among employees of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) and villages close to it. The World Nuclear Association expects India’s nuclear capacity to grow fourfold from its present capacity of 5,000 MW to 20,000 megawatts by 2020, making it the third-biggest market after China and Russia.

Health impact of radiation

Public health care centres’ doctors, locals, physicians in the vicinity and the medical supervisor were interviewed by scientist Dr V Pugazhenthi from Tamil Nadu, who is renowned for this credible studies on the health impact of radiation around the Kalpakkam nuclear site. He is also one of the members of people’s expert committee in the ongoing anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam.

Cancer, goitre, infertility, mental retardation common

“I found 100 cases of cancer in 2010 among TAPS employees. Local physicians said that incidents of cancer have been on the rise in the area in the last few years, particularly hepatoma, ovarian cancer, bone cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But there has been no intervention for the victims,” he added.

Cancer victims fear being ostracised so that they don’t tell anyone about it, he added.

“We are trying to decrease the exposure among workers at the plant,” said MoS Rajendra Gavit to DNA.

“Technologically, this system is out of sync, and it is economically less competitive if you switch to other energy sources,” Byrne explained.

Director Rajan Badwe of Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, where patients from Tarapur and its surrounding villages are directed told DNA, “Cancer cases are not on the rise. If at all if there is any rise, it’s a small one and it is similar to any other area.”

Goitre cases have also been found in the surrounding villages, local physicians corroborated in the report. “A casual walk through the villages helped me identify 15-20 Goitre cases. TAPS doctors had carried a survey on thyroid problems by the medical superintendent denied it,” said Dr V Pugazhenthi, who had conducted a survey in Chinchani village, 8km from the plant.

Back then, 40 cases of infertility were reported by a local doctor in the survey. “Spontaneous abortions, still births, hormonal imbalances in women in the form of excessive bleeding, decreased birth weight and birth defects on the rise,” elaborated Dr V Pugazhenthi.

RK Gupta, who worked for BARC for over 30 years in the fuel reprocessing division in the plutonium plant has been exposed to radiation, said, “Exposures are a regular affair. Workers have died of skin diseases and cancer. Despite this, international rules for workers are not fully implemented. There is a silence about this as people compromise because of their economic condition. Even contaminated tools that are stolen and scarp metal slow poison people. Just like people get poisoned from fish exposed to radiation very far from the site.”

Cases of mental retardation, including Down’s Syndrome, autoimmune arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, were found in villagers along with high instances of cataract and myopia at a young age.

No new health study has been commissioned in the area.

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Re-posted from dna

 

Koodankulam: Shoddy equipment develops leaks


Sam Rajappa.

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By Sam Rajappa

Posted on February 17, 2013, in The Island

Kudankulam Protest rally - 01

Demonstrators near the Kudankulam nuclear power project (File Photo)

ACCORDING to the Department of Atomic Energy and the authorities of Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the loading of uranium fuel rods at the 1,000 MWe-capacity first unit of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project was completed on 2 October last year, but has not produced a single unit of electricity so far. Critical equipment supplied by Atomstroyexport of Russia, building nuclear reactors abroad, were found to be shoddy and have developed leaks even before commissioning of the plant. The financial statement released by Atomstroyexport shows its losses have doubled in the last year and it is on the brink of bankruptcy. Russian engineers at the Koodankulam plant site have not been able to plug the leaks. In a desperate attempt to commission the plant, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it a prestige issue, NPCIL has flown in technicians from Croatia and Germany to carry out repairs in the Russian designed and erected plant. NPCIL claims to have spent an excess of Rs. 4,500 crore on the non-functioning power plant. The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has threatened to lay siege on the Koodankulam nuclear complex in a non-violent manner if the Centre commissions the first unit in haste and secrecy without attending to its safety requirements, and sought a White Paper on the KKNPP and its reactors from the Centre. It was turned down.

An official statement issued by NPCIL on 25 January said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has given permission to “repeat the full systems test at the first unit.” One needs to repeat a test only if it failed in the first instance. NPCIL’s desire to gloss over its failure and make it seem as if the ‘permission’ is a hard-won victory is understandable. But why is the AERB condescending even after RK Sinha, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, had said that “there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.” During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened, repaired, and some components replaced. The fact that brand new valves malfunctioned raises questions about the quality of equipment supplied. Identification of defective valves at this late pre-commissioning stage suggests that the quality of assurance of individual components was deficient.

In February last year, Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary Zio-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. Zio-Podolsk is the sole supplier of steam generators and some other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide, including India. Shutov was charged with using cheap Ukranian steel blanks in nuclear reactors. NPCIL should reveal whether the leaky valves were supplied by Zio-Podolsk. A PTI feature issued in July 2011 reveals, quoting DAE sources, that the Koodankulam plant was expected to be commissioned in March 2009, long before protesters held up work on the project for nearly six months, but was delayed because of difficulties experienced in receiving equipment from Russia “in sequential order.” The article says: “The designers discovered that several kilometers of power and control cables in the reactor were missed after the completion of double containment of the reactor.” The problem was rectified after the cables meant for power supply to instrumentation in different buildings were incorporated by breaking open the concrete walls in the containment domes and was sealed again bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside. Breaking open and resealing the containment dome is unprecedented in nuclear power industry.

As the Manmohan Singh government is determined to unleash all kinds of atrocities on peaceful protesters against the shaky Koodankulam plant like filing 325 cases including sedition, waging war on the Indian State and on other serious sections of the Cr PC and IPC with 5,296 named as accused and 221,483 unnamed accused at one police station alone near the plant site, PMANE has taken up the issue with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had earlier reached out to the tribal people opposed to Vedanta Resource’s Rs. 4,500-crore bauxite mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills. Rahul had then said: “True development takes place by respecting the interests of the poor,” and offered to be their sipahi in Delhi. SP Udayakumar, coordinator of PMANE, in a letter to Rahul, said if the Congress did not respect people’s power, democracy and peaceful struggles, and starts the Koodankulam plant forcibly, it would prompt the voters at least in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to shun the Congress.

Unmindful of the people’s fears about the breaking open and resealing of the dome of the Koodankulam plant, the AERB, DAE and NPCIL remain tight-lipped. Even a small mishap in a nuclear facility will have the potential to destroy millions of people in our densely populated country. In a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has passed strictures on the ‘toothless’ AERB for not even ensuring nuclear and radiation safety in any of the atomic installations in the country. The long-awaited Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on 7 September 2011, ostensibly to bring about much needed independence and transparency in administering safety of nuclear operations, remains a non-starter. According to A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERB, the Bill fails to serve any of its laudable objectives in its present form.

The Bill seeks to establish a Council of Nuclear Safety to be chaired by the Prime Minister and will have as its members five or more Cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Secretary, chairman of the AEC and experts nominated by the Union government. The CAS will constitute two search committees, one to select the chairperson and the other to select members of the NSRA. The CNS is empowered to create an Appellate Authority to hear any appeals on any order or decision of the NSRA. The same Appellate Authority will also decide on appeals from the government against the NSRA. What the government tries to do under this Bill is to create a high level council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister to control and curb the freedom of action of the NSRA. Clause 20 of the Bill stipulates the NSRA should function in a manner consistent with the international obligations of India.

If the NSRA were to find the equipment supplied by Russia to the Koodankulam plant substandard and do not conform to safety norms, the regulatory body dare not act for it would be contrary to “India’s international obligations” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised unilaterally to his Russian counterpart while on a visit to Moscow in December 2011.

The same clause also says the NSRA “shall not interact with bodies outside India without the prior approval of the government.” The subservient nature of the proposed NSRA has been made abundantly clear in Clause 48(1) which says: “the Central government may, by notification, supersede the regulatory authority for such a period not exceeding six months. Upon notification, the chairperson and members of the NSRA shall vacate their offices as such; … all the powers, functions and duties shall, until the authority is reconstituted, be exercised and discharged by the Central government.” The NSRA can never be independent unless the appointment of its chairperson and selection of members of the regulatory authority as well as suppression of the NSRA are left to Parliament and not to the ruling party of the day. (The Statesman/ANN)

Re-posted from The Island

About the author:

Sam Rajappa

Sam Rajappa is a journalist with over five decades experience in media. He is The Weekend Leader’s Consulting Editor. Sam started his career in journalism in 1960 as a sub-editor with the Free Press Journal in Bombay. In 1962 he joined The Statesman in New Delhi and later moved to Chennai. He was associated with the paper till 2008. In 1980, he took a year’s sabbatical from The Statesman to set up the South Indian network of India Today, and worked as their South India bureau chief based in Bangalore. Again, he took a short break from the paper in 1996 to launch The Andhra Pradesh Times, an English daily published from Hyderabad, as its founder-editor. For about fifteen years, since 1980, Sam was also the BBC’s South India correspondent. He was an adjunct faculty member of the Chennai-based Asian College of Journalism from 2001 to 2007 and later served as Director of The Statesman Print Journalism School, Kolkata.

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Kudankulam Radiation Leak Rumours Trigger Scare in Coastal Villages in South India


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Since midnight on Saturday, February 16th, panic gripped the people residing in many coastal villages of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Kanyakumari districts when rumors purporting to radiation leak in Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) spread like wildfire. People in the neighboring villages of Kudankulam claimed that an explosion occurred in the nuclear plant when the scientists attempted to make it critical.

Church bells tolled. Half-awake villagers, mostly fishermen scurried for safety with their families. Public address systems blared requesting people to assemble at open spaces. The terrified folks of Idinthakarai assembled at their most common fast site.

Terrified people using their mobiles made frantic calls to their relatives and friends living elsewhere to help them evacuate their villages. Many residents of Kovalam, Chinna Muttam, Pallam villages in Kanyakumari district, Vijayapathi, Avudayalpuram and several coastal hamlets in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts left their villages. They traveled in available trucks and other vehicles to nearby Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari, Nagercoil in Tamilnadu, and to distant towns such as Kollam, and Tiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

The police said rumor sparked by unidentified mischief mongers triggered the midnight panic.

Deccan Chronicle quotes KKNPP site director R.S. Sundar: “There is no radiation leak whatsoever. Around 4000 people were in the plant today. It is unfortunate that such rumors are being floated, and people believe them.”

While the authorities point their fingers at the anti-nuke activists for the rumors, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy said conflicting statements from central ministers, and plant officials had triggered the alarm among the fishermen.

Mr. Sundar, reacting to the charges of technical faults in the plant, said, “We cannot say technically everything is alright. Integrated checks on several components of the plant are being conducted, and we are fine-tuning the testing process. It will take some more days for the tests to be completed after which the work would be audited by regulators.”

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The Ant in the Ear of the Elephant


DAVID BRADLEY REPORTS BACK ON HIS OVERLY EVENTFUL TRIP TO KOONDANKULAM AND THE NEED FOR AUSTRALIANS TO TAKE NOTICE OF WHERE OUR URANIUM IS GOING AND THE HAVOC AND DANGER IT IS CAUSING! – Dr Helen Caldicott

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By David Bradbury

I knew we were in trouble when the young auto-rickshaw driver pulled his vehicle off to the side of the road to take a phone call. Normally Indian taxi drivers take their mobile phone calls while driving at breakneck speed weaving in and out of traffic with an inch to spare either side. This was unusual.

We had just slipped past the police barricades at the entrance to Kundakalum town with the plastic flaps of the rickshaw down protecting us from the monsoon rains and the lazy eyes of police on the lookout for any foreigners or troublemakers who dared to stray into this forbidden zone.

When the driver started to turn around to head back into town, my instincts automatically kicked in to bail out of the rickshaw: I grabbed my suitcase, tripod, camera bag and a perplexed three-year-old Omar. Partner Treena jumped out as well.

The next few minutes are a blur. A mad frantic phone call from the driver back to the police in nearby Kundakalum reported our attempts to do a runner. I thought of wrestling his mobile out of his hand but then thought better of it. Next I dashed to the side of the road, little better than a goat track, and tried flagging down a car and then a young lad on a motorbike. God knows how I intended to fit two adults, a toddler, plus a heavy suitcase and camera equipment on the motie – had the kid stopped. Some old women collecting firewood seemed to know our purpose and gave encouraging fist waves to keep going.

A lumbering fish truck returning to our intended destination of the seaside village of Indinthakarai came into view. Like a man possessed, I stepped into the middle of the road to flag it down. By now a plainclothes cop on a motorbike had appeared. But I wasn’t to be stopped. Having flown over 10,000km to record our prime minister Julia Gillard offering to sell uranium to the Indian PM and then another 3,000km from New Delhi to the southernmost tip of India, I wanted to reach the valiant anti-nuke fisherfolk of Indinthakarai. This where the Russians have built two nuclear power plants on a seismic fault line – right where the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 swept nearly two thousand locals to their deaths and demolished all buildings in its wake.

Two carloads of police soon turned up and we were bundled into the 4WD headed back to the Kundakalum cop shop. With his bullet-bald head and an impressive handlebar moustache, deputy superintendant NK Stanley Jones was an Indian cross between Kojak and Jimmy Edwards. He was decidedly unimpressed with my feeble story that Omar had a fascination with fishing boats and wanted to visit the seaside fishing village of Indinthakarai. Why this particular part of the coastline, I would have immediately asked, when there are thousands of kilometres of beachfront around India?

‘It is a prohibited zone!’ he said, eye-balling me from across the table to see any falter, any slippery eye movement as Treena and I gave him our made-up-on-the-spot pitch.

‘The people there are dangerous!’ Stanley Jones told us.

We showed Stanley our passports and gave him our mobile phone numbers to be duly recorded – which left me paranoid for the rest of the trip, as the activist phones there are all tapped by Indian state security. We’re talking national security and big bikkies here – $140 billion in nuclear power contracts if the Centre Government has its way.

He repeated that the area was a prohibited zone under Section 144. I didn’t bother to draw the parallel for him that this was exactly the same rationale used by the South Australian coppers two months earlier in arbitrarily arresting people at Lizards Revenge outside Olympic Dam uranium mine. There, SA police in similarly threatening Orwellian tones repeatedly warned us over loudspeakers, ‘You are now entering a Protective Security Zone. Under the Protective Security Act of the South Australian Parliament 2007, you are subject to arbitrary arrest, strip search and detention…’

It would seem the nuclear lobby worldwide has a special dispensation for suspending people’s normal rights of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of non-violent protest.

I was smart enough this time to travel on a business visa. It cost four times as much as a normal tourist visa but worth every penny now that push had come to shove. I could truthfully say I was in India on business as a film producer and this was a side visit en route to the Kolkata film festival in a few weeks’ time.

He looked at me over his handlebar moustache to see if he could detect any smug Anglo-Saxon superiority in my bearing or any other legitimate pretext to immediately deport me from the country. Three weeks earlier, three Japanese activists travelling on tourist visas didn’t get past the airport inquisition before being deported. Indian Security had intercepted their emails to Kundakalum activists before they arrived and were waiting for them.

We were escorted out of town and sent packing. Back at our hotel the booking clerk was decidedly rattled. He’d been rung by police and his friendly attitude had changed. He demanded our passports again. We decided to pack our bags quickly and leave town before police googled my anti-nuke track record and came back. We hailed a passing bus and threw our suitcases and film gear onto it with the help of locals. I felt a huge surge of relief as we headed out of town.

Four nights later, under cloak of darkness, I found myself bumping along another goat track entering the seaside village of Indinthakarai. A lit-up Virgin Mary bobbed along on the dash of the 4WD, turning blue to brilliant red to lime green and flashing purple as a very happy-go-lucky 74-year-old priest clapped along to a popular Bollywood song, and three strong anti-nuke activist women from Indinthakarai sang heartily. The priest told me he was married with a special dispensation from the pope in Rome and had two grown-up children. I felt like I was trapped inside a Graham Greene novel: all we lacked was the bottle of whisky. We were headed towards Indinthakarai via a little-known potholed road that hugged the sea coast.

The next morning the village and I awoke to the bells of Lourdes church summoning people to early morning mass at 5.40am. The priest’s melodic voice incanted over the loudspeaker across the rooftops, for any worshippers too lazy to get out of bed. I watched as Leon the fisherman rubbed ‘440 days’ off the whiteboard and added a ‘1’ to it. For 441 days the people of Indinthakarai have resisted the dictates of the Centre Government 3,000km away in New Delhi to incorporate their village into the grand scheme of things.

The growing Indian economy needs power. Power. More POWER to ‘beat’ China. To fill still more the overflowing pockets and black Swiss bank accounts of the burghers of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. To put kids into sweatshops and factories at 10 years of age – dragged from finishing their schooling to make cheap acid-washed jeans, footwear and toys for a dollar a day for people living in western ‘democracies’ like Australia – items that last a day or two before they are sent off to landfill.

The latest round of opposition to stop the opening of the Kundakalum nuclear power plants has raged for more than ten years now, with this last year seeing opposition to the Russian-built nuclear power plants at Indinthakarai reach fever pitch. They are a hair’s breath away from being fully operational. The nuclear fuel rods have been loaded. Tests are being done and are only waiting now for the green light. Maybe President Putin’s visit to India in December will be the symbolic moment for the plants to start generating power.

However, seaside villages all along the coast, not just Indinthakarai at ground zero, have opposed the opening of the first two of six planned nuclear reactors every step along the way. Tens of thousands of fisher folk who live off the ocean have taken part in a series of hunger strikes and imaginative land- and sea-based demonstrations and peaceful blockades. They’ve buried themselves up to the neck in sand at the approach to the plants. They’ve immersed themselves in the ocean and blockaded the harbour with their fishing boats.

These rolling protests, born out of the non-violent leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, have been continuous since 15 August last year – India’s day of Independence. Since then there have been two major police raids in March and September involving thousands of police each time. In the last raid, the police lathi charged (with bamboo sticks) peaceful protestors and beat everyone in their path who could not flee fast enough: children, the crippled, old men and women. One fisherman was shot dead. Another fell down and died from his injuries. People threw themselves into the sea as they tried to escape the tear gas and baton charges. The tear gas shells used showed an expiry date of 2002, ‘Made in the USA’, and they caused permanent horrible sores on the faces of the kids and those exposed to the outdated chemicals. The police entered the Lourdes church, broke the statue of Mary and urinated in the foyer area of the church. All of this I was given as firsthand witness accounts. That is the price to people’s lives of going nuclear.

I filmed for the next ten days and was given a very humbling and wonderful insight into the life of this courageous little village. It will form the basis of my next film which could be called simply ‘Business As Usual’ or more enigmatically, ‘The Ant in the Ear of the Elephant’ – an expression used by one of the leaders in Indinthakarai to sum up their chances of winning against the huge nuclear beast. An ant biting in the right place in the ear of an elephant can inflict a lot of pain and trip the animal up. That’s what’s happening in India right now.

Certainly I enjoy the challenge and the adventure of going to places where authority and corrupt governance don’t want others to go and point a camera. It’s often quite nerve-wracking though, and sometimes dangerous to one’s life.

However, I don’t go to the edge for the sense of the adventure it brings. I go there so I can inform other Australians and my local community about what’s really going on and the hidden agendas operating. If taking the risks involved – physical, psychological and financial – result only in a pat on the back for the courage it takes, that’s not enough for me. I want my community, my fellow Australians, to take ACTION with the information I bring back.

Other communities who entrust me to film do so believing I can help them in their struggle. That’s the punchline for me. You have to take the information and run with it, and find ways of supporting the people of Indinthakarai by hassling the Indian government through the local High Commission in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Let both the Australian and Indian governments know you don’t appreciate this brave community being put through outrageous and anti-democratic actions any more than you appreciate our government opening up our local area to CSG mining and so spoiling the aquifers forever. It’s about human greed by a few at the expense of the majority of us. And it needs ACTION.

I’ve just been informed 30 people including the woman who helped me get to Indinthakarai have been arrested and detained by Tamil Nadu police. They join another 54 others who were arrested in September and have been refused bail, wasting away in dirty conditions in jail after a big police operation invaded their village and beat the daylights out of anyone who could not run away fast enough. These activists have been charged with various offences including sedition, being ‘terrorists’ and waging war against the state. Some charges carry the death penalty. They are ordinary people like you and me. The police couldn’t get away with putting me in jail, but they can do this to their own people. We have to agitate for their release. They are only exercising their democratic rights to non-violently oppose the spoiling of their ancient environment, the same as people opposing coal-seam gas fracking here.

If anyone wants to contribute a tax-deductible donation to seeing the film completed contact david@frontlinefilms.com.au or 6684 0015.

Source: Echonetdaily

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News: Nuclear Power Plants Will Be Located in any Indian City


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Protest at Kudankulam

Protest at Kudankulam

In the midst of a stormy debate on atomic energy, Indian scientists are now designing nuclear reactors that can be positioned in the middle of a metropolitan, or any large city. Construction of the reactors might possibly get underway within the next five years.

Exclusion zone

Distance from a Nuclear plant

Distance from a Nuclear plant

A conventional nuclear plant requires an exclusion zone that extends for 1.6 kilometers radius around the reactor, directly under control of the nuclear power plant administration. It is followed by a low population sterilized zone up to five km from the reactor where the growth of population is limited by administrative control. And finally, an emergency planning zone within a radius of 16 km from the reactor The outermost zone defines the minimum distance to high population centers.

Safety Features of AHWR Reactor

The much-delayed 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), the latest Indian design for a next generation nuclear reactor, now on the design table for close to a decade will burn thorium in its fuel core. Globally, thorium is three times more abundant than uranium.

The scientists designing this third stage in India’s 3-stage fuel cycle plan claim that it has several inbuilt safety features to allow the plant to be located even in densely populated areas.

Officials said these safety features would it make it possible to meet the next-generation safety requirements like three-day grace period for operator response, elimination of the requirement of an exclusion zone beyond the plant perimeter, hundred-year life duration, and high-level of fault tolerance. Designed with a high-level of fault tolerance, the AHWR provides for a much greater immunity even from an insider threat.

Mr. Shiv Abhilash Bhardwaj, director (Technical), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) confirmed this. He said: “The AHWR has a number of inbuilt safety features that would require very little exclusion zone and can be built right in the heart of the city.”

He further said that they expect to start construction of the AHWR during the 12th Plan period.

A site for building the AHWR, designed by a team of nuclear scientists led by former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Mr Anil Kakodkar and incumbent Mr Ratan Kumar Sinha, is yet to be finalized.

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