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”.
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.
The Anti nuke protesters are assembling in large numbers in the protest venue inspite of police intimidation and terror tactics. The tent has already housed 9000 people so far and many people stand outside the protest venue as there is no space inside the pandal.
Police have blocked the entrance of the villages and threaten the hired vehicle drivers not to transport people to Idindakarai. If they dared, police threaten them to cancel their vehicle licenses. So, the drivers are not willing to come to idinthakarai. Some vehicle drivers who dare to pick up people and are being stopped on their way and asked to go back. The police have deployed vajra and varun vehicles at the entrances of the villages.
“Pushparayan, Jesuraj and I have been living in an open quater-km-radius prison since March 19, 2012,” writes Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, convenor of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy that is spearheading the protests. “Thousands of people sleep around our house at night in order to protect us from possible police action and mid-night arrest. Hundreds of youth protect us round the clock.”
How can a peaceful agitation of villagers against a nuclear power plant in their backyard be a seditious activity? Yet an unprecedented 3500 protestors have been charged with sedition, says NITYANAND JAYARAMAN. Pix: dianuke.org
Between September and December 2011, 107 FIRs were registered in just one police station – the Koodankulam P.S. – against more than 55,000 people. That is about 30 percent of the total eligible voters in that Assembly constituency. The cases began to be registered within a few months of the new Government assuming power in Tamil Nadu. Of these, 3500 people are accused of “sedition” and/or “waging war against the state” – perhaps the largest number for any police station in independent or British India. The actual numbers of accused and FIRs are likely to be at least double this if the data is updated to April 2012. Ironically, the accused are…
Twelve representatives from the affected villages around Koodankulam met District Collector R Selvaraj and other senior police officials and held discussions to sort out the Koodankulam stalemate. “When we met the district administration and handed over our demands, they asked us to delay the agitation for two days. We have conveyed their request to the village council members who are backing anti-nuke protests,” said Father Arimavalavan, a priest who led the village representatives.
Protest leader Udayakumar says that they are still ‘committed’ to continue their non-violent protests against the nuke plant
Anti-nuke protesters have started their fourth indefinite hunger strike at Idinthakarai Lourde Matha Church grounds on Tuesday afternoon. Twenty five villagers representing four villages have gone on an indefinite hunger strike. From 4 May onwards, women will also join the protests. According to Dr SP Udayakumar, convener, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the people of the affected villages decided to relaunch their agitation against the commissioning of the nuclear plant in Koodankulam.
“Though we have announced that we will relaunch agitation from May, in the morning we decided to delay the agitation for two days honouring the requests of the district administration. But our people were not ready to delay the agitation. They wanted to resume hunger strike at the earliest and we are not…
From October 2011 onwards, thousands of protesters and villagers living around the Russian-built Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern Tamil Nadu state, are blocking highways, staging anti-nuclear demonstrations and hunger strikes, preventing further construction work of the nuclear power plant, and demanding its closure.
Because they distrust the assurances given by the Central Government regarding safety, and fear the disasters that could arise from
environmental impact of nuclear power generation
The phrase “nuclear accident“, immediately brings to our minds the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant also known as Fukushima Dai-ichi (in Japanese dai-ichi means “number one”), after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. This disaster culminated in a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and release of radioactive materials into the environment.
The devastation at Fukushima Dai-ichi is the largest nuclear disaster since the catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine on April 26, 1986.
The agitation in Kudankulam
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), which was initiated in 1988 by an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed on November 20, 1988 by former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two nuclear reactors.
The agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project started as low-key protests by anti-nuclear protesters. About 20,000 residents of Kudankulam and surrounding villages marched out to show their support for the activists. More than a thousand local fishermen joined them and announced a strike in support of the protests.
The anti-nuclear protesters have stated specific reasons for opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). They say, “More than 1 million people live within the 30 km radius of the KKNPP which far exceeds the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) stipulations. It is quite impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Koodankulam“, etc.
“Fukushima has greatly helped our agitation,” said S.P. Udayakumar, activist and leader of the voluntary People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). For 20 years, Udayakumar has led PMANE on a campaign against the Koodankulam project.
“The nuclear plant is unsafe” and “the safety analysis report and the site evaluation study have not been made public. No public hearing was held. It’s an authoritarian project that has been imposed on the people,” he said.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the top government agency to ensure safety standards, conducted a safety audit of India’s NPPs a few months back. Despite all clear certificates, anti-nuclear activists and experts have called for an audit by an independent body. They say that given the non-transparent nature of India’s state-controlled nuclear energy sector, there is no way to estimate whether safety issues will be carefully followed.
Anti-Nuclear protests and Hunger Strike
An indefinite hunger strike was started by the anti-nuclear protesters on September 11, 2012. With the hunger strike becoming a serious threat to the health of 127 participants, negotiations between the protesters and the state government of Tamilnadu began on September 15, 2012, but it soon reached a stalemate. The protests and the hunger strike ended twelve days later with J. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, announcing that the state government would adopt a resolution against launching the nearly completed nuclear power plant. She fulfilled her promise the following day.
On Thursday, September 22, 2012, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed a resolution urging the Center to halt the work on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project until the fears of the local population over the safety of the plants are allayed. The 12-day fast by the anti-nuclear protesters came to an end following assurances by Ms. Jayalalitha.
Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese, came to the protest venue at Idinthakarai on Thursday and offered fruit juice to those who were on hunger strike. He addressed the gathering and explained in detail the demands put forth during their meeting with Ms. Jayalalithaa in Chennai on the previous day. The Bishopsaid:
“We urged the Chief Minister that the State Cabinet pass a resolution demanding the permanent closure of the KKNPP and appealed to her to withdraw cases against some of the protesters during the agitation. We also appealed to her to draw a comprehensive alternative energy policy, which should make sure tapping of non-conventional energy sources at the optimum level so that the environment and people living near such power generation units do not get affected. Since the Chief Minister’s replies satisfied us to the maximum possible extent, we agreed to withdraw the ongoing indefinite fast.”
S.P. Udhayakumar, leader of PMANE gave the details of various meetings to be held in Madurai and at Samithoppu in Kanyakumari district to decide on the future course of action against nuclear programmes in the country. “We’ll even lay siege to the KKNPP in the near future to ensure its permanent closure,” he said.
Before the protesters left the venue they vowed that even though the fast had come to an end nevertheless they would intensify their struggle against the Union government in the days to come.
However, the sprawling pandal erected for the protest is yet to be dismantled. “It will be there till the Union government gives a satisfying reply to our demands. If not, the pandal will come in handy for us again,” said S.V. Antony, president, Uvari panchayat.
This agitation by the anti-nuclear protesters forced Ms. Jayalalitha to make a u-turn on her plans to add six reactors to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant which already has two reactors constructed, though not yet operating.
Ms. Jayalalitha wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging the government to put the expansion on hold until local concerns were addressed. People have been “agonized, disturbed and gripped by a fear psychosis due to the scope and magnitude of the issue in the wake of the Fukushima mishap,” she wrote.
Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, convener of Government of India’s Experts Group (EG), which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, expressed his willingness to hold discussions with the anti-nuclear protesters.
On December 2, 2011 PMANE released a press statement welcoming Dr. Muthunayagam’s willingness to hold discussions with them.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) welcomes the statement of the Central Government’s Experts Group (EG) convener, Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, that expresses the group’s willingness to hold discussions with the scientific team of the PMANE.
We request Dr. Muthunayagam to suggest a few possible dates and venue for such a meeting as soon as possible. We would also request him to arrange a visit of the KKNPP site for all the 28 members of our scientific team.
It is also pertinent to remind him of our request for some of the basic documents on the KKNPP project such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Site Evaluation Study, Safety Analysis Report, VVER Performance Report, Detailed Project Report (DPR) and all other relevant documents for reactors 1 and 2 in order to facilitate our scientific team’s meaningful dialogue with the Central and State teams.
We would also take this opportunity to insist that the work on the two reactors be halted as demanded by the Tamil Nadu Government’s Cabinet Resolution even as we are engaged in a dialogue process.
S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. Coordinator People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed against the government’s civil nuclear program at the Apex Supreme Court. The PIL specifically prays for the “staying of all proposed nuclear power plants till satisfactory safety measures and cost-benefit analyses are completed by independent agencies“.
In February 2012, Mr. Udayakumar sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for insinuating that the anti-Kudankulam protests were funded by United States and Scandinavian non-government organisations.
The pro-government scientific community
The anti-nuclear protestors themselves have enough detractors who rally and protest in favor of commissioning this nuclear power plant. Here are some views by the scientific community on this issue.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, after visiting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant on November 6, 2011, asserted that there is no need for any panic. “The third generation nuclear reactor is totally safe and is a boon to the people,” he said.
He emphasized, “I am a scientist, I am a technologist, I support nuclear energy along with solar and wind power as it is a clean and green energy which is very much required for the country’s rapid growth now”.
He further added that the reactors located at 13.5 m height would not be effected even by a Tsunami nor would an earthquake threaten them, as Kudankulam is not within any seismic zone. The scientists have taken into account all these natural calamities before designing and fabricating the plant. While 99% of the spent fuel would be processed for reuse in the reactors, the remaining one percent would be converted and protected within a thickly walled underground concrete containment and no waste from the reactor will be dumped in the sea.
Former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India Dr. M.R. Srinivasan said that one should never compare the Fukushima plant with Kudankulam and added “The Fukushima plant was built on a beachfront, but the Kudankulam was constructed on a solid terrain and that too keeping all the safety aspects in mind. Also, we are not in a tsunami prone area. The plants in Kudankulam have a double containment system which can withstand high pressure. At least, Rs 14,000 crore has been spent. If we don’t operate the plant immediately, it will affect the economic stability of our country.”
In mid-November 2011, Mr. Srinivasan speaking on the ‘Current scenario of nuclear power‘ at a meeting organized by the Press Information Bureau said that since options like gas, solar and wind energies are expensive, one should never say ‘no’ to nuclear energy, “If we don’t go ahead with nuclear plans, we wont be able to supply electricity to an aspiring population of India. So it’s necessary that the 15-member committee, appointed by the Centre, discuss every point of it with the people,” he said.
A center panel constituted by the Government of India, which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, said the Kudankulam reactors are the safest and fears of the people are not based on scientific principles. The panel’s convener Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, also added that the protesters have asked for some documents which are not related to the safety of the reactor hence he suspects the very nature of their questions.
Nuclear scientist and principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India Rajagopala Chidambaram has said “We have learnt lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident, particularly on the post-shutdown cooling system,” and added Fukushima nuclear accident should not deter or inhibit India from pursuing a safe civil nuclear program.
In early January 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site situated about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Chennai, were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
“While the prime minister (PM) accuses NGOs funded from abroad of trying to sabotage the ‘state-of-the-art’ Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), various studies carried out by government agencies as well as experts suggest that the site is unsafe for a nuclear project.
“The studies reveal potential threats to the nuclear reactor campus from near-shore tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and Karst (vulnerable landscape). DNA has a copy of the reports submitted by the agencies and experts,“
An expert committee appointed by the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday submitted its report on the safety aspects of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNNP) to Chief Minister Jayalalitha, marking a crucial stage in the debate over the project. Ms. Jayalalitha in the wake of the acute power shortages in the state, which certain quarters say has been artificially created (see Press meet – Artificial Power cuts in Tamilnadu), has made a u-turn once again by favouring the commissioning of the plant. “In accordance with (today’s) cabinet decision, immediate steps will be taken (to facilitate commissioning) of the plant,” she said in a statement, breaking her silence over the issue.
S.P. Udayakumar reacted:
“Of course, we feel cheated by the chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. She has been using us. She encouraged us all these days and allowed us to carry on with the protest. I visited the chief minister’s office twice and met her and also visited the collector’s office. Even then, there were cases against me. Why didn’t the police arrest me then? She has let us down… But yes, I felt we were deceived. We were tricked. But I could a sense a pattern, a build-up in the direction of the state government’s reversal of its decision to support the protesters. When I met the chief minister for the first time she was very cordial. I had a one-on-one talk for 45 minutes. But the second time she did not even talk to me. So the state government’s decision was not entirely unexpected. It was only delayed by seven months.”
There is a general opinion in Tamilnadu that to win the Sankarankoil by-poll Ms. Jayalalitha acted as a sympathizer of the anti-nuclear protesters and now that her party (AIADMK) had won the by-poll she doesn’t need them anymore.
India has 19 online nuclear power plants generating 4,560 megawatts of electricity. Electricity generated by thermal, hydro and wind power exceeds more than what nuclear power generated. Even so, to meet the soaring demand for electricity, the government of India seeks the development of the nuclear-power industry.
On March 11, 2011, the tsunami developed after a tremendous earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale, devastated Japan’s Daichi nuclear power plant complex. It took all six Tokyo Electric Power Company’s reactors offline.
“THE LIGHTS ARE not going off all over Japan, but the nuclear power plants are. Of the 54 reactors in those plants, with a combined capacity of 47.5 gigawatts (GW, a thousand megawatts), only two are operating today. A good dozen are unlikely ever to reopen: six at Fukushima Dai-ichi, which suffered a calamitous triple meltdown after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, and others either too close to those reactors or now considered to be at risk of similar disaster. The rest, bar two, have shut down for maintenance or “stress tests” since the Fukushima accident and not yet been cleared to start up again. It is quite possible that none of them will get that permission before the two still running shut for scheduled maintenance by the end of April.” – Oliver Morton (in “The dream that failed” – www.economist.com)
Since the coastal areas in India are prone to both earthquake and tsunami, certain sectors of the public in India have now raised objections to the proposed nuclear-power generation programs.
The antinuclear protests staged by the local villagers spearheaded by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) has prompted the government to put on hold the commissioning of the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamilnadu.
PMANE, an antinuclear group in Tamil Nadu led by Mr. S. P. Udayakumar, a teacher, which urges the government to shut down the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant to preserve the ecology of the largely untouched coastal landscape also educates the locals about the harm nuclear power could cause.
Mr. Udayakumar and his PMANE group beleive that nuclear power benefits “industrial India” only and not the average person. “Our end game is to close down this nuclear power plant. We think that this (the nuclear power plant) will have a disastrous impact on our livelihood, on our future generations. Because the Indian government never talks about waste, never talks about decommissioning. It does not tell us the full story,” he said.
In early March 2012, Udayakumar said: “We have been carrying out hunger strikes, rallies, public meetings, seminars, conferences, and other demonstrations such as shaving our heads, cooking on the street, burning the models of the nuclear plants. This struggle has been going on for the past 197 days and the morale of the people is still very very high”.
In Early February this year, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering in Indore, “All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes.”
But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.
The Madras Atomic Power Station is located at Kalpakkam, situated about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Chennai, India. In 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
“The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE, which sends out high-ranking officials with bland assurances for the public about the nation’s NPPs while privately compiling reports about their health effects, concerns that can only grow as New Delhi presses forward with its nuclear program. Furthermore, the statements that Indian NPPs can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, made in a country vulnerable to both, smacks of more than a little hubris, as Tokyo Electric and Power Co. made similar pronouncements before the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex.” – John Daly, Sun, 26 February 2012, (in “The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals” oilprice.com)
The following documentary video produced by the Tamil news paper Nakkeeran of Chennai affirms the concern of the people living in and around Kalpakkam. Though all reporting and conversations are in Tamil, the images tell the story vividly.
1:12 – 1:33 Shows the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project
1: 34 – 1:58 Atomic Energy Township, Kalpakkam in Kancheepuram District,Tamilnadu. There are many vilages surrounding Kalpakkam.
1:59 – 2:58 shows 13-year-old mentally retarded Arjun from birth and born with 6 fingers on his right hand. His father was a contract labourer at the nuclear power plant. Arjun speaks like a 5-year-old.
2:59 – 3:20 3-year-old infant Bhuvaneswari born with a stump for a right hand.
3:21 – 3:46 Gokhul, the son of a temporary supervisor, born with a stump for a left hand.
3:47 – 4:04 Jothika studying in standard 3, mentally retarded. Her father Venkatesan worked at the nuclear power plants.
4:05 – 4:50 Suriyaprakash with a deformed left leg.
4:51 – 5:12 A woman king coconut vendor with a gout like swelling.
5:13 – 8:15 A woman complains about breathing, throat infection and swelling of limbs. She further tells about children being born with stumps for limbs, deaf, dumb and other abnormalities. She also says can’t do any agricultural work because the crops are attacked by radiation. The air that she and others breath makes them ill.
8:16 – 8:58 Another woman complains about radiation affecting their health.
8:59 – 7:16 A man says that the birth of deformed and retarded children can be due to the radiation.
7:17 – 7:31 Another man says that plants don’t grow well. Trees don’t bear fruit.
7:32 – 7:56 A young man says that the Kalpakkam plant has been shut down for repairs very often. He says that he has worked there for the past 18 years. He says that there is a rumour that many have died due to radiation but he is not sure whether its rumor or fact. But he affirms that the people of the villages around Kalpakkam are being affected due to radiation.
7:57 – 8:14 – Another young man affirms that children are born deformed, deaf and dumb.
8:15 – till end people living in Kalpakkam talk about the hardships they face and talk vehemently against the Kalpakkam Nuclear plant.