Friday, 19 October 2012

Do you understand Liability, Mr. M. R. Srinivasan?

Foreign countries pressure to Dilute the Nuclear Liability Act in India. WHY?

I was surprised and amused at the weak defense that M. R. Srinivasan offers in THE HINDU dated 15/10/2012 where he seems to have taken on the mantle of the Attorney General of India.

As a current and an ex member of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) there are obvious conflicts of interest here which make him feel that the Indian Liability laws related to civilian nuclear disasters are too strong.

Well, perhaps, he can explain why, after billions of rupees are being poured into this madness of nuclear energy, India only has less than 3% power from nuclear energy? In his own words, Tarapur started 43 years ago. Surely, ANY industry would / should have progressed far beyond this and delivered much more.

M. R. Srinivasan further goes on to state with pride that we have built several PHWR reactors“on our own” and that was because there was limited liability and the industry had a free hand!!

Even today, the VVER reactors being commissioned at Koodankulam require Russian or Croatian experts to build, load and operate them. Where is the question of India having developed anything indigenous in its nuclear program? It has been and will always remain a foreign suppliers dream project aided by supplicant Indian scientists.

To come to his first point about GE and Canada. Let us understand that GE is NOT a charitable institution which came to India to give its know-how. They came to do a multi million dollar business knowing fully well that the risks of doing business in India were far lower than in their any other country!

Mr. Srinivasan, you seem to be patting your own back. But, for the knowledge of our readers, can you inform us what our “learned” scientists have learned about Fast Breeder Reactors or Thorium based reactors in this half century. And how far are they from even a prototype reactor which is paying them months and years for no reason? Every few months, NPCIL and DAE say we are just month’s ways from commissioning such a project. Do you think Indians believe you anymore Mr. Srinivasan?

To even compare the Indian Nuclear Liability Law and the Price Anderson Act in the USA is a joke. That US Act –passed in 1957– covers the Department of Energy (DOE) facilities, private licensees, and their subcontractors including the USEC uranium enrichment plants, and national laboratories.

The US Act further states clearly that “Companies are expressly forbidden to defend any action for damages on the grounds that an incident was not their fault.”

Does the Indian Act indemnify all of these parties? Just including suppliers has got the nuclear lobby into a tizzy!!

In the US, nuclear suppliers, operators and all those concerned with the project must pool money and keep it ready to compensate damages in case of accidents. No insurance company in its right mind would anyway underwrite such dangerous projects. So, the money comes directly from the pockets/profits of these nuclear bigwigs such as GE and Areva.

I particularly thank Mr. Srinivasan on bringing up the topic of liability and how India made progress because of not having a liability regime. He talks with pride of the complexities and the factors at play. Read this hilarious statement:

“Let us look at the way an owner-operator manages a nuclear power plant. Even where a plant has been supplied by a single entity under a turnkey contract, many vendors, often running into thousands, would have supplied many components. During operation, the operator incorporates many changes and modifications to improve the reliability, ease of operation and efficiency. They may or may not have been done in full consultation with the original suppliersof equipment. Chances that sub-suppliers would be consulted on changes are very small.”

Awesome!!! So you mean a multibilliondollar plant is constructed and then ‘suitably’ modified to the whims and fancies of the supplier-operator while nothing can be done about it!!

Then why have environmental clearances too? Simply claim that you are planning a building and then go ahead adding floors and extensions to it!! It happens all the time in India, so why not do that with your nuclear plants too?

Has Mr. Srinivasan even heard of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in California which is lying idle since January because of the VERY same reasons he talks about? The operator and supplier made changes to the designs. These changes were incorporated and installed for the operator by the contractor, Mitsubishi. However, within months after these ‘upgrades’, radiation was detected and because of that, the plant has had to be shut down. It remains shuteven now and will probably never restart. Yet, the burden of running even this shut plant falls on the people of California who are paying for it through higher electricity bills because nuclear power plants cannot be simply locked away like textile mills, they contain deadly radioactive material which needs constant monitoring and maintenance even during shut downs!

Bhopal victims ask for strong Nuclear Liability Law
A Liability law seeks to set a level playing field in case of a civilian nuclear accident. The
learned gentleman makes reference to and even ridicules the Supreme Court orders of “polluter pays”!!!

Obviously he is in contempt of court and I hope the SC takes suomoto action against him,

Mr. Srinivasan should probably explain why we should have ANY laws in this country? If airplanes and railways cause accidents, why make them accountable or liable? If someone kills another person, do not prosecute him, let him go free. After all, that is the meaning of “free market” to you Mr. Srinivasan, right?

Let anyone come to India, pollute, plunder, loot, take their profits, cause damages and then scoot……

We are after all a banana republic
A nuclear banana

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Independence Day, A Poor Girl’s Picture and a Facebook Discussion on Nuclear Energy

- By Anamika Badal reporting on a FB debate between Anuj Wankhedeand and a pro nuclear ex -Ministry of Defense person on Independence day 2012

What emotion this picture would evoke in you? Here is a poor girl on Delhi street force-smiling in order to sell the plastic flags (most probably China-made!).

In his comment on Facebook over this picture, a senior opinion-maker associated with a national security think-tank run by the Ministry of Defense said: This girl needs a good life: education and for that electricity. I support electricity generation through nuclear energy.”

Soon, when the discussion moved to nuclear energy, the commentator resorted to allegations of foreign funding, anti-nuclear arguments being based on distorted facts, and by the end of the discussion that ensues, several times he suggested that a “ruthless” treatment should be meted out to such people hampering India’s development. In his last comment,  he said ” I endorse the stand taken by the government against Koodankulam agitators.” That means supporting illegal cases against more than 55,000 people, including above 6,000 cases of “sedition” and “war against the Indian state”. And the victims of this repression include several hundred women and even a 60-year old visually challenged person in Idinthakarai village.

Idintikarai black day 15 Aug 2012
Didn’t the PM’s Independence day speech today urge the citizen to have same rock-solid consensus on issues related to development which appears in the matters related to “national security”? But on the ground, thousands of people in Koodankulam today observed the Independence Day as a “black day” in protest, just as the last republic day was boycotted by the Jaitapur people.

Such dangerous simplifications and linking good life and education with access to electricity and further to nuclear energy is not new in India. During the debate on the nuclear deal in the Indian parliament, none other than Rahul Gandhi referred repeatedly to the darkness in Kalawati’s house as a reason to expedite the deal. When the prince said it, another sycophant minister declared: those opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal are anti-people! Even the Australian PM Julia Gillard, while justifying her U-turn on selling Uranium to India, said its necessary for the Indian poor!

But the point the commentator missed is this:

The picture is taken in NEW DELHI. Its NOT a place where electricity hasn’t reached. It is DESPITE the “development” in Delhi based on GDP, high-ways and malls.

Every time the government and its cohorts have to justify the iniquitous, eco-destructive and jobless growth model, they shed tears for the poor. But what is the reality?

Despite a nearly 2-fold increase in the total electricity production over last 2 decades, the number of un-electrified villages is almost same – a staggering 40% ! So there is no actual link between a rise in power generation and access to electricity for the poor. We definitely need to look into factors other than the supply-side mechanisms.

Also, nuclear energy is definitely not going to help the poor as it can only cater to a consistently high-demand consumer, which cannot be the villages as their requirements vary highly depending on day/night, agriculture season etc.

India has diversified and decentralised energy requirements but that is not visible to policy makers who are either obsessed with the top-down model of development or are simply bought by the international corporates.

Below are some snippets from the comment thread on facebook. To see the full discussion on Facebook, click HERE

Anuj - Does electricity alone guarantee a good quality of life? I don’t think so. Rather than thinking of reducing our needs and consumptions, we are so enamoured with gadgets and material lifestyles that we think nothing of the dangers and costs of generating nuclear energy. Just so that we can live in our air conditioned comforts, we put thousands at misery right from uranium mining to power generation in the reactors. The cost of setting up such gigantic reactors is *huge* and rather than this colossal waste of time and money, so many renewable and sustainable energy options are available. Sad that that rather than considering poverty alleviation, people think only of their own selfish comforts and needs.

Rajiv Nayan Electricity Conservation is a language of modern elites which are travelling all over the world in a plane fired by oil and other scientific inventions which are highly dangerous but hardly highlighted. Villagers live in villages burning Kerosene oil. Those who are talking about dangers need to honestly study the impact of fossil fuels on human lives. No one has any argument about the relevance of renewable energy, but its delivery is benefiting only urban elites sitting in metros for a better environment, not better lives for teeming millions. The protest against nuclear energy is motivated, and it is bluffing innocent illiterate masses. The need is to identify these vested interests and strip them naked.

Lily Riley @Rajiv, you are a short term thinker. You know as well as anyone that girls life is not going to change by adding Nuclear generated electricity. However, adding another pool of nuclear energy risk to the global villiage will at some stage, weather in the instilation, remoxing ( excuss the pun), maintenance, or accident by human or nature cause poisioning of our world. India will change. The risk is the change of genetics (please educate your self on deformity outcomes post chenobyl). Nothing will spare your comfortable child relative, or the untouchable people of India. Additionally I find your comments appauling, you with your image all nice and clean in a comfortable shirt, being compassionate to a begger child, know and treated in India as an untouchable. Pull the other finger LOL

Rajiv Nayan I know what you people have done. As I posted earlier, you run someone’s agenda. Make your report public and come for inquiry. There are many such NGOs-human rights variety generate reports to make money from Western foundations. It is sensational but criminal. Actually, you people should be booked.

Anuj Wankhede In case you are not aware, India is nowhere near Homi Bhabha’s dream of Thorium nor his (in)famous assertion that nuclear power would be so cheap that one would not need to even meter it……

Rajiv Nayan We have tested all the prototypes of all the stages. we have to undertake mass production at the third stage before we enter into the third stage using Advanced Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor stage and optimally using thorium. We must not be deterred by agents posing as activists.WE WILL DO IT WHATEVER COMES

Rajiv Nayan yes, because people like you fit for mental asylum are running the anti-nuke movement, and using senseless language. The law needs to take its course.

Another one from Rajiv Nayan:

Rajiv Nayan You are an activist and refuse to listen to reason. It is not advisable to talk to people like you who have fixed views based on certain kind of literature. I think the government should stop engaging a handful of you who are merely good for disruption and destruction. I endorse the stand taken by the government against Koodankulam agitators. Now, I am sure who they could be

You can View and download the PDF version of the discussion here:

Well, this gives more than a fair idea of what the opinion makers and the think tanks in the government feel about the common people of India - on the country's Independence Day!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Why the NPCIL’s Disinvestment makes sense to the Indian government

Earlier this week, there were news reports of the government of India was seriously considering disinvestment in NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.)While the disinvestment of defense and strategic assets in India is not new, what is also true is that the whole disinvestment process in India is a mess with some super hits and some super flops. Let us try to understand the reasons why this topic is repeatedly coming up and the urgency of the same.

NPCIL is a state owned monopoly player which does everything from planning to erection to commissioning and operating the nuclear energy projects in India. Formed relatively recently in September 1987, it is controlled by the Department of Atomic Energy which in turn, is directly controlled by the Prime Minister of India.

To an Unstarred question (No. 4317 answered on 02.05.2012 in Parliament), the following questions were asked to the Prime Minister (the replies via the relevant department/PMO are given in bold) -

(a)    Whether the Government proposes to disinvest equity in the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)

(A)   There is currently no proposal to disinvest equity in NPCIL.

(b)   If so, the details thereof

(A)   Does not arise.

(c)     If not, the reasons therefor;

(A)   Pre-requisites for disinvestment like conversion of the company from private company to public company, appointment of requisite numbers of independent Directors of the company and dematerialization of shares are needed to be fulfilled before disinvestment process can be considered.

Why then, is the issue of divestment coming up once again?

An Open and Shut Case for disinvestment in NPCIL 

The reasons and the hurry for this could be analyzed as follows:

1)      The government desperately needs funds from disinvestment sources. It is a well known fact that the budgetary targets from stake sale of PSU’s has been negligible. So, the government HAS to think of chopping off some parts and reduce its fiscal deficit at the earliest. Last year yielded only Rs. 14,000 crore against the budgetary target of Rs. 40,000 crore.

2)      This brings us to the next point. Which companies to chop (disinvest, monetize, stake-sale or call it by whatever name)? The obvious choice is to divest in companies which are the biggest guzzlers of government dole (subsidy). NPCIL fits the bill completely. Despite showing impressive PAT (Profit After Tax) figures and being a Dividend paying company, NPCIL survives on massive hidden subsidy from the government. It is a known fact that there is NO nuclear energy project on the face of this planet which has survived or can manage to survive without massive doses of fund injection from the government (tax payer money)

3)      NPCIL may fetch a good valuation if the government comes out with in an IPO now and provided the government does it immediately. If the government delays, people will wake up to the fact that the rate of growth of renewables in India does not give NPCIL a chance to even survive after a few years. It will have no business generating energy at a cost which is likely to be double that of wind (or even solar).The obvious dangers to man and environment are well known to everyone. Analysts will begin to factor in the hidden subsidy burden which makes nuclear energy look cheap. The sharp, exponential decline in cost of generating renewable energy willonly  accelerate in the next couple of years and there will be no place for costly and dangerous means of power generation.As a smart businessman, the government would speeds to monetize or salvage whatever it can. Post IPO, the share price may fall like a stone – like in the case of some other hyped up Power sector stocks. But that would hardly matter to the government as the public would be left holding the worthless shares.

4)      To expand on the above point, Nuclear Energy works on the principle of taking subsidy money from tax-payers and transferring the profits to the investors without much risk. Further, with the dilution of the Nuclear Liability Act, NPCIL will be at almost zero risk in case of a nuclear accident (the foreign suppliers will have an effective ZERO liability) and hence it offers the best investment scenario possible for private investors masquerading as “public” to own a stake in NPCIL.Additionally, the inherent complications which arise out of disputes, court cases and above all cost escalation clauses due to project delays and cost over-runs makes these stocks very attractive to investors who know that in the long run, far more money can be extracted from the government as compared to the original cost. There are salivating opportunities for private investors who bet on long term projects involving all the thrills of litigation, publicity, dodgy deals and more.

5)      Now is the time because, the rapid development in the power distribution sector will become a reason why UMMP’s (and NPCIL) may be forced out of business. The major development is “Smart Grids” which enable power generation at a more local level depending on the load factors and distributing the power generated intelligently. Currently, a major problem in India is the Transmission and Distribution of the electricity generated. While South India is practically isolated from the national grid, the inadequate network that transports the generated power results in almost a quarter being wasted as losses. Smart grids coupled with cheaper local power generation will mean an end to such large projects on which NPCIL prides itself with.

6)      Foreign collaborations and agreements will become easier to manage after privatization. Although the majority stake and management control remains with the government, the foreign collaborators will be able to sweeten sensitive technologytransfers in their home countries and to their shareholders.

7)      Disinvestment may not necessarily be done for generating cash or to reduce subsidy burden. At times, disinvestment is also done to generate a “feel good” emotion.

NPCIL has managed to garner the devils face among Indians because of its inept handling of Koodankulam, Jaitapur, Rawatbhata and Gorakhpur issues this year. This has come on the back of the Fukushima disaster and the truth about the “Man Made” tragedy there coming out in the form of independent inquiries.

For a government monopoly to have such negativity associated with it makes for bad business sense. The government knows that it will become more and more difficult for NPCIL to set up or expand its nuclear projects if this image of “big bad brother” remains. Disinvestment can make the company more palatable since the propaganda machine will claim that it is a company owned by the people of India and not by the government.In the process, the Prime Minister can behave like a patriarch and claim that NPCIL is a prized possession which has been returned to the “real” owners – the people. Incidentally, the same argument is used to emotionally ‘convince’ project affected people during land acquisitions and public hearings.

It makes for good ad copy and might be good enough to garner political brownie points too.

8)      For NPCIL, MASSIVE funds will be required in the near future for disposal/reprocessing of spent fuel and nuclear waste disposal facilities. The second white elephant is the immense cost of decommissioning which will come up sooner rather than later. Getting public money to take care of the mess it has created is the best – nay, the ONLY – choice for the government.

Given all the above, it makes sense for the government to look at hiving off part of this “crown jewel” because increasingly, this crown is becoming too heavy to wear….

Friday, 20 July 2012

Koodankulam: The Inside Story - An interview with noted filmmaker Amudhan R.P.


Amudhan R.P. one of India's most noted contemporary documentary film makers and media activists. He has made several award winning films and his series Radiation Stories Part 1 & 2 explored issues around the Kalpakkam nuclear project and Part 3 is an in-depth work on Koodankulam.Shooting on location, staying with the locals over many years, this film presents stark reality.The PMANE led peoples’ struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) has captured global attention because of its long, spontaneous and non-violent nature.
Recently, Amudhan was in Mumbai for the public screening of the Radiation Stories Part 3 – Koodankulam  and shared with me his views on what has made the Koodankulam struggle such a success and the inside details about the struggle.
It should serve as a guide for other agitations and for film makers who can learn from the strategies used by the people of Koodankulam and those used by the government in this epic David vs Golaith struggle.
– Anuj Wankhede
Q) The KNPP agitation is being said to be based around one person – S.PUdaykumar. Is that accurate?
The agitation is not based on one person. Fishing community has been opposing the nuclear project since its inception. Inland farmers, traders and labourers joined the movement after Fukushima disaster. The movement has a large participation of common people who genuinely oppose the project with full conscience and understanding. The movement has a collective leadership of village elders, women, youth, students, farmers, fishermen, vendors, traders, agriculture workers and salaried class.
Q) Your documentary showed a huge participation of women. Was that a deliberately planned strategy or it happened coincidentally?
Participation of women in the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam is visible to anyone who visits the place. Even the policemen of Koodankulam would acknowledge that the local women oppose the project very strongly with their participation in the protests, meetings, rallies and fasts. In fact the movement could sustain so long only because of the active participation of women as someone said in one of the meetings that women generally do not walk out of anything in the middle once they commit themselves.
Q) Has the Koodankulam movement been completely apolitical? None of the political parties seem to be backing it now. Are they averse to support given past experiences?
The Koodankulam is very much a political movement as it questions the whole politics of the Indian state. The anti-nuclear movement of Koodankulam questions the way any development project is planned in Delhi and dumped on the people without their consent. The movement also questions the concept of energy requirement and the arrogance of the nuclear establishment of the country. Energy is not energy alone anymore; it is an unfair and imbalanced accumulation and exercise of power by corporate companies, scientists, officials and politicians over the common people. Besides nuclear energy can never be a peaceful activity as it is a war against the local people and as it kills people even during the routine day to day operation.
As far as the participation of the political parties, the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam has always welcomed any support from any political party. But the leadership will be of local people only. Political parties throughout the years have proved again and again that they are capable of sacrificing people’s interest during a critical juncture. Any political party has its own history, focus and agenda. Anti Enron struggle in Ratnagiri was a perfect example where the Hindu parties dumped the people after they struck a deal with Enron.
Q) What comprise formula can be reached (if any) for the government to save face?
Government of India does not seem to want to go for any compromise with anyone especially in the nuclear front. They want to open up more projects across the country irrespective of the resistance. They have this embedded electronic and print media in India which is co-opted, threatened and bribed by the Prime Minister’s Office to support the nuclear adventures unconditionally. It is an international conspiracy to go nuclear in India at any cost in which even the most powerful people in this country are partners. The amount of money involved is huge where even a 2 percent cut would come in millions of rupees. Why would the government think of a compromise? We the civil society should spread the news and knowledge and involve more people in the anti-nuclear struggle as it is not about one reactor alone. It is a question of our sovereignty.
Q) As shown in your documentary, there is likely to be permanent loss of livelihood for the locals. What options have they thought if the project is commissioned?
People would oppose the project till the end. The authorities are planning to bring in 4 more reactors. There will be more disaster if the people stop opposing it. In fact it is time for more people from outside to participate in the movement as it is a long journey. Because there is going to be loss of livelihood for the locals the project cannot be allowed to be commissioned. We should continue to oppose it.
Q) Did you face any threats – directly or indirectly while filming the documentary?
I didn’t face any threat directly during the filming. But the local activists faced problems for accompanying me during the shoot. In 2008, the activists could not talk to me openly as there were many legal cases filed against them by the police for taking part in the struggle. It was difficult for me to organize the shoot openly. I had to do everything discreetly. I was almost caught by the authorities during a shoot as I was seen talking to people with the camera on the road. Local activists alerted me at the right time to escape. Otherwise they would have confiscated the equipment or at least the footage as they are capable of anything. I received many calls from the CID asking my whereabouts and my plans during the editing as I had just finished my film on Kalpakkam. I had to switch off my mobile phones to avoid the calls as it was distracting my work.
Q) The agitation has been non violent so far. At any point, was it difficult to restrain the agitators – especially youth?
That is where the collective leadership of the movement worked very well. It is natural for the youth or even elderly people to get agitated and loose the focus. But they had set their target very clearly. They knew they were fighting against the state which is inherently violent, which can use force against anyone given a slight chance. It is a true Gandhian struggle where every individual is a force irrespective of his or her physical strength. It is a fight using will power and mental strength. You don’t need arms to fight against anyone. In fact arms make you vulnerable. The state tried its bit to bring in a fake Maoist connection to the struggle and wanted to use it as an excuse to use force against the agitators. But the people’s genuine nonviolent struggle prevailed.
Q) You stopped filming because of the Sec 144 (Curfewbeing imposed. Do you plan to continue filming again and if yes, for how long?
I didn’t stop the filming because of 144. I finished the filming in February 2012 as I wanted to release the film as soon as possible. I released it in February 2012 itself. I have been screening it around now regularly. I am planning to travel across the country and screen the film or the series as much as possible. I was in Maharashtra in June 2012 screening the film at 10 places among all kinds of audiences. The response was terrific. The young people are really concerned about the whole situation. They can feel that things are becoming worse across all the sectors. They know very well that if they don’t act now, it will be very difficult for them and their children. It is a collective failure.
I am going to Kerala next week for a 10 days tour of screening my film. I also want to shoot an all India film on the nuclear related experiences. Let us see.
Q) One defining moment of the agitation?
Fukushima disaster was the defining moment. It really opened up so many minds in and around Koodankulam. The agitators picked it up very intelligently and brought everyone together. Besides that the anti-nuclear activists of Koodankulam put pressure on the whole activist family of this country to rally around the issue to create an atmosphere where everyone was forced to discuss about the issue. So many meetings, rallies, fasts, books, films, street plays and social networking happened in one year which is historical. Now the whole experience of Koodankulam can be replicated anywhere in this country. If they can do it, anyone can do it.
Q) One moment you personally would never forget about the agitation?
I have been visiting Koodankulam since 1998. I have been part of many meetings and rallies. But the local support to the movement always was very moderate. Fishing community always opposed the project. But the inland farmers and traders were not very sure about opposing it. They even threw stones at the agitators. But to see the same Udhayakumar and other activists in 2012 in a completely different mode was a breath taking experience. To see thousands of ordinary men and women coming out on the streets of Koodakulam opposing the project was overwhelming. I had tears during the shoot in 2012. It somewhere vindicated my whole journey as a documentary filmmaker who believed in making only activist films.
Q) Your advice to others who are filming or covering such agitations – especially over extended periods of time.
I don’t have advice for any one. Every one’s experience and make up are different. I am a much laid back and low profile film maker. My experience would not be useful for all. But I am an activist first who genuinely supports many agitations. My film making is an extension to my activism. My film-making is only a part of my activity, to put it in other words.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Punjab Drinks Uranium-laced Water, DAE Says Don’t Worry About Cancer

It is a matter of shame that a country can boast about its technical expertise / prowess and yet falls short of common sense.
What else can one say about the Government of India which collectively buries its head in the sand and pretends that the only science which exists in the world is the science of boiling water by using nuclear energy?
For these scientists, there is no such thing as medical science. It makes me wonder where these nuclear scientists and their families go to when they fall ill. Do they take uranium or tritium pills thrice a day to get well?
For, they simply do not accept anything medically proven if the word "radioactive" is used in conjunction with itself. Like proud, over protective (and often stupid) parents, they do not accept that their baby can ever do any wrong – let alone commit murder!
And their babies are uranium, plutonium, tritium, and cesium among others.
It has been proven that any kind of internal radiation causes genetic mutations within the cells and body tissues. My earlier article on the blatant lies about tritium poisoning at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan explained this process.
Reports about the extremely high levels of uranium in drinking water in Punjab today caused a worried population to ask questions about the safety of the water and whether it was potable.
One would imagine that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) would come up with scientifically studied answers. After all, this issue has been in the headlines since 2009 when world renowned scientists studied extremely high incidence of cancer, cerebral palsy, autism and other serious genetic defects in children born in certain areas of Punjab.
It has been proven beyond any doubt that radiation poisoning is far more dangerous when it enters the food chain. Even a high school student learns about this.
But the learned scientists with NPCIL, BARC, UCIL and sundry associated organizations along with their proud father – DoAE – have apparently never seen the inside of a school and may well have picked up the tag of nuclear scientist from some fly-by-night college in Karol Baug!
How else does one explain this statement by the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) R K Sinha to the media that “Uranium can damage the kidneys, but there is no correlation between uranium and cancer,
Sinha Sir, I sincerely hope that this statement make sense at least to you.
Uranium enters the body and the radiation does NOT distinguish between different organs. Radiation does NOT have any powers to identify body parts and selectively attack it. High concentrations of these poisonous elements are found in the kidneys and liver because these organs are the purification organs, they try to remove the toxins from the body and when they cannot successfully remove them, these toxins remain in these organs. Hence the high rate of kidney failure.
Mr. Sinha, I hope that the above sentence will drop a penny and you will understand how the human body functions.
There is a whole body of scientific literature to prove that radiation causes cancer and internal radiation significantly increases all kinds of cancer and genetic disorders. I am deliberately not adding too much of medical or scientific data as the learned scientists would not understand the moot point.To even talk of Nuclear Medicine may well draw a blank with them.
It is well known and documented and proven in the High Court that the huge thermal power plants at Bhatinda, Punjab spew enormous amount of fly ash into the environment. It is also proven that the fly ash contains significant amount of radioactive material including uranium. It is well accepted that the incidence of cancer and genetic defects is the highest in areas around these highly polluting thermal power plants. This has been conclusively proven in a number of cases around the world (Duke Energy in the US is currently under fire for the same reasons – high incidence of cancer, asthma etc.)
I do not know what kind of scientific temperament the Indian nuclear establishment possesses, for, this is not just a matter of 2+2=4.
All the rules of science including the observations, measurement, cause and effect linkages and the repeatability have proven the fact that radiation causes cancer. More the radiation, more the chances. Longer the duration, higher the chances. Ingesting radiation, much higher the risk. Radiation is carcinogenic. Period.
Nobody in the world disputes this. 
Nobody, except the nuclear industry which believes that radiation is the best thing that happened to mankind after Adam and Eve.
Which simply goes on to prove that the people in the above mentioned institutions are in fact NOT real scientists at all.
As far as their specialty is concerned, they are not even experts in anything remotely nuclear or atomic.
All that they are good at is doing a cut-copy-paste job of existing nuclear reactors in other countries and even for this job they need Russian, French, American and Croatian experts to do the job properly.
At best, these people who flippantly say eating uranium or tritium is not harmful are nothing but career paper pushing bureaucrats. Their only ambition in life is to preserve their department which will ensure their promotions and retirement kitty. So what if they blatantly lie to the unsuspecting people? A bit of political connection and sycophancy ensures that these barely literate babus reach positions where they control enormous sums of money and power. The little bit of science they might have gathered in their teens is long forgotten and scarcely needed when making false claims.
To understand why the DAE is not admitting that the plants are the root cause is because it will imply that the cause is linked to the government and thence comes liability - the one word which sends shivers down the spine of any career bureaucrat. After all, they are so used to powers without responsibility. To admit fault is simply not in the DNA of any energy company on this planet.
Hence the DAE claims that sub soil granite in Haryana state are the cause of uranium in Punjab waters. They have made this claim since 2009 but have not been able to substantiate it. 
At this point, it does not matter what the source of uranium is. It could well be rampant use of fertilizers or pesticides or atmospheric uranium travelling from Afghanistan where the US has been using large number of unknown weapons. Nobody knows for sure and that suits the nuclear establishment well. They are anyway experts at muddying clear waters.
What matters is that recent advances in medicine have shown that the effects of radiation poisoning can be reversed. But for this to happen, the government agencies must admit that that there is a serious risk to life and limb. 
But the paper pusher "babus" masquerading as scientists will not do this. 
They will claim that Kaiga, Rawatbhata, Punjab are far healthier than the rest of India because they drank tritiated / radiated water. They will get some more government bodies to do a study, set up committees and buy time for themselves. Retirement beckons them and post retirement, the coveted Directorship to various international organizations along with huge perks awaits them as they have rendered unparalleled service to the nation!
Meanwhile, parts of India will continue to die and be permanently disabled and future generations condemned because of the greed of these few.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Nuclear Energy is Orwellian: Anand Patwardhan

Anand Patwardhan needs no introduction.

One of India’s finest directors, he is the soul behind the globally acclaimed ‘documentary’ “War and Peace” which has received too many awards to list here. 
The film completely and clinically exposes the global nuclear machinery and is considered to be the most definitive cinematic work on the subject. He is also a noted activist on diverse social and political issues.

Recently, at a screening of the movie in Mumbai, I had the opportunity to seek his views on the current political-social-nuclear debate in India.

Q) The Indian energy scenario is portrayed as extremely grim with over 12 hours of load shedding even in big towns and cities. Nuclear energy is considered to be the answer for providing large scale power at cheap rates.

Energy shortage is a self-fulfilling prophecy. India is blindly imitating all the follies of the developed world without learning from their mistakes and without imitating those few countries, like Germany, that are serious about correcting the mistakes made in the past by turning towards renewable and sustainable energy. There was a time at the dawn of the nuclear age when everyone was in euphoria about the prospects of cheap nuclear energy. America’s ironically named Orwellian program “Atoms for Peace” exported this idea worldwide. In India, people like Dr. Homi Bhabha sold the idea to Nehru and Parliament that nuclear energy would be so cheap that you would not need to meter it!!

That was 60 plus years ago. Today this myth has exploded along with many reactors from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. The costs of these accidents and the clean up operations literally are too huge to ever measure. But apart from accidents, even in normal conditions, today’s nuclear energy, once reasonable safety measures have been incorporated, is now regarded worldwide to be the single most expensive source of energy available to Man.

So what do we do? The obvious answer is to cut down overall consumption levels – we must NOT build an economy based on the American model of cars, computers, mobiles etc that have to be replaced every year; build express highways that rob our rural population of their precious land while encouraging a consumer class to slaughter itself in the name of speed. Our economic model is a guzzling monster. No amount of energy can satiate it.

Q) As a key infrastructure parameter, electricity is considered as a key to attract investment. Many more projects can be set up if there is assured power. Do you view nuclear energy as a suitable option?

Foreign investment is not the solution, it is the problem itself. If we were a strong economy with enough local investment and local stakes in this economy, we would not be dancing to the tune of every foreign bubble that bursts. So bringing in nukes to attract more foreign investment is like importing the best pistol to shoot one’s own head.

Many view nuclear energy as safe. Industrial accidents are always a risk. But as one official points our in your film, “You need to do a cost benefit analysis.” The safety record of the Indian nuclear energy program is used to justify further investment in building more reactors and that Fukushima was just a ‘Black Swan’ aberration. Your reactions?

Fukushima was a warning that we can ignore at our own peril. The polar icecaps are rapidly melting. Faster than ever before. I just saw a film “Chasing Ice” that gives us visual proof that glaciers are breaking off into the ocean like never before. That means that the sea levels are rising. Nothing can stop this, though radical emission cuts – which are nowhere in sight as yet – may slow it a bit. What this means that the coastlines of countries in the path are in grave danger. Building nuclear reactors in the face of the rising sea is a folly that cannot be comprehended.

Q) The displacement of people, land acquisition and safety of the local population are at stake when any new factory is built. Why is nuclear energy singled out for protests (especially post-Fukushima)?

Displacement is one issue that is common to all lopsided development that favours a tiny elite. Nuclear reactors are much more than that – they are Trojan horses waiting to divulge their malevolence.

Q) There are huge scams happening in each and every deal in India. You dwelled on the defence scandal in your film. Can it be said that because of the linkage between the defence and nuclear energy business, the government is now committed to setting up these reactors in lieu of defence equipment from Russia (MIG, Sukhoi) and France (Mirage) and spares?

Corruption and money are always at the heart of everything and nuclear energy is no exception. Because it is directly linked to defence, it enjoys complete secrecy – ideal for those who make money from coffins.

Q) The Nuclear Liability Bill is considered to be an abject sell out to the US and West. What needs to be done? Despite protests in Parliament last time, the Bill was pushed through. Your thoughts on what can be done now?

People power as witnessed in Kudankulam and Jaitapur. No one else is interested till the chickens come home to roost.

Q) The mainstream media has an unspoken ban on reporting news about nuclear energy in India – except where the news is positive. PTI or NPCIL press releases are covered as “news.” Print and Television are mass media and their exclusion of news means the government or the vested industry has gagged the media. Your views on the way forward?

We live in a dark age and the light we see is artificial. The media is fully enslaved. But, no one knows it as it is not the Iron Curtain, it is the Velvet Curtain of entertainment that controls thought today. How do we break through it? I really do not know.  But I know that giving up is suicide.

Q) Do you feel that we should have a moratorium on nuclear energy ie. we just build what is in progress and then no more, or do you feel abandoning the under construction reactors and phasing out the existing ones is correct?

Zero tolerance on nukes is what I believe in. But yet, it can be phased out and replaced with alternate energy as is being attempted in Germany today.

Q) Which political party in your opinion reflects the best energy policy in India? Gujarat is considered to be a role model for the solar movement in India and large solar farms are already in operation there. Do you think that if the BJP comes to power, it can ensure an energy revolution?

The BJP is a pathetic backwards looking party whose core values resemble those of Genghiz Khan on a good day, the Congress is synonymous with corruption and surrender to the USA. We are caught between these two terrible choices. We need people to look beyond these two and build a genuine Green Left.

Q) Having committed itself to the industrial nations with multibillion projects, some argue that India is at a point of no return. A roll back on the nuclear power issues would mean a loss of the committed investments and take a huge toll on its economy and society. Your reactions?

I prefer poverty to death by stupidity.

(Originally published on 06 July 2012)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Dear Prime Minister, are you listening to the right people, Sir?

Anuj Wankhede
The Prime Minister of India – on Wednesday May 16, 2012- made a statement on the floor of the House regarding the safety of the civilian nuclear facilities in the country.
Even WITHOUT a natural disaster, here is a list of publicly available Civilian nuclear incidents that have already occurred within the country. (These are classified as "incidents" and NOT as accidents by the International Atomic Energy Agency - IAEA - so as to prove the supposed safety of nuclear energy )

How dare he mislead the nation in this way? Nuclear accidents are not road and railway accidents, which happen almost daily in our country.
Why are you considering data only AFTER Fukushima? And telling the House that we are safe?
Here is our previous to Fukushima record -
4 May 1987 – Kalpakkam
Fast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam.
Refueling accident ruptures the reactor core resulting in a two-year shutdown.
10 Sep 1989 – Tarapur, Maharashtra
After operators at the Tarapur Atomic Power Station find reactor leaking radioactive Iodine at more than 700 times normal levels, repairs to the reactor take more than a year.
13 May 1992 – Tarapur, Maharashtra
A malfunctioning tube causes the Tarapur Atomic Power Station to release 12 curies of radioactivity.
31 Mar 1993 – Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh
The Narora Atomic Power Station suffers a fire at two of its steam turbine blades, damaging the heavy water reactor and almost leading to a meltdown.
2 Feb 1995 – Kota, Rajasthan
The Power Station leaks radioactive helium and heavy water into the
Rana Pratap Sagar River necessitating a two-year shutdown for repairs.
22 Oct 2002 – Kalpakkam
Almost 100 kg radioactive sodium at a fast breeder reactor leaks into a purification cabin, ruining a number of valves and operating systems.
Sir, you ‘may’ be a honorable man. But then who is giving you wrong information? As a man of economics, you may not be aware of the seriousness of these incidents.
We, the citizens of the country, fear for the worst, especially considering the disastrous experiences of past accidents and natural disasters in India.
We do not expect timely relief.
We do not expect evacuation.
We do not expect rehabilitation.
We do not expect compensation.
We do not expect justice.
We do not even expect truth from the establishment.
We will tell you the ways to progress without Nuclear Energy. We have enough scientists who say NO to nuclear power and who are willing to show you the way.
Are you listening, Sir?
Your Indian democracy is asking you this question Sir!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

16 Reasons Why India Must Shun Nuclear Energy

No amount of propaganda can change the real truth

1) Nuclear Energy is the most powerful discovery made by humans – both for peace and war.
 The sheer damage that nuclear power can cause is so huge that it will destroy the entire human race and life on earth.

2) Nuclear Energy is NOT a clean source of energy. From uranium mining, processing, cooling the reactors to the disposal of nuclear waste – all are highly polluting.

3) Radiation is a silent killer. The harm caused by a nuclear reactor even without an accident can be judged by the fact that there is an alarmingly high rate of cancer among those working in them. This information is available in the public domain and relates to studies done at Kalpakkam and Tarapur in India. Ironically, the studies are by the same government of India which claims nuclear Energy is safe!

4) The world has seen how nuclear accidents occur out of both design flaws as well as natural disasters. The Three Mile accident in the United States was due to a design flaw in the emergency alarm system and what happened at Fukushima was a culmination of rank bad designing coupled with nature’s fury.

5) The desalination plants will suck in sea water, filter (kill) marine life and convert it into fresh water for cooling the huge reactors. What does not get filtered gets evaporated in steam used to distill the salty sea water. This causes severe marine biodiversity changes as can be seen in the Middle East. These result in the formation of toxic algae laden “Red Tides” and the fish breeding in these areas are poisonous to humans and declared unfit for consumption. The Kudankulam project will certainly alter the biodiversity of the Bay of Bengal in general, and the Gulf of Mannar in particular. Marine experts agree and emphasize this profoundly rich and bio-diverse ecology needs the stewardship of preservation.

6) Japan, a heavily industrialized technologically advanced nation, shut down all its 54 nuclear reactors and is still getting along well - without the sort of crippling power cuts across India. More pertinently, the Japanese government agrees the any decision to restart the nuclear facilities should be ratified by the local people. In India, the Kudankulam and Jaitapur nuclear power projects are coming up despite stiff and open public agitation. The government refuses transparency and does not share necessary information regarding safety and other concerns. The former reactor is being started almost in a military style secret operation. Bear in mind that the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has asked the government to make this information available to the public!

7) While a 1000MW power project sounds impressive, nuclear reactors in India average at 40 to 50% utilization levels. Even after this, there are huge energy losses which are simply accounted as “Transmission & Distribution (T&D)” losses. It is nothing but an admission of failure to deliver efficiently whatever power is generated. Compared to India's 33% T&D loss, Pakistan is at 27% and China at a mere 7%, Japan and Germany set benchmarks in power transmission and distribution efficiency with overall loss levels of just 4 per cent. Read here for more.

8 ) The power sector is facing a huge deficit on account of the losses mentioned above and also because of “under recovery” of dues. This is a euphemism for money written off for providing free power to large industrial units and big farmers – both well connected politically and providing money for election purposes.

9) State governments forever dispute their rightful share of resources with each other. Even before the commissioning of the reactor at Kudankulam, its neighbour Kerala is demanding its share of power. What Tamil Nadu eventually gets out of the 1000 MW will be a minuscule amount after deducting 50% utilization, T&D losses and sharing with other states.
Even assuming an optimistic figure of approximately 300MW of actual usable power for the state, it does not make any logical sense to undertake such a costly and dangerous project. If this project was submitted to a bank for getting a loan, it would probably not even cross over to the bank manager! But here, the government is bankrolling the investment, certifying its environmental safety, its viability and liability – in short, it is just the whim and ego of the stubborn government.

10) Everyone agrees that large industrial accidents can (and do) occur. However, in case of nuclear accidents, the scope of damage done to all kinds of living matter is unlimited. And the most dangerous and sad truth is that all future generations will face fatal consequences. Chernobyl’s children are a tragic testimony of living death. Being handicapped only because your previous generations were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation is probably nature’s way of telling mankind that what you sow, you shall reap.

11) Every nation seeks to be self sufficient, and rightly so. However, in its haste to prove its self-reliance, the government is hiding a very crucial point. We simply don’t have the raw material needed for our atomic power plants. Uranium is scarce and a rare element found naturally. Dr. Homi Bhaba had a vision of making India self sufficient in power by building nuclear power projects. Although a man of vision, he envisaged a nuclear India based on thorium, not uranium. Thorium is abundantly available in India while scarce uranium can only be procured from friendly nations at a huge diplomatic and political cost. Although thorium reserves exist in plenty, the first reactor will come up only in 2016 at the earliest. Even this form of atomic energy has its own problems but in the 1950s and 60s thorium was considered absolutely safe.

12) India refuses to change its mindset with regards to atomic energy and equates it to “national pride” when actually the truth is that even at Kudankulam and Jaitapur, foreigners are doing all the work. Russians at the former and the French at the latter. Where is the national pride in doing a copy+paste job?

13) The ‘super secret’ nuclear technology is a thing of the past. And people have realized that theonly thing atomic energy achieves is to boil water, nothing more, nothing less, except at the astronomical cost of constructing, running, maintaining and dismantling them.
In the process, the irreversible damage to man, nature, environment and the future is accepted as a “small price to pay for development.” When one looks at it rationally, it is actually a “huge price paid for questionable development.”

14) The western countries are concerned with Iranian and North Korean plans of building nuclear facilities, apparently of “peaceful” purposes. The developed nations are concerned because they know the real reasons! Uranium enrichment done in the name of peaceful activity is clandestinely diverted to developing nuclear weapons. 
Most experts believe both India and Pakistan are doing this and are running scared of the consequences. A tiny suitcase sized atomic bomb can wipe out a country of any meaningful size – many times over.
This is not paranoia. This is believed to have happened when the erstwhile Soviet Union broke up. The Russians spent a huge amount on recovering some of these lost/stolen “dirty bombs,” but have certainly not accounted for all of them. Does a nation factor in a situation of anarchy or civil war in which its people throw over a rogue dictator? And what if that rogue decided to “sell” or “barter” this destructive knowledge?

15) The threat of terrorists attacking nuclear installations is a clear and present danger. Just last month, an activist flew a small airplane over a French nuclear reactor and dropped a series of flares to send a message that nuclear safety is a myth. Breaches of this type have been done at various installations across the world. Ironically, leaders of the “most powerful nuclear nations” recently conducted a high level summit where they congratulated themselves on their nuclear safety!

16) The use of Atomic power for its energy security has dissolved lately with many industrialized nations either reducing or shelving nuclear energy programs. At least they have admitted that renewable energy is a workable alternative. While earlier there were cost concerns and problems with dependable supply, newer research in solar and wind power have taken care of them. Additionally, the new “smart grids” ensure reliable power on tap.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Can you answer a layman, Dr. Srinivasan?

Can you answer a layman, Dr. Srinivasan?

-- by Anuj Wankhede

Dr. M R Srinivasan (ex Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission)

Dr. M R Srinivasan (the ex Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission) wrote in the Business Standard supporting the Koodankulam nuclear power project. (The newspaper has not published my comments although they claim to be ‘fair’ and ‘unbiased’ in their moderation but my partial rebuttals are available on other websites.) 
Since the learned scientist has not replied to me nor have the sites which published this material done so, I can only hope that it is an act of innocent forgetfulness. I do have some pertinent issues with his interview (in fact, quite a few issues). I would like to ask him via this letter somethings which he did not touch upon in the interview.

Dear Sir,

What exactly happens to the nuclear waste which gets generated? Even after accounting for reprocessing, it is a huge problem.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will not honor all its commitments forever. Where will all the radioactive material go? Into whose backyard?

Sir, you might have heard of Yucca mountains in Nevada, USA. After spending billions over twenty years, why is no radioactive waste stored there?

Sir, as a well educated and well read scientific person, surely you would be up to date with current affairs. Please explain what is the condition of Reactor No. 4 at Fukushima?

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, a senior U.S. Senator visited Japan last month. His report describes the shocking state of Fukushima reactor #4 which is now no more than a broken shell with huge amount of spent fuel spilling out.
Surely, one small quake and it will be "the end" because large parts of Japan will be destroyed besides polluting the whole earth with extremely high and catastrophic levels of radiation.

Sir, you have said that Fukushima was an exceptional case.

But then ALL accidents are exceptional and unpredictable – until they happen in the first place. That is precisely why they are called as accidents!!!

I believe that what you had in mind is something called as a “black swan” incident. But then,even a black swan event happens only the FIRST TIME. After that incident occurs, it has to be anticipated in future, lessons learnt from it and they should be avoided as an unacceptable risk.

People in large numbers protested in Idinthakarai yesterday.

Agreed that each and every project or any business  (and in fact whatever we do in life) has an element of risk involved. The correct term here is the “Risk – Reward Ratio”

So, is this a justified risk Sir – the risk which this project entails in return for some questionable returns?

Are you in the habit of crossing a high street with your back turned towards speeding traffic and knowingly face an accident?

The fact that you are so much elder to me indicates that you must be a careful person.
Then why and how does your conscience justify the perils you ask your fellow citizens to undertake?

Sir, you might have heard about the worst industrial accident, ironically in India. It happened in Bhopal. Thousands had perished then. This happened in 1984. But yet, till date children are born with serious defects because of the chemical poisoning their parents or grand parents received from this accident.

Sir, you may be aware (or at least you might have heard of it in passing somewhere) of DNA and what happens genetically when the DNA is altered even to a small extent and the subsequent health effects.

Radioactivity does the same with far more deadly effect.
Otherwise, why should X-Ray technicians wear protective clothing?
The Bhopal experience taught us many things. The most notable one being that the friendly foreign partner deserts you faster than rats desert a sinking ship. How are you certain that nuclear liability will be paid to victims in case of an accident – however paltry the amount may be?

Incidentally, is that the reason why the poor in India are classified as earning less than half a dollar so that the least amount is payable based on their earning potential??

It remains a mystery as to how you claim that a ‘few’ people were affected by Chernobyl.

Sir, I was a young lad in 1986 when this happened and you were a young scientist at that time.

We can both recall the radioactive cloud moving towards Europe and the terror felt then.

We have both grown up in these past 25 odd years. But yet even after so long, an approximately 3000 to 4000 sqkm area in Ukraine is still unfit for habitation.

You have dealt professionally with the USSR and would know for a fact that the real numbers were never disclosed. If you notice, countries around Ukraine till date have the highest rate of cancer and birth deformity. Surely Sir, you are aware of how ridiculously false even the Indian government statistics for cancer rates at Tarapur, Kalpakkam or Rawatbhata are!!!

As a highly educated and distinguished person, you might be aware of “criminal negligence”, “common and malafide intention”, “acts done with the knowledge to cause harm to person and property” I would hate to see you become a party to such conspiracy. That would actually be criminal waste of your intelligence.

Sir, I have many more questions in my mind. and if you you think that I should not ask these, then I think you should reply to today's questions first. These are questions which are being directly asked to you and I will ascertain that you receive a copy of this. I simply want to ensure that if at a later date, your memory fails you (as usual), then this proof still remains intact.

It is never too late to admit your mistakes and move on ahead rather than be condemned and to face the results of these past mistakes. 
Is that correct Sir?

(Originally published on May 12, 2012, republished again on August 15, 2013 with modifications by Anuj Wankhede)