Some FAQs about Koodankulam and Nuclear Power: Nityanand Jayaraman and G. Sundar Rajan

Steel drums with nuclear waste. The inescapable byproduct generated from the fission of nuclear fuel in the form of uranium or plutonium creates what is called nuclear waste. This waste comes in a huge variety of extremely radioactive material with half-lives ranging from 8 days to hundreds of thousands of years. In other words their radioactivity takes a really, really long time to decay, thousands of times our human life-times. These fission products if released to the environment will last a long time, and it is almost impossible to decontaminate them.

NITYANAND JAYARAMAN and G. SUNDAR RAJAN of the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle developed  the  fact-sheet below in response to real questions that they encountered during the course of street and college campaigns. They say: “The questions were sincere, so we felt a sincere response was warranted.”


Since August 2011, Tamilnadu has witnessed renewed protests against the commissioning of the first of two 1000 MW power plants as part of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). While protests have been ongoing against the project since the proposal was mooted in 1988, the impending commissioning of the reactors in light of the devastating and uncontrollable nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, has rightly triggered a wave of concern among thinking people in India.

The protests against nuclear power plants is not isolated to Koodankulam. Even as we speak, fisherfolk and farmers in Jaitapur, Maharashtra and farmers and residents of Gorakhpur, Haryana, are saying a loud “No” to nuclear power plants in their area. Haripur, West Bengal, which was to be a site of Russian reactors, will no longer be on the nuclear map, as the State Government bowed to local sentiments and declared West Bengal a nuclear-free State.

Wise people do learn from others’ mistakes. Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Japan have all announced that they will move away from the nuclear option, and explore clean and sustainable forms of electricity generation. But India’s chest-thumping “nucleocracy” wants to play the death game with peasants and fisherfolk as the pawns in the gamble.

The staunch and united protests by Farmers, Traders and fisher folks of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi has scared the nuclear establishment. Faced with the real prospect of having to abandon the project, the Congress-led UPA Government is doing what it does best — Divide and Rule; communalise the issue, and allege that foreign hands are at play. At different times, the nuclear establishment and Dr. Manmohan Singh have said different things – that Tamilnadu’s industrialisation will falter without the project; that India cannot do without nuclear energy; that our nuclear plants are 100 percent safe; that abandoning the project at this stage can prove to be dangerous. When it comes to explaining the consequences of a major disaster, Indian scientists, including Dr. Kalam, have behaved more like astrologers than rationalists. How can anyone predict that no major earthquake will hit this area or that this human-made technology cannot fail?

The fears of Fukushima and the fears about continued electricity shortage have raised a number of conflicting emotions and doubts in people’s minds. This booklet aims to quell some of the misconceptions about the safety of nuclear energy, and answer some frequently arising questions.

1. India is a developing country. We need electricity to develop. If we rule out the nuclear option, won’t our development will be hampered?

Nuclear power is not the only option for generating electricity. There are a number of conventional and non-conventional sources of energy that can be explored for generating electricity. It is a fact that in more than 60 years of post-independence industrialisation and modernisation, the contribution of nuclear energy to the total electricity generation is less than 3 percent. Renewable energy sources already contribute more than 10 percent of India’s electricity and Large Hydro projects deliver about 22 percent. Large dams, though, have exacted a devastating toll on the environment and lives of adivasi communities.

For India to emerge as a true leader, we have to be careful not to destroy our natural capital – our waters, lands, air and people. By saying “No” to dangerous, risky and expensive technologies like nuclear, we create opportunities to develop cleaner, saner and less dangerous forms of electricity generation.

Increasing the available electricity can also be achieved by conservation and demand-side management strategies. For every 100 MW of electricity generated in India, more than 40 MW is lost because of inefficient transmission and distribution (T&D). Industrialised countries like Sweden have a T&D loss of less than 7 percent. In other words, of the total 180,000 megawatts of electricity generated in India, 72,000 megawatts (40 percent) is lost, wasted. That is equivalent to shutting off all power plants in the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.

If efficiency were to be increased to, say 90 percent, the savings would be the equivalent of setting up a 60,000 MW power plant – or about 60 plants the size of the Koodankulam plant that is currently at the heart of a controversy – with a fraction of the investment and none of the risks. Increasing energy efficiency of electrical appliances is another way to save electricity. In Tamilnadu alone, if incandescent lamps are converted to LED bulbs, we can save about 2,000MW.

Add to all this, the benefits of cutting on wasteful consumption. Shopping malls and IT companies burn electricity throughout the day. Night or day, lights and AC are running, even while households and small commercial establishments have to suffer power outages. There must be a rationalisation of the use of electricity. The fact that villages surrounding Kalpakkam where a nuclear plant is situated are reeling under major power shortages is itself proof of “inequitable distribution” of electricity.

2. Is renewable energy technologically viable? Will it be able to meet our energy needs?

Meeting India’s energy needs requires more than just renewable energy, especially since electricity is merely one form of energy. In India, electricity meets only 12 percent of total energy needs. People make do without electric lighting or cooling. But even the most indigent family needs fuel for cooking. Biomass (firewood or cow dung patties) is by far the most important source of energy for the nation.

India’s energy security depends on the robustness of our paradigm of harnessing and deploying energy in various forms, and in forms meaningful to the millions of under-served Indians. The current paradigm promotes inefficient energy generation and transmission, inequitable distribution and consumption wherein rural areas and small commercial establishments suffer even while elite users enjoy uninterrupted access to electricity and other forms of energy. With the current wasteful and unjust modes of production and consumption, neither conventional nor renewable forms of electricity generation will suffice. Why is that villages that are reeling under the effects of pollution from the thermal plants in Singrauli, UP – once hailed as the energy capital of India – have neither electricity nor clean water? While challenging coal and nuclear, we also need to question a development model that incessantly calls for sacrifices by adivasis, dalits, farmers and fisherfolk so that others may prosper.

On the topic of renewable forms of energy for electricity generation, though, the fact remains that we have barely scratched the surface in terms of harnessing the potential. According to the Government of India, India’s potential in renewables is as follows: wind energy – 48,500 MW (65,000MW, according to Indian Wind Energy Association; small hydro power – 15,000 MW; biomass Energy – 21,000 MW; and at least 4,00,000 MW from Solar Energy. The monumental amounts of money being sunk into nuclear technology can be gainfully diverted to increase research in renewables, and electrical energy efficiency. Already, advances in solar and wind technologies are reducing per MW costs. The capacity of existing wind mills can be increased six to eight-fold by replacing older, lower-capacity turbines, with newer, higher capacity turbines, or by installing new and more efficient turbines amidst existing wind mills. In the last 15 years, India has added about 17,000MW of power using renewable sources; China has added the same amount in just one year. So, where is the need to put all our eggs in just the “Nuclear Basket”?

Secondly, many of the applications of electricity can be met by smart design. Tinted glass buildings in a city like Chennai require the burning of electricity for lighting throughout the day, even when the sun is shining brightly outside. Our city’s malls and the IT companies in the Knowledge Corridor are examples of such “stupid” design.

In Germany’s Black Forest region, an ordinary woman named Ursula Sladek, mobilised people to pay for the take over of the electricity company after the Chernobyl disaster. Today, the people-owned company supplies electricity generated from small, decentralised renewable sources to more than 100,000 customers. After the Fukushima disaster, an average of 400 new customers are subscribing to the company requesting clean electricity. It is clear that electricity from renewable energy is not just environmentally sustainable but also commercially viable.

3. Can we, as Dr. Abdul Kalam says, let one disaster (in Fukushima) derail our dreams of becoming an economically developed nation?

Besides the better known disasters at Kyshtym, in erstwhile USSR (1957), Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), at least 76 nuclear accidents totalling $19.1 billion in damages have occurred between 1947 and 2008. Most of these accidents – 56 to be precise – happened after the Chernobyl disaster. This translates to one serious nuclear incident every year causing $332 million in damages annually. Between 2005 and 2055, at least four serious nuclear accidents are likely to occur, according to calculations by an interdisciplinary study titled “The Future of Nuclear Power” conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. The 2011 Fukushima disaster is the first of MIT’s prophetic estimates.

And it is not just disasters that we are concerned about. Even nuclear reactors that “operate perfectly” are associated with higher risks of cancer and unexplained deaths. In the US, where 104 reactors are operating at 65 sites, elevated rates of leukemia and brain cancers are reported from communities near nuclear power plants.

Studies conducted by Dr. V. Pugazhenthi, a physician and researcher, who provides medical service in the nuclear town of Kalpakkam, Tamilnadu, have revealed elevated incidences of congenital deformities like polydactyly (webbed fingers), thyroid problems and various kinds of cancers among the residents living around the nuclear facility.

4. Dr. Abdul Kalam says coal-fired power plants are dirty because they cause pollution and emit tons and tons of climate-changing carbon. He points out to the devastating impacts of coal mining on the environment and the lives of communities in the vicinity.

Dr. Kalam is right about coal-fired power plants. Coal plants are dirty and polluting. Coal mines are hells on earth. But we should not be forced to choose between two evils – nuclear or coal. Would you like to be tortured or killed? My answer is “Neither.”

Dr. Kalam does not talk of the effects of uranium mining on the environment and health of communities. In Jadugoda, Jharkhand, where India’s uranium is mined by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the effects of radiation among the local adivasi population are horrendous. Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, a national chapter of the Nobel-winning International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, recently published a health study on Jadugoda. The study found that:
• Primary sterility is more common in the people residing near uranium mining operations.
• More children with congenital deformities are being born to mothers living near uranium mining operations.
• Congenital defects as a cause of death of children are higher among mothers living near uranium mines.
• Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations.
• Life expectancy of people living near uranium mining operations is lower than Jharkhand’s state average and lower than in villages far removed from the mines.
• All these indicators of poor health and increased vulnerability is despite the fact that the affected villages have better economic and literacy status than reference villages.

The path to a sustainable and socially just future lies in moving away from environmentally destructive technologies such as coal and nuclear. Nuclear energy will not help us combat climate change. Per unit of power, nuclear energy emits four to five times more Carbon dioxide (CO2) than renewable energy. If the entire nuclear fuel cycle is considered, the emissions are even higher.

5. Why are people protesting only now? Couldn’t they have told the Government that they don’t want the project when it was first proposed?

The project was first proposed in 1988. Within months, protests built up against the nuclear plant. People and students mobilised 1 million signatures against the nuclear plant to hand over to Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Premier of USSR, when he visited India in 1989. Black flag protests, youth mobilisation, rallies in Chennai and other urban centres. Koodankulam has been a controversial issue from Day One. On May 1, 1989, fisherfolk and other residents from around the project site organised a massive rally in Kanyakumari town. The peaceful rally was disrupted by the police, and one youngster – Ignatius – was shot in the police firing that ensued. Between 1991 and 2001, the protests died down, because USSR – the technology provider – splintered into several smaller nations. But this history is glossed over by the propagandists, and repeated without verification by a lazy and irresponsible media.

Like the Rajiv Gandhi Government at that time, the Sonia Gandhi Government now has refused to acknowledge the protests or heed the aspirations of local people.

That is evident from the manner in which the Central Government is hell-bent on pushing the Jaitapur nuclear project in the face of stiff opposition by local farmers and fisherfolk. Protests in Gorakhpur, Haryana, and Jaitapur are not just being ignored, but violently repressed.

It is true that the imminent commissioning of the Koodankulam plant, and the threat of expansion of the complex to accommodate 6,000 MW of capacity has re-awakened the fears of the local people. The 2004 tsunami gave the coastal people first hand experience of the raw fury of nature. The television images of the devastation caused by the triple disaster in Fukushima, and the subsequent tragedy of lakhs of Japanese were prevented from returning to their homes or to their normal lives are still fresh in the minds of people. People would be stupid to not be fearful.

6. Crores of rupees have already been spent on constructing the plant. Isn’t it too late to abandon the project now?

It is never too late to do the right thing. It is better to write off a bad investment, than to continue investing in spite of knowing the certainty of routine nuclear pollution and the risks of a disaster.

Consider the costs of a disaster. Belarus, a state in the erstwhile USSR, suffered the maximum damage as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. According to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, between 1991 and 2003, Belarus spent $13 billion on disaster-related expenses. It has estimated its losses over 30 years at $235 billion. In Ukraine, the country where Chernobyl was located, still allocates 6-7 percent of total Government spending on disaster rehabilitation programs. Radiation fallout from the disaster has contaminated more than 200,000 square kilometers, mostly in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. That is about twice the size of Tamilnadu.

In Fukushima, just closing down and safely dismantling the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant will take 30 years and cost between $12 billion and $19 billion. This does not include the costs of health monitoring, evacuation and social security, remediation of contaminated environment, the economic losses arising from loss of agriculture and fisheries income, or the foreign trade lost due fear of radiation contamination.

If a decision to opt out of nuclear power is taken, there is still time to convert the Koodankulam plant to a less risky and less polluting technology such as a gas thermal plant. The Shoreham nuclear plant in Long Island, New York, was converted to work on natural gas after the Three Mile Island accident took place. The William H Zimmer nuclear plant in Ohio, and the Midland Cogeneration Facility in Michigan were similarly converted to run on fossil fuel.

7. Indian nuclear plants are safe. So many of India’s nuclear plants have run for decades without mishaps. So what’s the problem?

The claim that Indian nuclear plants are safe is contrary to facts. Safety breaches in India’s nuclear establishment seldom comes to light because of the shroud of secrecy surrounding the institutions. But what little we know gives serious cause for concern. Just take the case of Kalpakkam. The following violations have come to light, including some that were acknowledged more than 6 months after the incident.
• 1987: A refuelling accident ruptured the reactor core.
• 1991: Workers were exposed to radioactive heavy water
• 1999: 42 workers were exposed to radiation
• 2002: 100 kg of radioactive sodium was released into the environment
• 2003: 6 workers were exposed to high levels of radiation

Other very serious incidents have happened in other reactors. In 1991, a contractor working in the RAPS reactor complex used radioactive heavy water to mix paint, and wash the brush, face and hands.

In November 2009, more than 55 workers in Kaiga nuclear plant, Karnataka, were exposed to excessive levels of radiation when they drank water laced with radioactive tritium.

Addition of safety systems have often been an afterthought. A November 1986 report titled “Safety of the Indian Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors” by the Department of Atomic Energy’s Reactor Safety Analysis Group states that “In India, tsunamis and seiches do not occur. Hence cyclones alone have been singled out for detailed study.” This analysis was for Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) of the kind that is installed in Kalpakkam. The 2004 tsunami flooded the entire township and reactor complex. The Kalpakkam reactor survived the 2004 tsunami not by design but by chance.

Even today, the Kalpakkam reactor is not designed to survive a major earthquake or tsunami despite the fact that an International Atomic Energy Agency publication of 2011 identifies one active submarine volcano near the coast of India, and that is off the coast of Pondicherry, 60 km from Kalpakkam.

8. All safety systems are in place in Koodankulam. Dr. Kalam says the plant is 100 percent safe, and that there is no threat of a tsunami since the plant is located 1300 km from the seismic centre point. He has urged people to have faith in the Government, and to believe Governmental experts and engineers. Shouldn’t people do that instead of questioning the experts?

First, any good scientist or engineer will tell you that there is no such thing as 100 percent safe. Such a declaration is 100 percent false. Rather than educating people on the true nature of the risks, and the magnitude of effects in the event of a disaster, Dr. Kalam seems intent on lulling them into complacence. Complacence is the worst thing that can happen for disaster preparedness. It is outright irresponsible to lie to people about the true nature of dangerous technologies.

Second, despite the 2004 tsunami, which belied the Department of Atomic Energy’s declaration that “In India, tsunamis. . .do not occur,” we have Dr. Kalam repeating this false statement. Dr. Kalam’s statement that a tsunami will not occur belongs in the realm of astrology and not science.

Dr. Kalam would have us believe that safety and emergency response are merely matters of technology. That is not true. Robust safety and emergency response systems have to do with siting, planning, the setting up and maintenance of escape routes, an informed citizenry that is trained to react appropriately, an open and transparent administration that is capable of acknowledging and correcting mistakes, engineers and technologists that respect nature’s power, and builders and contractors that are honest.

Good science and technology requires an unwavering commitment to truth, a trait that is in short supply in this country. With scams tainting every aspect of Indian life, people who heed Dr. Kalam’s advice to trust the Government and its engineers would be acting unwisely.

In 2010, a pedestrian bridge constructed for the much-hyped Commonwealth Games collapsed a week before the launch of the Games. The use of sub-standard material and poor construction methods are not restricted to relatively lower risk structures like the ill-fated pedestrian bridge.

In May 1994, the inner containment dome of a nuclear reactor under construction in Kaiga, Karnataka, collapsed sending 120 tonnes of concrete crashing down. The dome is meant to contain radiation in the event of an accident. A. Gopalakrishnan, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s former head, writes that “Senior NPC civil engineers and the private firms which provide civil engineering designs. . .to the DAE have had a close relationship. In this atmosphere of comradeship, the NPC engineers did not carry out the necessary quality checks on the designs they received.” If the dome had collapsed when the plant was in operation, we would have had a Level 7 meltdown on our hands.

In July 2011, even as the disastrous events in Fukushima were unfolding, the Leningrad-2 nuclear reactor under construction in Russia experienced a serious mishap. Shortly after concrete was poured for the construction of the outer protective shell of a reactor unit, the structure began to deform, with the reinforcement bars bending and dangling about 26 feet above ground. The reactor under construction is of the VVER 1200 type, a generation ahead of the VVER 1000 reactors currently installed in Koodankulam. Experts have speculated that corruption and use of substandard material may have been behind the mishap. In Koodankulam, we are witnessing the setting up of a high-risk technology by two nations – India and Russia – which compete with each other in the realm of corruption.

9. Aren’t you being anti-science and emotional in protesting against nuclear power?

The argument against Koodankulam is not an argument against science and experimentation. 10,000 MW as in Jaitapur and Koodankulam are not experiments. These are not 100 kilowatt reactions in a lab condition. They are massive investments in power generation technology putting more than just the lives of experimenters at risk. Unwilling people cannot be asked to sacrifice their lives in the interest of Kalam’s science. It is true that many experimenters have sacrificed their lives at the altar of science, and we need to acknowledge them with gratitude. The Nazis experimenting with poisonous chemicals on unsuspecting and unwilling captive Jews, or the pharmaceutical companies currently testing their dangerous medicines on indigent and choiceless people may be contributing to the advancement of science. But their methods are plain criminal. The people supporting the Koodankulam struggle are not “Can’t Doers;” They are “Won’t Doers.” Dr. Kalam is not talking about risking his life for the advancement of science; he is blaming the Koodankulam people for refusing to risk their lives.

Good engineers and scientists require humility, integrity and an ability to accept mistakes and move ahead with the learnings. India’s nucleocracy lacks all these.

It is not the villagers that need convincing. Insurance companies are not convinced that nuclear plants are risk free. On the contrary, they believe that the risks of a nuclear blow-out are uninsurable. If the Koodankulam plant is completely safe as Dr. Kalam puts it, it would be useful to see Dr. Kalam convincing the insurance companies to provide blanket cover to nuclear power plants, and convincing the nuclear equipment suppliers to abandon their insistence on a nuclear liability protocol that exempts them from compensating in the event of a disaster, even if it is caused by a willful fault on their part.

Building a nuclear plant merely on the basis of a belief – as if in God – that a tsunami or major earthquake will not occur is what is anti-science. People who are agitated and fearful of the consequences of the nuclear technology being set up in India are scientific because their fears are based on the empirical evidence of regular disasters and a knowledge of the socio-economic and environmental fallouts of such disasters. The fear is further fuelled by the lack of transparency that shrouds nuclear establishments in India and elsewhere. Apprehension over the likelihood of a disaster given the numerous things that could go wrong technically or due to corruption or malpractices is not unscientific, especially given what is unfolding in terms of 2G scams.

What is being asked is for scientists and engineers to devote their skills in less destructive and risky means of generating electricity.

10. Every technology has its risks. Cars, ships and trains routinely have accidents. You don’t see us abandoning cars and ships. Then why should we abandon nuclear power?

Car accidents or even plane accidents do not leave behind a 20 km exclusion zone in which human life cannot return to normal for decades. A person driving in a car or travelling by plane accepts certain risks voluntarily. A car or a plane accident does not affect the next generation and the unborn. The unborn cannot even be consulted on whether the risk that we are taking is acceptable to them. Imposing such a risk on generations to come is patently unjust. Car accidents do not necessitate the evacuation of people living in a 75 km circle.

Until a technology’s risks are proven to be manageable – and we have seen the unmanageability of the nuclear technology on occasion after occasion – wisdom advises that it be kept in the realm of experimentation. It certainly cannot be unleashed on an unsuspecting community.

11. Dr. Kalam has offered a Rs. 200 crore development package including clean water, jobs, schools, hospitals and motor boats and cold storage facilities to the people in the villages surrounding Koodankulam. Will that not make this development more inclusive?

This offer of Rs. 200 crore is perverse. “If you can’t convince them, bribe them” seems to be the line taken by Dr. Kalam. How different is this from the spate of freebies offered by politicians before elections? Does this mean that if people don’t consent to the nuclear power plant, they will be denied hospitals, schools and clean water? What about other communities where no nuclear power plant is proposed to be built? Will they have to wait for one to be constructed in their backyard so that their rights to water and education can piggyback on that project?

The people are looking for answers to serious questions. Dr. Kalam should answer them respectfully, or restrain himself from speaking.

22 thoughts on “Some FAQs about Koodankulam and Nuclear Power: Nityanand Jayaraman and G. Sundar Rajan”

  1. As soon as we start a debate on the issue , what happens( in most of the sites I have seen this) is the nuclear lobby with its 60 year old stock arguments will intrude and argue their case not in a gentle way but with an intention to scuttle real exchange of ideasThe most funny thing about this debate is that those who do not have any feelings about filling this country with radiation for centuries to come and destroying the health of coming generations by the hazardous nuclear facilities pose or rather ‘impose’ themselves as great ‘Patriots’ who love India; at the same time people who really want to save the country and its future generations from ionizing radiation are dubbed anti-National! .If you sing hallelujah to a few leaders, bureaucrats and scientists with vested interests, that is the criterion for being ‘nationalists’; someone who exposes their hypocrisy , is anti-national. What an inversion of values! Gentlemen, please remember that the nuclear debate is going on, not only in India, but all over the world.Other countries do not consider those who oppose nuclearization as unpatriotic; not even France, which uses nuclear energy considerably.Here there are people who worship Kalam and Bhabha ; not science. To criticise the idols is sacrilege. This is a country where obscurantists and and anti science people can influence government policy;real scientists who think for people are hooted down.; hawks are cheered aloud.


    1. Very interesting. If I understood correctly : (1) Anyone who supports nuclear energy is lobbying for world nuclear lobby. (2) Those who oppose nuclear energy are pro-India and those who do not are anti-India. (3) Those who support nuclear energy for India are worshippers of Kalam and Bhabha and not of science. (4) Real scientists are those who oppose nuclear energy! What a novel definition of a real scientist. Only those countries which do not have the energy shortage like India can have the luxury of debating its source and not India which is severely deficient. Once India has sufficient energy in near future using nuclear sources, only then such a debate has justification. This meaningless debate is akin to discussing nutrition with a hungry person, while stopping him/her from eating the food that can be made easily available, on the pretext that it may not be healthy.


  2. whatever be the fact, the authors have, right in the first paragraph, concluded that nuclear energy is harmful. Then why this big an article – for a conclusion that you have already made !

    It is unfortunate that Dr Abdul Kalam, a highly respected person, unnecessarily entered in to this controversy – did not do any good to enhance his reputation. With due respects to him, this is not his field (to give such a detailed technical report) – he is at best a missile / launch vehicle man.

    The argument that why now the protests – my counter would be why not even now – when such a great disaster as Fukushima has taken place ?

    Let us invest in less explored power options. Necessity is the mother of invention. We will find some way soon. When Russia was forced to stop (by who else, but USA) supply of cryogenic engines to India for our GSLV programme, only then we woke up and started our own efforts to develop Cryogenic stage for the launch vehicles. Thank you very much father Bush !

    The way will come out, if we make real efforts

    m s narayanan


  3. Nity and Sundar – This is an outstanding piece of work and writing. Much needed and should be widely circulated, translated into many languages – and perhaps form the basis of a popular reader with illustrations which should be flooding schools and colleges.

    Thanks indeed


  4. >> For every 100 MW of electricity generated in India, more than 40 MW is lost because of inefficient transmission and distribution (T&D). Industrialised countries like Sweden have a T&D loss of less than 7 percent. In other words, of the total 180,000 megawatts of electricity generated in India, 72,000 megawatts (40 percent) is lost, wasted.

    As per my understanding, the T&D losses are a euphemism for theft, the demand for power is really at the same higher level.

    >> In Jadugoda, Jharkhand, where India’s uranium is mined by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the effects of radiation among the local adivasi population are horrendous.

    The fuel for the VVER plants is not being mined in India, its being imported from Russia, other plants will come with uranium imports from Australia or other countries.

    In any case, any mining operation has the potential to be dirty and hazardous to health. The correct way to solve this problem is to make the operation as clean as possible.. not to stop it entirely..

    >> he is blaming the Koodankulam people for refusing to risk their lives.

    My home is near the Rawatbhata atomic power plant, it has operated safely for decades now. This is simply fear mongering..

    >> The 2004 tsunami flooded the entire township and reactor complex. The Kalpakkam reactor survived the 2004 tsunami not by design but by chance.

    Thats just not true.. In case of a Tsunami, the earthquake alert system would have shut down the reactor and the diesel generators, (at a height of 10 meters above the sea level) needed for bringing the system to a cold shutdown would have been in operation. This Tsunami was a 100 year tsunami.. It will be instructive to see what the wave height was. A two or three meter tsunami would not have done any damage to the plant.


  5. oh my man -am again in fusion ie confusion. i was for most part against nuclear plants but since kalam i do have a change of mind .but you people with your all encompassing and rather scientifically established statements are making sea change to me and to many others who are in dilemma . a much appreciated work


  6. Let Dr. Kalam convince the Nuclear Equipment Supplying Companies that there is no risk in offering Compensation in the event of Disasters, need not restrict it to 500 crores; no further agreements needed. It may give the Prime Minister a great relief.


  7. Brilliant! Awesome! i think we need just one more table in this entire thing with the following things, and finally we can bring nuclear nonsense to a stop forever:

    a) Comparison of costs involved (subsidies given by governments including for land transfer along with other project development costs plus that of imports of any technology brought from abroad if required)

    b) Comparison of benefits (cost per unit for consumers, time taken to construct the plant, actual amount of emissions generated for same capacity of plants etc.) across various technologies.

    After that, all this nonsense will die down forever. Even then, this is a very good article, based on facts.


  8. The arguments so far, are unexceptionalble. I will agree with Lalita that it should be used as a primer in schools and colleges.
    However, one of the questions that was not posed in this, but need to be raised (with equally immediate response) is this: It cannot be denied that Nuclear arsenals act as great deterent in the current global political scene, especially. It is very likely that a country that has no nuclear arsenal stockpile will become a sitting duck for the bigwigs like the NATO forces to get political sanction from the world fora and demolish, of course with unleashing of their conventional weapon might alone. Therefore, the real rationale of Indian Nuclear energy program rests actually on this, though no one wants to say in as many words.
    Mind you, this was a question posed by one of my students while discussing on Jaitapur.


  9. Dear Sharma,
    You have totally misunderstood my post and interpreted it as you like. It is O.K as I have not specified the circumstance in which it is written: This is actually a reply to a persistent nuclear advocate who was abusing all antinuclear activists as antinational. In spite of our best efforts he never stopped alleging us with this and that, instead of arguing his case within reasonable limits of civility.This was in another site, not Kafila. But I cited my reply to him here only to preempt, if possible, such intruders who mar the spirit of a serious discussion with abuses allegations,and obnoxious language. I wanted the FAQs and their answers to be taken seriously by many, as they elucidate in simple language, the points to be made .Abusers will drive away people from any site and I wished such folk should be kept away. That was my reason for posting it here.


  10. Excellent exposition. Congrats Nivedita. Perhaps the provisions of the Indian Atomic Energy act is worth revisiting. It is the most draconian one. See a provision as stated below:

    18. Restriction on disclosure of information

    (1) The Central Government may by order restrict the disclosure of information, whether contained in a document, drawing, photograph, plan, model or in any other form whatsoever, which relates to, represents or

    illustrates —

    (a) an existing or proposed plant used or proposed to be used for the purpose of producing, developing or using atomic energy, or

    (b) the purpose or method of operation of any such existing or proposed plant,or

    (c) any process operated or proposed to be operated in any such existing or proposed plant.

    (2) No person shall —

    (a) disclose, or obtain or attempt to obtain any information restricted under sub-section (1), or

    (b) disclose, without the authority of the Central Government, any information obtained in the discharge of any functions under this Act or in the performance of his official duties.

    (3) Nothing in this section shall apply —

    (i) to the disclosure of information with respect to any plant of a type in use for purposes other than the production, development or use of atomic energy, unless the information discloses that plant of that type is used or proposed to be used for the production, development or use of atomic energy or research into any matters connected therewith; or

    (ii) where any information has been made available to the general public otherwise than in contravention of this section, to any subsequent disclosure of that information.

    Many other provisions are equally anti-democratic. It is time that we revisit nuclear ‘regulations’ and ‘liability’ principles.


  11. “Good engineers and scientists require humility, integrity and an ability to accept mistakes and move ahead with the learnings. India’s nucleocracy lacks all these.

    It is not the villagers that need convincing. Insurance companies are not convinced that nuclear plants are risk free. On the contrary, they believe that the risks of a nuclear blow-out are uninsurable. If the Koodankulam plant is completely safe as Dr. Kalam puts it, it would be useful to see Dr. Kalam convincing the insurance companies to provide blanket cover to nuclear power plants, and convincing the nuclear equipment suppliers to abandon their insistence on a nuclear liability protocol that exempts them from compensating in the event of a disaster, even if it is caused by a willful fault on their part.”
    Outstanding point, along with many other sensible critical thoughts on the whole thing ..


  12. Dear Sudeep
    Some responses to your post. On some of the issues such as the height of the tsunami wave and the emergency operations in Kalpakkam, I will revert to you after consulting two people that are very knowledgeable about it. Meanwhile, here are some clarifications:
    1. Transmission & Distribution Losses:
    You have suggested that T&D losses may be a euphemism for theft. However, I think that is incorrect. Theft and losses due to metering defects etc are generally categorised under non-technical or commercial losses. The T&D losses here refer to losses due to ineffient transmission and distribution equipment such as cables, transformers, capacitors, switches and joints etc. While researching this, I was befuddled by the different figures cited by different sources for T&D losses. However, I went with the 40 percent figure as it was once cited by Dr. Manmohan Singh. I used that after verifying that a number of other mainstream institutions too reported similar figures. Official figures place the T&D losses in the neighbourhood of 25 percent. But a few independent studies have pegged it at double that rate.

    Please check the following for PM Singh’s quote

    Also, check out the following TERI study on T&D losses:

    As can be seen from above, the 40 percent losses cannot be attributed to India’s usual scapegoat – India’s poor. In any case, as an aside, I would like to clarify that when poor people run a line and take electricity from the grid, that is not called theft but reclaiming a right. It is common knowledge that the villagers who have paid the price of our electricity with their lands, lost livelihoods and damaged healths do not have electricity in their homes. Why should they not claim it by running a wire from the transmission tower?

    2. You have said that the fuel for VVER plants is not mined in India.
    You may well be right, but that does not take away from the fact that uranium mining in general, and in Jadugoda in particular, is a dirty operation. When Dr. Kalam referred to the Jharia coalfields as hell on earth, I don’t think he intended to convey that all coal-fired thermal plants source their coal from Jharia. Rather, he was making a broader case against coal mining. My intent was similar.

    It is no comfort that rather than an Indian child, it will now be a Russian or an Australian aboriginal child that would have to lose its childhood for my uranium. The issue is not of nationality or country of origin of the uranium, but of the impacts of mining uranium.

    Large-scale mining operations cannot be environmentally sustainable or socially just. 90 percent of uranium ore internationally contains less than 1 percent uranium. Two-thirds, including Indian ore, contain less than 0.1 percent. So for every 100 kg of uranium ore extracted from the earth, between 99 and 99.9 kg is returned as toxic wastes. I do not see how such a waste can wasted sustainably or safely.

    3. You have said that “My home is near the Rawatbhata atomic power plant, it has operated safely for decades now. This is simply fear mongering.”

    The prospect of Rawatbhata operating cleanly does not seem to be supported by facts. I know of only one independent study of health in the areas surrounding the Rawatbhatta plant. You can get more details of this 1991 study here.

    In summary, this study looked at 2,860 respondents in 571 villages within 10 km of RAPS (proximate villages), and 2544 people in 472 villages more than 50 km away (distant villages). It found increased incidence of illnesses among the members of the proximate villages (45 percent of respondents reporting) v. only 25 percent of the members of distant villages with illnesses. Long-term problems of a chronic nature – such as long-lasting fevers, frequently recurring skin problems, cataracts, joint pains and lethargy – were 2-3 times higher in proximate villages than in distant villages.
    The authors of the study write: “The largest differences were seen in the case of solid tumors. In villages near the nuclear plant we saw 30 cases, one the size of football on the chest of a woman, and several tennis ball sized tumors, whereas in the control villages there were only five such cases and none so large. The most significant differences in health were related to untoward pregnancy outcomes. These were observed in the whole range, including significantly higher number of miscarriages, still-births, deaths amongst newborn babies and congenital deformities amongst both the living and those who had died within the last two years. For instance, the total number of congenital deformities was 50 amongst 45 children who lived near the power plant and 14 deformities amongst 14 children who lived in the far off villages.5 These numbers are statistically significant, but the significance becomes even more stark when we consider the differences amongst those born after the start of the power plant. Although the number of deformities amongst those more than 18 years of age were just 5 near the plant versus 4 away from the plant, the numbers were 39 versus 6 among those who were less than eleven years of age when both units of the plant had started working (1981). Similarly, while 7 infants died within a day of birth near the plant during the two years previous to the 1991 survey, the number dying in the distant areas was just one. There were six stillbirths near the plant, compared to zero away from the plant, in the same two year interval. The chances of such differences occurring in two comparable populations purely by chance are less than one in a million. On the other hand, deaths of newborn infants who had survived for a week and then died (usually due to infection) were almost the same in both the areas (9 near the plant and 7 in the distant villages).”

    ciao, nityanand


  13. All those who feel Koodankulam is safe should visit the place AND meet the people. The perfect quote was given by a common village woman:’Why should we live with a snake under our pillow?’

    On my visit of several days there and around the area, without exception people do not want the plant.


  14. Efforts are being made to reduce T&D loss but to argue that they can be reduced and so no additional power is needed is to miss the point. The real issue is how to generate electricity/energy from various sources given the issues like global warming, pollution,
    increase in population, increase in demand for energy. We need to look at the technological options, their costs, risks and benefits and also the alternative technological trajectories/pathways that will enable transition to low carbon society. In this debate such a thinking is missing and there are merits in the arguments of both sides and there are problems too. Moreover what are the options for that state, tamil nadu, that has no coal( except lignite at Neyveli), very limited hydel resources that have been almost used up. Today that state imports coal from Australia and Indonesia and many thermal power plants are being set up along the coast line. The harsh reality is that there are no easy options here because global warming and its impacts on coastal areas is too real to be ignored. Saying no to nuclear is fine if someone says that tamil nadu can meet that estimated power generated by reactors in Koodankulam with this option or that option and these options are cost effective and eco-friendly. As far as I know the anti-nuclear lobby has not come with any such plan or analysis of data to convince (me) that saying no nuclear is the best option.
    They simply make assertions about renewables without any data or analysis to support their claims. In fact tamil nadu is a leader in wind power generation that has picked up well over the last decade. Still the unmet gap in power supply and demand is growing. So what are the solutions.


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