This appeal has been prepared by Dr. EAS Sarma and Prof. T Shivaji Rao, urging scrapping of all nuclear power projects in India. Prof. Rao has sent it to DiaNuke.org to collect signatures from Indian citizens. This appeal would be forwarded to the president of India and the Prime Minister. Readers are requested to support the appeal by sending their approvals and suggestions to nuclear.resource@gm ail.com
1. We feel deeply concerned at the recent attempts made by the Central Government to push through nuclear power on a large scale in the name of long-term energy security of the country inspite of its insignificant energy contribution for national needs and the ample availability of several safer and economically cheaper Energy sources like Hydro-power,solar and wind power , Biomass, Natural Gas, oil, lignite and thermal coal with least damge potentials. (For more details, see here and here)
2. Considering the risks and the costs involved in nuclear technology, USA and several other western countries have slowed down their respective nuclear power development programmes.
Germany has completely reversed its nuclear programme from a current share of 26% to zero in ten years to shift towards solar and other renewable sources of energy, whereas the share of nuclear energy in the case of India is hardly 3% and India has much more solar insolation compared to Germany. The western MNCs are looking towards India and other developing countries to further their business interests. And India is readily obliging. We are particularly concerned at the way the government has wantonly opened the floodgates to imported reactors based on imported fuels to form the main plank of India’s nuclear energy development strategy.
3. Against widespread public opposition, the Central Government first entered into the Indo-US Nuclear deal, followed by similar bilateral deals with the other reactor manufacturing countries. Under their pressure, the Central Government enacted a law on capping the liability that could be passed on to the reactor suppliers in the event of an accident. But for the relentless efforts made by some parties in the opposition, the cap on the liability as finally incorporated in that law would have been much lower. Even then, the cap so fixed i.e. around Rs.1,500 crores, is in no way commensurate with the huge liability that could arise in the event of an accident of the kind that occurred at Chernobyl or Fukushima. In Fukushima, the latest estimate of the liability is placed at Rs.3,00,000 Crores!
4. As a result of the ridiculously low cap imposed by the Act on the liability to the reactor supplier, it is the Indian tax payer who will be forced to bear such a huge burden of about Rs.5 lakhs crores in the event of an accident. Indirectly, the government caved in to subsidise the foreign reactor suppliers heavily to an extent of Rs.5 lakhs crores at the expense of the Indian tax payer and, more importantly, introduced an element of moral hazard that would compromise the safety of design of the imported reactors. The Act clearly defied the well established “polluter pays” principle that is internationally accepted.
5. The positive feature of this law was that it included clauses 17(b) and 46 that would enable the victim of an accident, if it had occurred as a result of any deficiency in the design of the reactor, seeking damage compensation from the suppliers.
6. More recently, coinciding with the meeting that the Prime Minister had with the President of USA in Bali, the Central Government announced the details of the Rules made under the civil nuclear liability law, indirectly agreeing to a further dilution of the intent of the Act itself. Rule 24(1) precludes the operator from seeking any ‘consequential damages’ from the supplier, under Section 17(a) of the Act, to compensate for the larger damage the suppliers could have caused to the public and the environment.to an extent of about Rs.5 lakhs crores. In addition, the way Rule 24 has been framed imposes an artificial time limit of five to ten years on the liability claims that either the victims of an accident or the Indian operator can seek from the reactor supplier. Fukushima is an example of how an accident can take place anytime during the lifecycle of a reactor with unimaginable damaging consequences
7. Evidently, the Central Government has once again caved in to the overtures of the foreign governments, this time, even going contrary to the intentions underlying the passage of the liability bill in the Parliament.
8. The fact that the reactor suppliers are insistent upon limiting the liability that would occur in the event of an accident, is the clearest possible pointer to the fact that nuclear power technology and its impacts are unpredictable and heavily risk prone. After the accident at Chernobyl, unable to decontaminate the reactor site, Russians are now building a concrete sarcophagus for the stricken reactors and are seeking external financial assistance of $2 billion. One should not be surprised if Fukushima meets with a similar fate. The clean up activity at Fukushima will run into billions of dollars and it is doubtful whether a hundred percent clean up will ever be possible seeing that the ocean and the aquatic life have also been contaminated .
9. No wonder that the World Bank and its sister financial institutions, as a matter of policy, do not fund nuclear power projects. Nuclear power is such a bad business proposition, that similarly, no private venture capital will finance it. Insurance companies will not insure nuclear power facilities because their impacts on health and the environment in the event of an accident can be huge and are largely outside human control. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima attest to this. For example, at the most critical time of radioactive fallout from Fukushima, the winds went out ‘to sea’. Had they blown in the direction of Tokyo, the government would have had to evacuate 35 million people and Japan would have faced financial bankruptcy and a serious political crisis. What would happen to India’s environmental treasure trove of the Western Ghats, one of 34 ecological hotspots in the world, as a result of a core melt-down at Jaitapur?
10. An accident of the Fukushima kind will dent the Indian economy is an irreversible manner, affecting its ability to deal with the more pressing problem of Drinking water supply, sanitation, Disease prevention and removing poverty.
11. There are genuine public apprehensions about the safety of nuclear power. These apprehensions have gained ground after the Fukushima tragedy in Japan. There are equally genuine apprehensions about the lack of transparency in the functioning of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) headed by no other than the Prime Minister himself. This is corroborated by the fact that, despite the continuing public entreaties and the assurances given by the Central Government, DAE has shown inexplicable reluctance to disclose the past safety audits conducted in respect of the existing nuclear power stations and the corrective steps taken. DAE has rarely taken the public into confidence in the case of incidents of radioactive leakages in nuclear power plants, such as the one at Kakarpar in May, 2001. It is ironic that the citizens of India should depend more on the domestic media reports and external sources of information such as IAEA to learn about the minor and major accidents in the existing nuclear power plants than being taken into confidence by DAE itself.
12. The Atomic Energy Act has many non-disclosure clauses that seem to be inconsistent with the citizen’s right to know under Article 19.
13. In the case of new projects such as the ones at Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and Kovvada (AP), the procedures of selection of reactor suppliers have been opaque. The people living around the project sites have rarely been taken into confidence on the likely implications in the “exclusion zone”, “sterilized zone” and “emergency planning zone”, extending up to 16 km from the project site. Simulation studies show that the radioactive winds can blow far beyond these limits. In fact, the emergency planning zone in USA extends up to 80 km and 100 km in Finland.
14. Both DAE and NPCIL seem to believe that the citizens fare not entitled to express their apprehensions about the safety of the nuclear power plants. Yet, it is the citizens of India who will be left to pick up the burden and cost of a nuclear disaster. Bhopal is an on-going grim reminder. NPCIL has often brushed aside such apprehensions on the ground that the citizens are not scientifically well informed, without trying to share its own knowledge with the people. It is well known that there are many gaps in the scientific and technological knowledge about nuclear power and there are many unresolved problems such as the one pertaining to waste management. Empirical evidence of accidents involving core melt downs (including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima) attest to the role of human error and mechanical failures in nuclear accidents. These and ‘Acts of God’ through natural calamities are difficult to forecast or assess. This may not be denied by any rational thinking person. The Precautionary Principle, a well established judicial principle, squarely places the burden of clarifying the citizens’ doubts on DAE and NPCIL. Both DAE and NPCIL seem to have shifted this burden to the citizen to plead his or her case before the courts. The citizen’s fundamental right to live, as provided in Article 21, is under a grave threat.
15. While the government is trying to wash its hands off these issues by introducing a Bill to create an “independent” nuclear regulator, in the ultimate analysis, the regulator can at best enforce what the law and the rules prescribe. The regulator cannot provide answers to the concerns expressed above.
16. Nuclear power is not just the most expensive source of energy. it is, in our considered view, potentially unsafe. There are credible alternatives to it. India’s energy future should be based on improvements in efficiencies in generation, transmission, distribution and end-use of electricity, along with environmentally benign renewables, rather than on technologies that bear huge potential risks. Even nominal efficiency improvements down the electricity supply line will yield such huge generation capacity savings that will render nuclear energy redundant.
17. After Fukushima, several countries are moving away from nuclear. Several others who were earlier committed to nuclear are revisiting their energy strategies. Pursuing the unsafe nuclear route when there are more sustainable, benign alternatives has no rational basis.
18. We therefore appeal to the government to revisit its energy strategy that has placed undue emphasis on nuclear power and shift it towards a cleaner, safer, more sustainable energy future. We appeal to the Prime Minister to look beyond the advice rendered to him by DAE and NPCIL and call for a wider, more citizen-friendly debate on this important issue of public policy before the country is inundated by foreign reactors based on imported fuels that endanger the energy security of the country like never before.
For more details on Koodankulam plant Disaster scenario and emergency preparedness planning, you can see my web sites and their links also:
19.The Government of Indi has not got the Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] and Disaster management and Emergency preparedness Reports and presented them for a public hearing as per rules of The Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and public consent was not taken from the lakhs of people likely to be affected by the plant in both Tamilnadu and Kerala.
The Nuclear plant authorities have not workesd out detailed Disaster preparedness plans for all the Nuclear plants by involving active participation of the local state Government officials and hence the safety of the public citizens is placed under grave threat to force the people lose their right to live.