STOP The proposed Gorakhpur Nuclear Power Plant at Fatehabad district, Haryana !
Report prepared by : Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, in collaboraion with Kisan Sangharsh Samity and Parmanu Urja Virodhi Morcha, Haryana
Almost on the stroke of the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst (as of date) nuclear power disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine (former Soviet Union) – which struck an unsuspecting and un-prepared world on 26th of April 1986, the Japanese Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant accident(s) brought back those nightmares to the 21st century. The starting trigger was a coupled natural disater of huge proportions, but the unfolding nuclear nightmare has been of larger concern for the last one week. Even a nation as orderly & organised as Japan, whose technological & managerial prowess is world renowned, is struggling at the boundaries of its capabilities to control the ‘rogue’ reactors.
In the face of such looming disaster, many countries of the world have declared moratoriums on their nuclear energy programmes. Germany has shut down 7 of its older reactors and reiterated its decision to move away from nuclear fission as an energy source. China – with the largest reactor building programme in the world now, has halted all construction and ordered strict safety review. So did many others. Only exception seems to be the Indian Government, whose Prime Minister casually declared in the Parliamnet within 2 days of the Fukushima accident starting, that all nuclear plants in India are safe !! How can any serious safety audit of 20 operating reactors (two of which are as old as Fukushima and same design, having been supplied by GE of the USA) and a host of mining, milling, fuel-fabrication, reprocessing etc opeartions spread all over the country be completed in one day ? How can the people at all trust this callous nuclear establishment in India ?
This is not the first time an advanced & rich nation has been exposed by the nuclear ‘Ginnie’. Canada’s Chalk River reactor had the first large accident and radioactive material leakage in 1952, which was categorised as level 5 accident, the same level as the coolant failure and partial core melt-down in Harrisburg (Three Mile Island) in the USA, in 1979. Reactor accidents continued right through the 50’s to the present century, but Chernobyl was the ultimate symbol of nuclear power gone out of control, to kill lakhs of people, and spell the doom of the nuclear industry world-wide.
In this backdrop, we must understanfd the Indian govt’s insane designs of placing large, multiple-reactor ‘Nuclear Power Parks’ all over the country, in the garb of generating ‘clean energy’ for the fast growing GDP-economy. Several factors played key roles in this. First of course is the fact that publc memory is short, and the horrors of Chernobyl had faded. The last 15 years of ruthless industrialisation push in post-liberalisation India – up-rooting & displacing millions, poisoning and damming hundreds of rivers to make them dead-waters, destroying lakhs of hectars of forests to extract all of kinds of ‘natural resources’ to power the fast enlarging production-marketing-consumption-profit-more production cycle, has also made the tapping of nuclear (fission) energy much more ‘acceptable’ to this hgh-consuming class that dominates policy making, media and power-corridors.
Coupled with this, the near-recession hit economies of US & some western countries saw a way out of their economic downturn by ‘enabling’ India (and other faster growing large developing countries like China, Phillipines etc) to purchase large nos of hugely expensive nuclear reactors & power plants from their monopoly multinationals. The ‘pliant’ Indian government bent head over heels to serve the commercial & geo-political interests of these large transnational corporationsThe Indo-US nuclear deal was followed by the OK of the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier’s Group, and deals with France, Russia etc. To let these multinational companies go scot free even in the event of any possible nuclear accident in the plants supplied by them, India was pressurised to pass a nuclear liability bill, capping the liability of the company opearting the NPP to a mere Rs.1500 Crores, and making any claim from the nuclear equipment supliers very difficult to pursue.
The spectre of fossil-fuel driven global warming & the emerging climate change crisis, has given the dangerous nuclear energy an excuse to raise its ugly head in a new avatar – that of being climate friendly energy technology, though based on many false premises. Adding more insane rationale – is the real possibility of reaching Peak-Oil in the coming few years, with the resultant oil-price spike likely to derail the capitalist global economy, dependent as it is on cheap and concentrated sources of energy.
Some basic Information about proposed Gorakhpur NPP in Fatehabad District, Haryana
Location – Proposed Plant - After a visit in early 2010 by a high level land selection committee from Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), comprising of engineers & managers, to the villages of Gorakhpur, Kumharia & Kajal Heri in Fatehabad district, the final selection of site for the proposed 4 X 700 MWe nuclear power plant based on ‘indigenous’ 700 MWe heavy water reactors was approved.
Two reactors are planned in the 1st phase. The first proposed name of “Kumharia NPP’ was later changed to Gorakhpur NPP, as most of the land to be acquired is from Gorakhpur village which is about 210 KMs by road from Delhi (the straight-line distance is just about 150 KMs). This is the village where religious guru Baba Gorakhnath was born. A little bit of land is also being acquired from ‘Kajal Heri’, a beautiful Bishnoi village. To reach Gorakhpur village (visible in the map below, east of Fatehabad town, close to border of Hissar district), take a right-turn about 15 KMs before reaching Fatehabad.
Fatehabad town – the district headquarters, situated about 40 KMs N-W of the large industrial town of Hissar, has a history dating back to the 14th century, when emperor Feroz Shah Tughlaq founded it and named it after his son Fateh Khan. The town and its surrounding villages were given the status of a district in 1997. Fatehabad is an important centre for agricultural trade, and the district thrives on a well-developed farming economy, with most lands giving three crops a year and its affluent farming community being the key contributor to its rising economy. It is said to be the biggest pesticides market in Haryana.
Proposed NPP TOWNSHIP – Mostly in ‘Badopal’ village on the main Road (NH-10) from Hisar to Fatehabad town (population over 50,000), which is a big (population – close to 20,000) Bishnoi dominated village. Pl note, this is a violation of AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) norms, as no habitation of over 10,000 people should be there with in the ‘sterile’ zone, 6.6 KMs from any NPP boundary. Similarly, there are high population towns like Fatehabad, Ratiya, Tohana – close by which will pose grave risks to lakhs of people in case of any major radioactive leakage. Even Hisar, with apopulation of over 200,000 is hardly 30 KMs away.
The project is being proposed on indigenous NPCIL reactor design, four such are proposed to be built at this site – each of 700 MWe capacity, totalling 2800 MWe. Till date, India do not have such a large NPP, though many of the new proposals are even bigger – like Jaitapur. A total of over 1500 Acres of land is being acquired, about 1313 from Gorakhpur village, about 185 from Badopal village, and 3-5 from Kajal Heri. Notification to acquire the land – under Section 4 (urgency clause) of the archaic & colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894, was issued on July 29, 2010. The “exclusion zone” of 1.6 KMs from the plant boundary will be outside this, but the local population will loose control over & most kinds of use for that land, though not acquired. And the “sterile zone” contains a large population, who will get many adverse healt impacts and be in constant fear of catastrope .
Though the NPCIL site selection team visited the area in early 2010, the in-principle clearance for the project was given in Oct. 2009 itself. At the beginning some of the villagers welcomed the project with the idea that their land prices will go up, but from August 2010 they are strongly resisting the project, and a Kisan Sangharsh Samity was formed – which is on a continous sit-in protest in front of the mini-secretariat at Fatehabad town, for over 240 days now (from August 17, 2010). This was a result of slowly developing awareness about the possible dangers of a NPP in the vicinity. Inspite of the Haryana Govt increasing the compensation offer, the Kisan Sangharsh Samity is determined not to give land for the NPP. Now, several peripheral villages, whose land is not being acquired, have also joined the resistance struggle, becoming aware of the grave dangers they will face from the plant. Realising this, even Delhi’s citizens and activists protested the mad rush for nuclear power in India, with sevral candle-light vigils, protests marches, memoranda etc.
The economy of Fatehabad district is largely agricultural, with many agro-based industries also contributing to its prosperity. The primary agricultural products are Wheat, Mustard, Rice & Cotton, sustaining agro-products based industries like Rice mills, cotton ginning units, oil extraction mills etc. Vegetables are also grown, along with orchards being developed in some areas. The district is said to be the largest pesticides market in Haryana, because of the vibrant input-intensive agriculture (not a good thing, but shows the agricultural prosperity that exists). Inspite of being a low-rainfall region (just above 400 mm a year compared to even dry Delhi’s 615 mm), land in the region gets three crops, primarily because of the Bhakra branch canal’s plentiful water supply – which is the lifeline of the whole area. The productivity of the land can be guessed from the fact that absentee landlords give the land to tillers at rates of Rs.30,000 – 45,000 per Acre per year, compared to about Rs.20,000 in most other areas of Haryana. The tree cover in peripheral areas is also much denser than comparable areas in Haryana or Punjab.
The economy of Fatehabad district is largely agricultural, with many agro-based industries also contributing to its prosperity. The primary agricultural products are Wheat, Mustard, Rice & Cotton, sustaining agro-products based industries like Rice mills, cotton ginning units, oil extraction mills etc. Vegetables are also grown, along with orchards in some areas. The district is said to be the largest pesticides market in Haryana, because of the vibrant input-intensive agriculture. Inspite of being a low-rainfall region (just above 400 mm a year compared to Delhi’s 615 mm), land in the region gets three crops, primarily because of the Bhakra canal’s plentiful water supply – which is the lifeline of the whole area. The productivity of the land can be guessed from the fact that absentee landlords give the land to tillers at rates of Rs.30,000 – 45,000 per Acre per year, compared to about Rs.20,000 in most other areas of Haryana. The tree cover in peripheral areas is also much denser than comparable areas in Haryana or Punjab.
Please note, that the huge water requirement of this large NPP will be entirely dependent on this Canal, as the area has no perennial rivers (Ghaggar being a seasonal one), and no big lake etc. In view of the now dramatically demonstrated criticality of continous cooling requirement of any nuclear reactor (Fukushima Dai Ichi – where the unlimited sea water is being used to cool), this is suicidal. What happens if some groups demanding reservation etc (like the present Jat demands & agitation) breaches the canal to pressurise the Govt. ? Where from the huge water requirement will be met ? And any NPP requires even more cooling water per MW, than even a hugely water guzzling coal fired Thermal Power Plant of same capacity.
On top of that, the agricultural economy is likely to collapse, as a major part of the water from this Bhakra branch canal will be sucked in by the NPP for its cooling requirement, as the Haryana Govt has assured it of 320 Cusecs of water. Where from the farmers are going to get their irrigation water afterwards ? And connected with the agro-economy, are the multitude of agro-based industries running in the district now, providing jobs & livelihoods to tens of thousands of people.
Another direct benefit from this lush green surroundings, is the abundance of wild life in the area, compared to relatively bio-diversity-barren landscapes of most of Haryana & Punjab. Large nos of birds including a variety of Kingfishers are seen around. The area – Bishnois being a large presence in many villages – also boasts of the presence of several hundred Black-bucks, who are seen roaming around fields and tree covered areas freely. This area deserves to be declared a people’s wild-life sanctuary, in view of its bio-diversity importance in Haryana. If the NPP is allowed to come up in this “Kashmir of Haryana” (as local activists call it), all these remnants of a beautiful landscape will be lost for ever.
The proposed site being hardly 150 KMs from Delhi as-the-crow-flies, in case of any major radioactive leakage, or accident, the wind patterns will easily bring the radioactive release to the doorsteps of Delhi and NCR. Radioactive fall-out in the case of Fukushima reactor accidents were minimised because of the Pacific Ocean and the prevailing wind blowing into it. Gorakhpur in Fatehabad is surrounded by thickly populated villages & towns, Hissar being the closest large town with a population of over 200,000. The district of Fatehabad has a population of well over 8,00,000, and the wind – whichever direction it blows – will carry all that radioactive contamination into densely populated areas, including Delhi & NCR. Not a very attarctive prospect for us indifferent urbanites either.
Realising these grave dangers and against the insane drive for dangerous nuclear (fission) power, many groups – both from Haryana and from elsewhere in the country, including Delhi, have got together to support and strengthen the resistance struggle lead by the farmers of Fatehabad district. A large no of discussion meetings in villages around the site, and also in many towns of Haryana, have been organised jointly – to make people aware of the extreme dangers, about various aspects of nuclear power and the imminent threat to the vibrant agro-economy of the area. Nearly 30 villages have passed resolutions opposing the proposed Gorakhpur NPP, and expressing their dtermination not to allow it to come up here and spoil their beautiful land. Many prominent citizens in Fatehabad & other districts of Haryana have also joined this struggle against destructive nuclear power. In the weeks and months to come, the outcome will be decided by how many more groups & people rise up against this and resist this dangerous plant with what strength.
The question most frequently asked –
We need electricity, so where will this come from ? Where from the farmers will get electricity for their pumpsets ?
Though in the face this is a valid question and has valid and non-destructive answers, this has also been used to push all kinds of environmentally & socially destructive power projects. Without denying the fact that the farmers, the villagers and the other deprived sections of Haryana (and India in general) need more power, we should also recognise that many bigger towns of Haryana, like Gurgaon, Faridabad etc are already wasting a lot of power in exessive consumption patterns. Even the villages of the state are far better off – getting anything between 14-18 hours of power supply, than most villages in the east & north of India.
While Haryana has a fairly large installed conventional power capacity (including its share from projects in other states) of over 5,000 MW (and another 2,500 MW scheduled to come on stream within a couple of years time) for a population of just over 2.53 Crores, any additional requirements can be fulfilled with both renewables and extra bio-mass based power generation. Large areas in the west has solar energy potential of ~25-30 MW per Sq KM. Many rural areas have reasonable wind potential, though not amongst the better sites. But where Haryana can make up is the large power potential of its extra bio-mass.
Infact a recent study by the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HaREDA), a govt agency – estimates that Haryana can generate around 1100 MW of power from extra agricultural & forest biomass available within the state. At present, the state is generating only 128.11 MW of power from all renewable energy sources. The findings of the study, brought out in a report prepared and published by Hareda, reveal the net surplus biomass available after consumption by way of domestic use and subtraction of sugarcane biomass, is 8,416.47 thousand tonnes which holds the potential of producing 1,019 Mw of power. The maximum potential exists in Sirsa district (131 Mw), followed by Karnal (122 Mw); Kaithal (89 Mw); Kurukshetra (84 Mw); and Fatehabad (78 Mw).
Why does Haryana need to even think of the dangerous nuclear power as an option ? Stop this mad drive for profit-driven power generation, let’s promote judicious use of power & other forms of energy, and actively push for energy equity, energy security – not energy gluttony. Any large consumption will have adverse environmental & social impacts, and minimising these will directly contribute to the well being of both humans and mother nature.