Laurent Fournier

Laurent Fournier, born in Paris, architect by profession, lives in
Kolkata with his wife and their children.

Dear Prime Minister,

You said at the opening ceremony of the Indian Science Congress on 3rd January in Kolkata, that:

“Complex issues, be they genetically modified food or nuclear energy or exploration of outer space, cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment. A scientific approach and understanding of these issues are, therefore, as vital as our core scientific capabilities” (link)

The people of India, France, Japan and other nuclearised countries are eagerly looking forward to the end of secrecy and to an enlightened, structured, and scientific” debate on the issues of GMO and nuclear energy.

If India, under your leadership and for the first time in the world, is bold enough to allow and facilitate such an unprecedented democratic process, it would have hugely beneficial repercussions for both science and democracy worldwide.

Today, Fear is the main drive pushing for the continuation of nuclear energy in countries like France or the UK. Georges Monbiot, probably one of the most eloquent and articulate supporters of nuclear energy, admitted that the monstrous stockpile of nuclear waste accumulated in these countries is now preventing them from doing anything that could damage the nuclear industry. Monbiot is not the only person to have realised there is no “stop” button. But he is one of the very few to tell it publicly. He said:

“We are confronted not just with a choice between nuclear power and gas or coal – whose consequences I have explained elsewhere – but also with a choice between different nuclear technologies. This is a choice that has to be made, because we have a monstrous pile of nuclear waste, a legacy of both the irresponsible short-termism of those who ran previous generations of nuclear power plants and of the nuclear weapons industry. We cannot wish this waste away. It exists and something must be done about it.”

But you rightly said, Mr. Prime Minister, that fear should not be allowed to take the front seat. The fear of our limitless responsibility towards nuclear waste, however founded, should not be allowed to misguide politicians into wishing away its very existence and producing even more of it!

Do Indian citizens know what is done exactly with the nuclear waste produced in their name? Has any debate (structured or even
non-structured), ever taken place?

President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the inaugural ceremony of the 100th Indian Science Congress in Kolkata on Thursday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish (THE HINDU)

President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the inaugural ceremony of the 100th Indian Science Congress in Kolkata on Thursday. — Photo: Sushanta Patronobish (THE HINDU)

The other two main drives of nuclear energy are Emotion and Faith, fueling the myth of the prestige of being member of the so-called
“nuclear club”, as the Indian main stream media puts it. The former US President, Mr. Georges Bush, was a master in pretending “gifting
privileges”, but at a cost. Therefore and as you said, emotion and faith can’t be allowed anymore to have such a overwhelming strength in the debate.

There is only one aspect in which I would differ from what you said. The issue of nuclear energy is indeed extremely complex for countries like France, Japan, and the UK. These relatively densely populated countries, of which each citizen is the hapless “owner” several kilograms of high activity nuclear waste, have a huge technico-political problem. That is why France is willing to sell its
EPR at any cost, even accepting a huge loss for each reactor, be it to Finland, to China, to India or to the former President Kadhafi of
Libya (in 2007, a few years before he was killed by French forces).

The issue for the French nuclear industry is not to earn money by selling reactors, since they are subsidising them at 50% to 70%, but
to keep the myth going. Nothing would be more damaging to the current attitude of the French nuclear industry that the end of the rule of “emotion and faith” that you are calling for, but nothing is more necessary today.

For example, the French “Cour des Comptes” (government audit authority) recently observed that the cost of electricity produced by the EPR now exceeds even the cost of solar photovoltaics.

But in India the issue is not so complex, because there is still a very little amount of waste that has been produced here. Therefore the
economical and social aspects of nuclear energy are not at all as complex as in a country like France, which is about to be economically
overwhelmed by the nuclear waste management. India can still avoid doing the same mistake.

Her present position at the nuclear tipping point gives India a vanguard position to initiate the world-wide democratic and scientific debate that you are calling for. The citizens of India, France and of all nuclearised countries, who are subsidizing nuclear energy with their hard-earned money and with the loss of their natural heritage, are looking forward to this debate, which must be allowed and facilitated at all levels of society.

Yours Sincerely,
Laurent Fournier
1/22-E, Chittaranjan Colony,
Jadavpur, Kolkata-32