• The nuclear shadow over Karachi: nuclear reactor plan imperils 20 million peopleThe nuclear shadow over Karachi: nuclear reactor plan imperils 20 million people
 
Anuj Wankhede

Anuj is a Masters in Management Studies, an avid environmentalist who believes that bigger the problem, bigger the opportunity.

He can be reached at benchmark.anuj (at)gmail.com and 9757475875

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?

Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy protest outside the Prime Minister’s office in New Delhi on May 4, 2010 before filing RTI petitions on the nuclear liability bill. Photo: THE HINDU

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!

A Liability law seeks to set a level playing field in case of a civilian nuclear accident. The learned gentlemanmakes 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.