Can you answer a layman, Dr. Srinivasan?

Anuj Wankhede

A concerned, educated
Indian who does not take paintings at face value.

Dr. M R Srinivasan (ex Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission) wrote in the Business Standard supporting Koodankulam nuclear power project. The magazine has not published my comments although they claim to be ‘fair’ and ‘unbiased’ in their moderation. My partial rebuttal is available on other sites. Since the learned scientist has not replied to me or the websites which published the material, I can only hope that it is an act of innocent forgetfulness. I do have some (rather, quite a few) pertinent issues with his interview. I want to ask you somethings which you did not touch upon.

Sir –

What exactly happens to the nuclear waste which gets generated? Even accounting for reprocessing, it is a huge problem. The Nuclear Suppliers will not honor all commitments forever. Where will all the radioactive material go? Whose backyard?

Sir, you might have heard of Yucca mountains in Nevada, USA. After spending billions over twenty years, why is no radioactive waste stored there?

Sir, as a well educated and well read scientific person, surely you would be up to date with current affairs. What is the condition of Reactor No. 4 at Fukushima?

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, a senior U.S. Senator visited Japan last month. His report describes the shocking state of that reactor which is no more than a broken shell with huge amount of spent fuel. Surely, one small quake and it will be the end of large parts of that country, besides polluting the whole earth with extremely high and catastrophic levels of radiation.

Sir, you have said that Fukushima was an exceptional case. But then ALL accidents are exceptional and unpredicted – till they happen. That is precisely why they are accidents. I believe that what you had in mind is something called as a “black swan” incident. But, a black swan happens only the FIRST TIME. After that, it should be anticipated. Rather, it should be avoided as an unacceptable risk.

People in large numbers protested in Idinthakarai yesterday. Photo Courtesy: Amirtaraj Stephen

Every project, every business – rather everything we do – has some element of risk. The correct term is “Risk – Reward Ratio” So, is it justified – the risk which this project entails in return for questionable returns? Are you in the habit of crossing a high street with your back turned to speeding traffic? Knowingly face an accident? The fact that you are so much elder to me indicates that you must be a careful person. Then why and how does your conscience justify the perils you ask your fellow citizens to take?

Sir, you might have heard about the worst industrial accident, ironically in India. It happened in Bhopal. Thousands perished then. That happened in 1984. But till date children are born with serious defects because of the chemical poisoning their parents or grand parents received. You may be aware of DNA and genetics – at least in passing.

Radioactivity does the same, only with more deadly effect. Otherwise, why would X-Ray technicians wear protective clothing? The Bhopal experience taught us many things. The most notable one being that the friendly foreign partner deserts you faster than rats desert a sinking ship. How are you certain that the liability will be paid to the victims – however paltry it is?

Incidentally, is that the reason why the poor are classified as earning less than half a dollar? So that the least amount is payable based on their earning potential?

It remains a mystery as to how you claim that a ‘few’ people were affected by Chernobyl. Sir, I was a young lad in 1986 when this happened. You were a young scientist then. We both recall the radioactive cloud moving towards Europe. We have grown up in the past 25 years. But even after so long, an approximately 3000 to 4000 sqkm area in Ukraine is still unfit for habitation. You have delt professionally with the erstwhile Soviets and know for a fact that real numbers were never disclosed. If you notice, countries around Ukraine till date have the highest rate of cancer and birth deformity. Surely Sir, you are aware of the Indian governments statistics for cancer rates at TAPS & MAPS among others?

As a highly educated and distinguished person, you might be aware of “criminal negligence”, “common and malafide intention”, “acts done with the knowledge to cause harm to person and property” I would hate to see you become a party to such conspiracy. That would actually be criminal waste of your intelligence.

Sir, I have many more questions in my mind. If you think I should not ask them, I think you should reply to todays questions. These questions are being directly asked to you and I will ascertain that you receive a copy of this. Just want to make sure that if at a later date, your memory fails you, the proof remains intact. It is never too late to admit your mistakes and move on, rather be condemned to face the results of past mistakes.

Thank you,

Anuj Wankhede

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