DRAFT: The People’s Charter On Nuclear Energy

Anti-Nuclear-Convention-Poster--212x300Dear friends,

This People’s Charter On Nuclear Energy will be finalised and adopted in Ahmedabad on July 25-26 in the upcoming People’s National Convention Against Nuclear Energy. It has been circulated to all the grassroots groups struggling against nuclear power projects and radiation risks.

We urge you to read and circulate it, translate it and discuss within your group and send your individual/collective comments to pksundaram@gmail.com before July 22, 2013. After incorporating suggestions received through emails, the draft will be put before the convention for further discussion and adoption.

With best regards,

Kumar Sundaram
Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
Email: pksundaram@gmail.com
Mobile Phone: +91-9810556134

The People’s Charter On Nuclear Energy

The People’s Charter On Nuclear Energy is a statement of the shared experiences, struggles and visions for a future free of nuclear energy developed by grassroots movements.

Nuclear energy is today widely seen by people as posing a threat to their safety, livelihoods and the environment. The Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan has led to global rethinking and a recognition that nuclear power is anachronistic, not least because of all industrial processes it alone can have catastrophic consequences spanning across generations. Owing to its inherent safety problems, exorbitant costs and secretive nature, it has been invariably thrust on people against their will through pressure tactics and violent repression of local communities.

India is pursuing a suicidal expansion of nuclear power. The claim that nuclear energy is indispensable for the country’s energy security is deeply flawed. The main motive in going in for a large-scale nuclear programme is to deliver on the promise of paybacks made to the US for the Indo-US nuclear deal and to other countries for their support in getting an endorsement for that agreement from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group for India. Such expansion will strengthen the domestic and foreign industrial lobbies that see great opportunities to make money through equipment supply and other contracts. It will greatly reinforce the power and prvilege of India’s highly secretive Department of Atomic Energyand further promote the highly centralised and energy-intensive path of development that is part of the neoliberal globalisation project adopted by the Indian elite and the government.

All this willdetract from meeting our real requirements of establishing an ecologically sustainable, decentralised and equitable model of energy supply and use. The proposed nuclear power projects are prohibitively expensive and marked by a combination of site-specific, generic and regulatory problems relating to safety.

People in places like Koodankulam (Tamil Nadu), Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), Gorakhpur (Haryana), Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) and Haripur (West Bengal) have waged relentless struggles against these anti-people and unsafe nuclear power projects being promoted by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) . Their massive peaceful protests have been met with callousness and brutal repression on the part of the government.

Communities near the existing nuclear facilities in Tarapur, Rawatbhata, Kalpakkam, Kaiga, Kakrapar and Hyderabad have also been raising voices against radiation leaks and their harmful effects, which are often hushed up by the authorities. Existing and proposed new uranium mines in Jharkhand , Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya have also met with massive protests.

Workers in the nuclear industry have also come out against NPCIL time and again. In the recent past, these voices of protest have received solidarity and support from the wider democratic sections of Indian society. Intellectuals, policy experts, scientists, social activists, writers, artists and people from all walks of life have come out and backed these movements.

We call upon the people of India to join up in stopping this nuclear insanity and to foster and campaign for an alternative future based on renewable, sustainable and equitable forms of energy generation and a people-centric model of development for India. This means the issue of whether or not the path of nuclear energy should be pursued (and if so, how and under what preconditions) must be put upfront on the public agenda.

We specifically demand that –

  • A moratorium should be imposed with immediate effect on all proposed nuclear reactor projects.
  • An open and democratic national debate on nuclear energy and its alternatives be organised in the country.
  • A transparent safety review of the entire nuclear sector be carried out by independent experts.
  • Land acquisition for nuclear projects should immediately be put on hold till the new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act comes into effect.
  • Periodic safety reviews of existing nuclear reactors must be carried out by independent experts. The authorities should facilitate long-term and medium-term health studies by independent health experts near the reactors; their findings must be publicised by the government.

Prior to undertaking any activity, including the preparation of a detailed project report, the government must set up a body of independent experts to carry out baseline health and environmental surveys in all areas where it is proposed to set up reactors, to start mining and otherwise establish activities and structures connected to the whole nuclear fuel cycle. The survey results must be transparently shared with the local public, which must assured full and unimpeded access to their health data.

  • A citizens-based network for radiation monitoring near nuclear facilities should be created and financed out of a public fund expressly created for that purpose.
  • Independent health inspection of nuclear workers should be carried out periodically.
  • The government must immediately and unconditionally withdraw all charges of sedition and other false allegations against people protesting against nuclear projects. By not doing so the government is violating the recent Supreme Court judgement with respect to Koodankulam.
  • The government must acknowledge the inherent hazards of nuclear power and institute a high-level citizens’ commission to examine the appropriateness, desirability, safety, environmental soundness, costs and long-term problems posed by nuclear power generation. The commission must include independent experts, social scientists and civil society representatives.
  • It is imperative to prepare a holistic and realistic energy policy, based on principles of equity, environmental sustainability and affordability, and on conventional and non-conventional energy resources, including solar, wind, small hydro, but without nuclear power.
  • The government should not violate or bypass the Nuclear (Civil Liability) Act 2010 by formulating Rules that violate the Polluter Pays principle and the Act’s spirit and purpose. It must assign the full liability for accidents and other harm to the operators and suppliers of nuclear installations proportionate to the damage likely to be caused. It is bad enough that the present Act is not based on the moral and legal principle of absolute liability in case of accidents. It must not be further compromised by Rules calculated to artificially limit the suppliers’ liability.
  • The government must immediately bring forth new legislation to replace the 1962 Atomic Energy Act to separate the military and civilian aspects of its nuclear programme and pass laws to maximise the transparency of functioning and public accountability of the civilian sector, with full public participation in decision-making.
  • The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board must be immediately made completely independent of the DAE and staffed by senior personnel known for their public probity and independence of mind who can be trusted to be completely impartial in their supervision. Furthermore, its budget provisions should come through the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
  • The Right to Information Act must be made fully applicable to all aspects pertaining to the existence and development of the civilian nuclear energy sector so that the government cannot claim secrecy in the name of security considerations and thereby hide relevant information.
  • Emergency plans in case of disasters which include procedures for mass evacuation must be publicly discussed and examined and approved by the representative bodies of those likely to be affected. Before any new plant is set up (as well as for all existing plants) the government must establish with full local participation the practical mechanisms, structures and practices for rapid and effective evacuation along with initial—and periodic—trials runs to ensure the reliability of such evacuation procedures in case of accidents.
  • The existing process of Environmental Impact Assessment for nuclear projects does not even consider or mention their specific nuclear hazards, including radiation leaks, waste storage, transportation risks, accidents, etc. This must be radically reformed. The granting of environmental clearance to all nuclear projects must be tightened with mandatory public hearings based on full disclosure of all pertinent facts , including those related to the generic problems of nuclear electricity generation, including radiation, effluents and emissions, requirements and availability of resources such as freshwater, impact on forests, fauna and flora and local eco-systems, potential for accidents and mishaps, waste separation, storage and disposal, hazards from transportation of nuclear materials, and risks to public and planned measures to mitigate these.
  • Veto power must be entrusted to an informed local population as to whether they wish or not wish to have a nuclear reactor or uranium mining or other related dangerous facilities to come up in their areas. Instead of the farce that currently takes place, there must be proper Jan Sunwais that are well advertised, organised by independent civil society bodies and open to participation and testimonies from all, be they ordinary civilians, concerned groups or experts. The local population must be able to hear all sides, be provided relevant materials in the local language as well as in English, and otherwise be given the capacity to be fully informed so that it can make up its mind on the pros and cons of whether or not to accept the establishment of the nuclear energyrelated facilities the government proposes.

The entire area of nuclear energy needs to be demystified. The nuclear establishment and industry must in conjunction with the public media and civil society organisations take inform and educate the public with regard to all matters pertaining to radiation, health, safety and the security of our people. This is the least that the government owes to the Indian public. The nuclear energy fuel cycle is too important a matter to be left only in the hands of scientists, bureaucrats, industrialists and politicians.

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