Koodankulam: Cryptic Kalam

Dr. Tushar Chakraborty

The present Congress led Government in India is astonishingly desperate in its nuclear game plan. It is apparently hell bent upon to purchase nuclear reactors worth billions of rupees , which even Industrialized western nations cannot afford , and after Three Miles Island , Chernobyl and Fukushima  mega disasters , installations of  which should be  marked as a crime against humanity . One hoped , that  the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan , a Asian neighbor ,r should spark a rethink of nuclear-research programme in India  However , Indian nuclear mandarins , and the Prime Minister became more stubborn post Fukushima . They proceeded to establish a six reactor nuclear park at Jaitapur near in Konkan district near Mumbai . . In Jaitapur , one protester was killed by the Maharashtra police . But the protest continued and swelled day by day .  The focus of attention has now shifted  from Jaitapur to Kudankulam in Tamilnad . Here ,ultimately  the Chief Minister Jailalita supported the local people who were agitating against the nuclear plant . Possibly to change the dynamics of this movement , desperate central government took a strange step. It put a former President APJ Abdul Kalam , who hails from the same province , in a propaganda mission . It was their wishful thinking – that this former missile man , who perform as a state-sponsored science advocate will be able to spark patriotic feelings and label the protest as a foreign –sponsored mission . However, the self styled Kalam added to much spice in his advocacy.. Rather than dissipating the movement , it has rather sharpened it .

Former President Kalam came to Kudankalam and visited the NPP site . He called its safety features “ state –of –the –art “. He specifically targeted Mr S P Udayakumar , who is one of the main organizer of this protest movement at Kudankalam .from  the ground zero . Everyone knows that the nuclear plant safety features are elaborate , but , they are essentially ,”art –for-arts sake”. They can neither stop small scale events and accidents , nor the catastrophic massacres . The unsafe aspects are embedded in the theory of complexity – which cannot be weeded out . More elaborate safety features and back-ups you make , more prone it becomes to suddent collapse . A small perturbation can amplify into a chaos . Another inborn problem of nuclear reactor is associated with the fission reaction itself . To be critical , the reactor core has to set-up a chain reaction , which need to be tamed by control and moderation . Whenever , environmental or out-side incident hits the plant – the control unit is prone to disruption . Hence , the chances of meltdown can never be ruled out . It is that very reason , why , the fusion based ITER are being designed .  Only a fusion reactor can be free from  such risk – and they can also largely by pass the spent-nuclear-fuel rsks . After Fukushima , now the back end spent-nuclear-fuel risk are being perceived as the major  uncontrollable risks . The risks in nuclear plants are also associated with human-ness , and human error . To errr is human – and hence , this cannot be entirely ruled out too. Earthquake, tornado, tsunami  , a large meteorite , falling aircraft or missile can set a disaster . The climate change and terrorism are increasing the risks too .  How , Kalam can be so sure that Kudankalam plant is risk free and absolutely safe ? Can he divulge his safety audit procedure – so that the world may benefit from his wisdom ?

Interestingly , APJ Abdul Kalam neither came empty handed , nor alone . He came with media , and came with a hidden agenda . He knew , that his face , gestures or assurance will not be enough to change the “dynamics”. He , came with a 10 point “ action-plan”. This has nothing to do with safety aspects . Read this 10 point offer as a bunch of carrots- by which he wanted to lure the poor local protesters – whom he perceived as just some “ hungry-rabbits” .These are the poor fisherman of his own locality . But , they were not only hungry , they became angry too , when he exposed his plan .They equated this with the corruption – which is now churning the nation . The newspapers like Times of India published his list , even before the Government acknowledged them .Hence , the people knew – this is just a got-up plan . Kalam sincerity in inspecting the plant got lost in this act.

The Kudankalam villagers shoud ask APJ Kalam , why not let government do all these 10 poin local t developmental work first , and the propose to set-up the plan ? That will be more rational , and believable to them .

As expected , work at India’s largest nuclear power park in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu remains stalled as a consequence of the people’s agitation against the nuclear reactor till today . In an exclusive interview Mr SA Bhardwaj, the second in command at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, speaks to NDTV’s Pallava Bagla. He lamented that  the delay in starting the plant is not only causing a financial loss but is endangering the life of the plant and the taking people into confidence is must and all questions will be answered.

The simple fact , which still eludes these chaps are , this is practically impossible in the post Fukushima world .


( Dr Tushar Chakraborty is a molecular Biologist . He writes on Science and Technology policy , and is associated with anti-nuclear movements. He can be contacted at chakraborty.tushar@gmail.com)




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