Letter to PM on Koodankulam: Prof Atul Chokshi, IISc, Bangalore

March 27, 2012
Dear Shri Manmohan Singh:

I am writing to express my deep concern and sorrow at the recent developments in Kudankulam and Idhitikarai. While there can be vigorous debate and disagreement on nuclear energy, as a country formed with democratic ideals India surely cannot allow repressive action against a
group of non-violent people who oppose the nuclear plant at Koodankulam. The use of massive police force to intimidate villagers, and the reported blocking of water and food to the village is unacceptable.

Although new nuclear plants are perhaps safer than those constructed decades ago, it is impossible to rule out a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, despite the considerable attention devoted to reducing risk in such complex and large-scale engineering designs. This is tacitly acknowledged by all Governments that try to locate such plants in regions away from “large” population centers. Furthermore, the understanding of potential risk and damage is implicit in the continuing push to limit liability by corporations and countries wishing to sell nuclear power plants. It is important to note that the single nuclear accident in Fukushima is estimated to cost $250 billion, or more. These large estimates of damage pale in comparison with the Rs. 1,500 crore ($300 million) limit of liability in India which the foreign providers find unacceptable, and whose objections the Govt is apparently trying to accommodate.

As citizens, a group of villagers who are concerned about potential risks with nuclear power surely deserve at least the same, if not more, courtesy as foreign providers of nuclear power plants whose demands appear to be attended to with alacrity.

The concerned citizens near the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, and others near future planned plants, deserve your serious attention. Without meaningful discussion, a significant number of citizens who are directly affected by such projects are feeling left out of the democratic process. Note that several countries are now moving towards local consent-based approaches to nuclear power and related issues, and this seems appropriate also for India.

The large scale and dramatic increase in nuclear power over the next several decades envisioned by the Govt appears to have been planned without broad consultation and serious consideration of recent developments in other energy sources. The Koodankulam imbroglio, together with the Fukushima disaster, provides an opportunity to pause and initiate a greater public debate on energy needs and possible means of satisfying these needs in as benign a manner as possible, so that citizens can participate meaningfully in the process, without feeling alienation caused by policies being rammed down on their lives.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Atul Chokshi
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore



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