Nuclear Energy is not the way

Chaitanya Kalevar

Chaitanya Kalevar is a  an Electrical Engineer of Indian origin, based in Canada.

He calls himself a “Planetary Patriot” and is active in movements against nuclear energy and climate change.

I had a great feeling of consternation when I heard that India and USA have signed a civilian nuclear agreement. I decided to intervene to change the nuclear path on which India was being misled into by technologically ignorant politicians focused solely on economic growth without properly evaluating the environmental and health risks associated with the energy options involved.

I decided to intervene, but how…. after living in Canada since 1965. I chose to attend PBD (Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas) -11 in New Delhi and informed in a plenary that Canada also does not have any solution for nuclear waste. Needless to say, my comments created a hush amongst the Indian-American promoters of the deal. Some appeared to be stunned, but chose to ignore me. I heard about the opposition to the nuclear power in India and I was heartened.

I attended PBD -12 in Jaipur early this year. This time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was reporting with great bravado how Gujarat also has 7 energy horses like Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, and one of them being nuclear energy. In question period, I was recognised and I asked in Hindi “One of your horses has [lad] shit that smells for a millennium.” He responded after some consultation with staff “What can I do, I am Chief Minister for only ten years, but I have this nuclear station for 30 years. Where can I send this?” Posed with a question like that with over a thousand PBD delegates in the hall, I responded with a curt “To Minister Ravi’s home”. He was the only Union Minister on the podium with 4 chief ministers. Minister Ravi’s silent facial response generated a mixed reaction of awe, laughter and giggles and some clapping.

Times of India reported that a Planetary Patriot is attending at PBD. Many delegates supported me in my conversation and joked about I might be blocked from attending next PBD. I shrugged my shoulders, but the recent denial of VISA to Ms Kobayashi by India’s embassy in Tokyo shows another repressive path the Man Mohan Singh’s agenda necessitates contrary to India’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and assembly.

As a young engineer in India and Canada

In the early 60s as a newly graduated electrical engineer from IISC Bangalore, I worked at Trombay’s CANDU reactor and asked my senior engineers after an internal technical meeting “What are you going to do with nuclear waste?” He replied with his post-colonial regard for the western technology and know how, “Don’t worry about it, there are smart engineers in Canada and USA and they will find an answer in 5 or 10 years!” As a respectful junior I understood that to mean that a plan is in the pipeline and it is a matter of time that it will be implemented. My question persisted with me. I could not imagine how someone say twice or thrice as smart as me could possibly solve this riddle of storing nuclear waste or change properties of the atom itself. They could not, they have not and they will not too!

But then I had not met anyone who had returned from Canada or USA in those days, and certainly no one trained in nuclear technology. Luckily I was a good student and got a scholarship for University of Waterloo, in Canada. In the late 60s, North America was busy with opposition to the Vietnam War. I soon discovered on campus talking to many engineering graduate students, how some of their projects could be used in the war efforts.

Engineers to build for society or war mongers?

Having been raised as the grandson of the city engineer of Indore, MP I always saw engineering as a noble profession to build for the needs of the society, but building for the war economy just demotivated my strong impulse for engineering. In early 1970s, when the oil crisis hit North America hard, and Ontario decided to build some more nuclear plants at Pickering a short 30 KMs from Toronto, I spoke out against the nuclear project in Canada. I became the Secretary of “Ontario Coalition for Energy Planning” and my anti-nuclear public advocacy role began.

Nuclear industry has no significant decommissioning experience today and safe storage of nuclear waste is still a mirage. Only the people with full faith in ‘technical solutions will somehow arrive’ or engineers who cannot be bothered to get trained into another useful discipline continue to speak highly of nuclear technology – too cheap to meter and no CO2 emissions as its main selling points. It is mostly promoted by economic -growth-blinkered politicians as a tool for secure energy, as if high energy life style and energy security are some kind of gods that civilisations must not defy without grave consequences.

So after the PBD in Jaipur, after visiting Indore I went to Bangalore and then Jaitapur. I could not squeeze in Koodankulam too in my limited time and resources. My visit to the fishing village and its mosque was an experience to cherish. I spoke in Marathi and no mention of any religion came up. The audience was fully in tune with the nuclear concerns of the day!

Jaitapur a disaster in making

What I said at Jaitapur in my visit in January 2012 – is perhaps worth repeating. Prime Minister ManMohan Singh may be a good economist, but is a poor judge of nuclear technology.

India under Gandhi and its long tradition has always stood for “simple living and high thinking” and not follow the colonial life style of “live highly and think only after a war or a disaster or two”.

The world, in particular the west, must abandon its high energy life style and save the planet from being roasted with carbon or radiated with uranium. It’s best to not use the misplaced investment in Koodankulam plant than to start it and create extra expense of decommissioning it for the future generations.

Call me foreign Mr Prime Minister, but my first taste of nuclear energy experience was in Trombay in 1963. I asked “what are you going to do about nuclear waste?” Neither an answer was found in India nor in Canada – the home of the CANDU reactor!

In my humble opinion, a responsible answer does not exist, as no leak-proof container can be built to contain the nuclear waste for millennia or two. Even if one were to build one today, how would you know now that it will survive without a leak for millennia?

Managing nuclear waste is much more challenging, Prime Minister, than managing the economy. Energy demand is no GOD for which millions more ‘BALIDANS’ are required. Not now or ever! Let us learn the long term goal of living within our means of renewable energy that sun and our mother earth provide. Anything more from carbon or uranium is unaffordable for future generations!


Provide solar water heaters and solar panels for Konkan and beyond. Yes, let the democratic SUN help us out and do not bend before the bullying technology of the west, as USA and Israel clearly show in their dealing or bullying of Iran. Not that I support Iranian adventure into proliferation, but the double standards of the nuclear powers with respect to non-proliferation is greater danger to our planet than any baby proliferation of non-nuclear states!

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – the foreign hand in the building of nuclear power plants began right from the CANDU at Trombay in late 50s or early 60s is obvious and is undeniable! What do you think the recent civilian nuclear agreement with USA – is that an all out indigenous product?

Let us rely on our simple life styles and enhance it by only renewable means for a sustainable living. Time has come for India to preach its simple ways to the world rather than follow the dangerous bullying and wasteful ways of the colonial minds that have ravaged the planet for at least a couple of centuries! The old European habits of discovering land and not noticing the people on it must come to an absolute end. The claims on all the resources of the planet must also be relinquished by those who have already have had more than their share. Ecological debt needs to be paid back. Not meeting Kyoto targets should beget some economic penalties. A global referendum on climate change is a good democratic way to proceed. Let the true democrats and democracies stand up!

Climate change cannot be shrugged off by anyone. Let alone by those with large overloading of the atmosphere with their CO2 for centuries and suffering from obesity crisis at the weighing scale. The new game of declaring war for democracy on despots to grab those countries resources [Iraq, Libya and potentially Iran] must also come to an end. Resources of our planet are not for just this generation or next but all the coming generations for unending time.






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