Radiation Leak in Rawatbhata: The Nuclear Cover-Up Begins

Dr. EAS Sarma’s letter to the PM

14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Visakhapatnam 530002To

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Subject:- Tritium leak at Rajastahan Atomic Power project- Non-disclosure under Section 4 of RTI Act a statutory violation

I have come across a news report (enclosed) today on the leakage of tritium at Rajasthan Atomic Power project about a week ago in which around thirty workers were exposed to radiation. Till date, even though more than a week’s time has elapsed, neither DAE nor NPCIL has made a public discosure of the episode, thereby violating the requirement under Section 4 of RTI Act. Since you head DAE, I believe you have the responsibility to ensure that your Ministry is in compliance with the law of the land.

The forwarded letter addressed to you on December 4, 2012 referred to Kakarpar accident on which DAE/ NPCIL remained tightlipped. DAE has defied PMO’s assurance on a public disclosure of the pre-Fukushima safety audits and the action taken reports.

Your Ministry cannot and should not operate in such an opaque manner, especially after the country has witnessed the full magnitude of the Fukushima distater.

May I once again request you, Mr. Prime Minister, to do the least, that is, abide by the law of the land?


Yours sincerely,

Former Secretary to GOI

After DiaNuke.org brought into light the radiation accident at the Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant (RAPP) yesterday, the NPCIL’s media managers seems to have gone into a knee-jerk trouble shooting mode. Whereas the initial news in Rajasthan Patrika mentions 38 workers being exposed to Tritium leak at Rawatbhata, Nalinish Nagaich, the Executive Director in-charge of media at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has reportedly said that only 2 workers are exposed to radiation. NPCIL sprung into action a week after the accident, when reports started appearing in the local media and the workers at RAPP staged protest.

Sources at Rawatbhata told DiaNuke.org that out of the 38 workers initially reported to have been exposed to radiation, 22 were contractual workers and rest were regular employees or RAPP. An AERB team visited the site and has collected samples from the plant, the nearby soil and the surrounding atmosphere. While the samples have been taken to Mumbai by the AERB for investigation, the media managers of the NPCIL have already certified that there is absolutely no radiation leak in the atmosphere !

Such underplaying of nuclear accidents by the media managers of the NPCIL in nuclear reactor is not new. Dr. Gadekar told DiaNuke.org that the nuclear establishment has resorted to similar denials at Kakrapar, Kalpakkam, MAPS, Narora and other sites in the past. HERE is a reality-check for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent claim in the parliament that India has no history of nuclear accidents. It is time our PM re-examines the nuclear establishment’s briefs submitted to him. What else can one expect from an establishment that continues to believe that there is no nuclear accident in Fukushima, the Daiichi reactors are in cold shut down and there is nothing except radiation phobia behind the massive protests in Tokyo where more than 1,00,000 people were reported to hit Tokyo Streets yesterday to oppose nuclear restart in Japan. In fact, the Indian Government considers anti-nuclear “mindset” is a delusion and has employed the country’s premier mental health institution to counsel the protesters!

Speaking to DiaNuke.org, Dunu Roy of Hazards Centre, a Delhi-0based NGO working in the field of industrial pollution and occupational health, expressed his shock and dismay over the practice of employing casual workers by the nuclear industry. He said  that employing contractual workers in the nuclear power plants which are  high-risk  workplaces and also security-sensitive zones, is simply inconceivable and should not be allowed at all. Moreover, the establishment should certify the area to be safe first and only then any specific maintenance or repair work should be started. A proper logbook for workers and protocol must be strictly followed in all this. Unfortunately, the industries in general continue to be in denial and criminal negligence in India when it comes to workers’ safety.

Dr. Surendra Gadekar shared some similar observations – the nuclear industry has set 1.5 milirem as the maximum radiation exposure permissible for a casual worker. If a casual worker is exposed to the same dose in a single day, he looses a full year’s employment. In most cases, these contractual workers are left back in the vast crowd of unemployed masses and the dangerous diseases that they catch later are then are considered to be unrelated to the nuclear industry .

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan, the former Chief of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), has been raising the need for more transparency, public participation and autonomy of the safety mechanism in the nuclear inductry in India for a long time. Two comprehensive safety audits conducted during his tenure were put under the carpet by the government, by labeling them “top secret”.

Kumar Sundaram



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