Why Say No To Nuclear Power?: Dhirendra Sharma

Dr. Dhirendra Sharma, Director of Science Policy Centre, is the author of India’s Nuclear Estate

He can be contacted at-
“Nirmal-Nilay,” Dehradun 248009. +91-9897883741

The fundamentalist argument is that there is no alternative to nuclear power to meet the energy deficit of 150,000 MWe. by 2030.n At best it is 50 year old presumption.In 1950s, when it was hoped to turn the Atoms for War into the Atoms of Peace, Homi J. Bhabha, the founder of Department of Atomic Energy, had assumed that “the Nuclear power would be so cheap that we need not to meter.” He had hoped 10,000 MW electricity generation by 1960. But the Department of Atomic Energy ‘s official Reports (1970), promised 10,000 MWe by 2000. Today, ( 2011), however, total installed capacity is just about 4000 MWe., whereas the DAE draws almost this much power from the national grid to run its entire nuclear establishments.

As the Prime Minister is always the Minister of Atomic Energy. the Man Mohan Singh government had now ventured to serve the nation with
30 ,000 MW nuclear power by 2030. So, the government had, without necessary technical and financial assessments, entered into Nuclear Deals with the U.S., and the French giant Areva. And New Delhi planned to install 6×1650 MW, ready-made defective and untested, imported reactors, at a cost of $ 150 billions US dollars.

Today, with a futuristic public policy perspective, the most relevant question is the reliability of the Nuclear power system. For, the IAEA Head of Planning and Economic Studies, Mr. Hans-Holger Rogner confirms that since Chernobyl, in 1986, the nuclear industry is dormant for 30 years. But to revive the Nuclear Power programme ‘The US have to rebuilt supply networks, craft workers and welders to be recruited and trained, component manufacturing shops to be built, with industrial infrastructures reinforced.’

Editor-in-Chief and Head of the Information Division of International Atomic Energy Agency Mr. Lothar Wedekind reiterated that ‘the future of Nuclear Power is uncertain. But one thing looks clear – the next generation of (nuclear) plants will not be Made in the USA.’

Commenting on the Bhopal fiasco deals, former Deputy Adviser to the Planning Commission, Mr. R. K. Sahi, had said that the ‘technology (was) obsolete and the US company wanted to dump it in India.” In view of the Enron experience, we should re-think the Nuclear deals, particularly, since New Delhi had initiated it during the neo-con George Bush-Blair regime when the bankrupt nuclear industry had launched a revival campaign. And the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Dr. Dale Klein had made it clear that ‘there was no scope for revival of Nuclear sector in the US.’

In India, the nuclear power had not been integrated into the National Energy Planning. The Planning Commission’s National Energy Study Report (1980), had confirmed that the power generation is not competitive with the traditional sources of energy. Thus, the DAE’s performance and planning had remained beyond the purview of the Energy Planning Commission. Still, to complete its nuclear business, the Department of Atomic Energy had issued, (the Hindu, June 12 ), the ‘Guidelines for Implementation of Arrangements for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy with other Countries.’ Under the Article 2 (iii )it would allow nuclear imports of equipments and reactors entering this country without customary inspection or technical supervision.
Nuclear energy was born for destructive purposes. So ,there is no issue more urgent than the democratic control over the nuclear business. There is a Scientific Advisory Council and also a Scientific Advisory Committee to advise the Prime Minister on Science Policy affairs. The advisory bodies should come forward with the long-term assessment of Nuclear deals that pose potentially high risk to life and liberties of future generations. Besides, the financial status and reliability of the French consortium should have also been looked into. For, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, (2009) had confirmed that ‘the largest nuclear builders in the world ( the French) AREVA NP, has turned into financial fiasco.’ Britain and other European states had already refused installation of the Areva nuclear reactors. But the Man Mohan Singh government decided to close the deals with the bankrupt US and French companies.

With a futuristic science policy perspective, the nation should know the long-term social cost of the Nuclear Power. For, every stage in life of atom, from mining of uranium onwards, involves high risks. We, the Nation and the Parliament must know what are the strategic considerations which forced the Environment Minister to clear the nuclear deals. But the long-term radiation effects is a serious problem in nuclear power. The US National Academy of Science’s Committee for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation, had cautioned the world against the potential hazards. Therefore, constitution of scientific jury is necessary for the assessment of quantum of compensation to future generations in case of a nuclear accident. That should include the loss of animals, damage to personal and public property, and contamination of rivers and water resources. In case of any defective engineering that may lead to an accident, the Nuclear Liability Bill had placed no responsibility on the foreign suppliers There are more than twenty nuclear facilities in our country where workers have been exposed to high radiation doses. The media had reported the leaks but the DAE routinely denied any mishaps. Cases of leukemia, bone and skin cancer have been higher than the national average among the surrounding population.

The DAE’s performance and safety record is at best unverifiable and the DAE is not answerable to any constitutional authority. Still, before entering the long-term Nuclear Deals, interdisciplinary discussions are necessary with the concerned ministries –Finance, Energy, Environment and the Planning Commission.

After the Chernobyl tragedy, I had suggested that in case of any radiation mishaps, the local administration be provided with rescue operational plan. “If we do that no one would allow a nuclear plant in any vicinity,” admitted the chief of the Atomic Energy Commission. But if the nuclear pandits were really certain to have developed an all time safe nuclear reactor, why not provide Life Insurance Policy to citizens living around the nuclear plants.
The DAE’s guidelines and the Indo-US and French agreements are silent on the quantum of compensation and there is no Life Insurance Policy against radiation death or damage.

It takes 10-15 years to build a nuclear power plant but the designed life of a reactor is just about fifty (50) years. Thereafter the entire structure, area, equipment and the nuclear waste pose serious engineering and financial problems for their safe-keeping for hundred years. In the nuclear deals, there is no mention who or which department or the nuclear power corporation would bear the financial responsibility for decommissioning and long-term safe keeping of the nuclear waste.

The DAE’s performance and safety record is at best unverifiable and the DAE is not answerable to any constitutional authority. Still, before entering the long-term Nuclear Deals, interdisciplinary discussions are necessary with the concerned ministries –Finance, Energy, Environment and the Planning Commission.

Even if there is no scam or commission involved in the Nuclear Deals, We, the nation must be assured how India will cope with another Chernobyl or Fukushima type tragedy. If the official claims of “safe nuclear power” to be trusted, the Non-discloser policy of the DAE must go. All the past reports of the Atomic Energy Regulatory department should be opened for the public and parliamentary scrutiny.

To say that India cannot ignore nuclear power in the era of global warning is an ill-founded fallacious argument. . Based on the post-Fukushima studies and the post- Chernobyl reports of 60 years of Nuclear Power operations world over, the Nuclear Power is neither cheap, nor reliable and potentially hazardous. Therefore, all Nuclear power countries have declared moratorium and phasing out the nuclear power. The leaders of Indian nuclear industry and the Indian media may make a visit to the Fukushima radiation theatre to assess the destructive force of the peaceful nuclear power. The Prime Minister’s insistence to go ahead with the Nuclear Deals is of serious concern for the science community. It is in the professional interest of science fraternity to play proactive role in the 21st century Energy Policy.

Dr. Abdul Kalam has recently launched the World Space Solar Power Vision 2050. The Space based Solar Power plant will be linked up the earth based collection systems with medium of transmission from space to earth, either through microwave or any other technology like laser. But to improve efficiency “nano-packs” or small batteries can be made to carrying charge back and forth from space solar station to ground power stations. The long term cost of the space based solar power plant, for time period of 20 years of operation, will be under $0.10 per Kw-h ( Kalam). Recently, Russians in Tomsk in Siberia had converted previously secret military nuclear facility into a civilian science research centre. I suggest that the exiting nuclear plants facilities in India can be converted into nano-space research and serve as the ground reception centres for the Space Solar power projects.

Non-accountability and the commission culture governs the affairs of nuclear power. There is wide trust-deficit between the DAE and the public –safety. Still, if the government wants to go ahead with its long-term commitment with the foreign suppliers, the probity demands a white paper in the Parliament and let the PM assure the nation that in the Nuclear Deals, no leakage or commission had been paid to any person or entity at home or abroad.


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