Monday, January 14, 2013

Can Nuclear Power Policy be kept outside Judicial Review?

Impacts of Uranium Fission

The fact that the process of fissioning uranium in Nuclear Reactors creates more than 200 new man-made radioactive elements, some of which "live" for only seconds: some remain radioactive for millions of years, is a well established scientific finding. It is also a well established fact that these diabolical elements, once created, will inevitably find their way into the environment and will eventually enter the reproductive organs of plants, animals and humans, where they will mutate the genes in reproductive cells to cause disease and death in the immediate generation or pass a hidden genetic disease to distant offspring down the time track.


Problem of Hazardous Nuclear Waste?


Apart from hazardous radioactive gases routinely released by the nuclear reactor into Air & Water sources resulting in contamination of Sea, Land and Water and the risks of possible accidents during operation, it is yet to be determined the method and process for safe treatment/storage/disposal of extremely potent and deadly radioactive waste generated, which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years

 When the nuclear reactor is finally closed at the end of its working life (40 to 50 yrs.) the intensely radioactive products- Cobalt 60 and Iron 55 formed inside the reactor vessel-must be allowed to decay considerably before the reactor can even be entered. These huge, intensely radioactive mausoleums must be guarded and protected for a period from 10 to 100 years, before the actual process of dismantling can begin and the radioactive components of the reactor are dismantled, packed & transported for safe disposal/storage. A regular 1,000 MW NPP is estimated to contain an amount of long-lived radiation equivalent to that released by the explosion of 1,000 Hiroshima size bombs, which inevitably entails the release of radioactive materials.

 Danger of Nuclear Power Reactor Accidents ?

Nuclear Power Reactor accidents induced by human error/ fallibility or due to natural calamities cannot be ruled out, as evidenced by melt-down of Three Mile Island Reactor in the United States, a massive power excursion erupted at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in former Soviet Union in 1986 and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to Tsunami in Japan in March 2011. The combined economic cost and losses due to these "unforeseen nuclear accidents" will probably exceed $500 billion over the years and the decades. Nuclear accidents are in a class apart, for long term damage capability. Above all, certainly since Fukushima they cannot be kept away from and out of public debate. The possible threat of terrorist attacks, similar to the one on WTC Towers in New York, on Nuclear Power Reactors cannot be ruled out, by any stretch of imagination.

There is also a potential danger of radiation contamination due to radioactive emissions exceeding stipulated safe limits, even during normal operations of nuclear reactors, resulting in environmental pollution having cumulative & irreversible adverse impact on Water, Air & Land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between Air, Water & Land and Human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property.

Credibility of Nuclear Establishment ?

The assurances about the safety of Nuclear Reactors and the impossibility of accidents offered by those with a vested interest in the continued operation and expansion of nuclear power cannot be trusted. The DAE and NPCIL do not seem to have learnt from what happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima Nuclear Reactor disasters. Fukushima has been more complex, because multiple reactors and spent fuel pools are involved.  The accident at one unit inevitably hampered responses to the situation at another, leading to parallel chain reactions of accidents and radiation releases. The obvious lesson here is that siting multiple reactors in a single location is inadvisable, as an accident in one reactor might increase the likelihood of an accident at another.

But DAE & NPCIL continue to construct (or plan to construct) multiple reactors at a single site, whether at Kudankulam, Jaitapur or Kovvada. If GOI implements their plan of 20 odd new NPPs, the entire Indian sea coast will be under Nuclear Radiation, wiping out the entire fish resources and 10 million fisher people will loose their livelihood and will be displaced.  

The other vital aspect of Nuclear Power Plants is that Government of India and the DAE clearly have no plans or preparations for important steps of transportation, storage, treatment and safe disposal of radioactive waste generated during the entire life-cycle of Nuclear Reactors. The attitude and approach of the GOI and the DAE appear to be: "We will cross the bridge when we come to it." This careless, callous and casual approach is dangerous, more dangerous than deadly radiation itself.

 Nuclear energy is the only form of energy that has the capability to cause catastrophic disasters affecting tens of thousands of people, making entire cities uninhabitable and costing tens of thousands of crores in disaster mitigation. This is the reason nuclear suppliers want to be indemnified of all liabilities and want the tax-payers to pick up the cost in case of an accident. In a densely populated country like India, a nuclear accident can easily affect lakhs of people and turn them into internal refugees. 

Who decides what is Good for our Country?

The Govt of India, in recent times, by giving "Principle Approval" for new project sites for setting up Nuclear Power Parks (NPPs) at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, at Kovvada in AP State and States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat etc. has blatantly ignored "Precautionary Principle", "Sustainable Development" and other constitutional obligations. This seems to have been done, due to apparent external compulsions, without taking into account viable and cost effective alternatives and ignoring public safety in the name of Energy Security, We have seen the GOI handling Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Enough is Enough.  


Going by the experience of Chernobyl and Fakushima and the latest move of several western countries including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland etc. to phase out nuclear power plants in a stipulated time frame and taking into account enormous financial & environmental costs and human tragedy involved, should India opt for Nuclear Power at all, unmindful of cost effective and viable alternatives available?


Many people, including sane scientists and intelligentsia, seem to be wondering that other countries with vested interests seem to be deciding what is good for our country and driving our policy/decision makers to opt for Nuclear Power, in spite of the fact our country having cost effective, environment friendly and sustainable alternatives for long time energy security?


Myth of Energy Security?


The hollowness of the argument that India needs Nuclear Power for ensuring Energy Security, can be seen from the fact that it hardly contributes to 2.51% of the present installed capacity, in spite of huge and disproportionate investments in Nuclear Power Sector during the last 4 decades or so. Moreover it goes against the country's Energy Security because of heavy dependence on import of Nuclear Fuel, Technology, and Equipment.

Even assuming that the projected installed capacity of 60,000 MW of Nuclear Power will be achieved by 2031-32, (which, going by the past record, is most unlikely), at huge financial costs under the Myth of Nuclear Safety, it hardly contributes to 7.5% of the projected total installed capacity of 800,000 MW by then, which is no where near providing energy security. This requirement can easily and cost effectively be met by environment friendly and CO2 & Nuclear Free, Energy Conservation and Efficiency Measures and the Renewable Energy Sources.

    "Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct from Nuclear Power. The actual product is forever deadly radioactive waste."— -Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes

 Constitutional Obligations

The Article 37 of Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) of The Constitution of India stipulates that the principles therein laid down are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. While Article 48-A of Directive Principles stipulates that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country, the Article 51-A (g) imposes as one of the Fundamental Duties on every citizen, the duty to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, having important constitutional implications with an international background, drew its inspiration from the proclamation adopted by United Nations Conference on the protection and improvement of the Human Environment , which affects the well-being of people and economic development. As per the Act, "Environment" includes Water, Air and Land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between Water, Air and Land, and Human Beings ,other living creatures, Plants, Micro-organisms and Property.

Can Nuclear Power Policy be kept outside Judicial Review?


The nuclear radiation contamination from NPPs, considered to be invisible poison which cannot be seen by eyes, felt by touch, tasted by tongue, remains for thousands of years to affect all life forms and environment going against the  universally accepted concept of "Sustainable Development". The development based on Nuclear Power, while meeting the greed of the present generation, passes on the problem to future generations, compromising /depriving their ability to meet their own needs. What rights do the present generation have to deprive the future generations? Therefore the Nuclear Power Policy is not a policy matter to remain outside judicial review and to be left exclusively to the Government.


The survival of mankind depends on ruthlessly following the principle of "Sustainable Development" in Letter and Spirit. Since Nuclear Power affects life much more seriously than any other industrial process, Article 21 comes into play as "Right to Life" is a Fundamental Right under the Constitution of India


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Land Acquisition for Kovvada NPP is Illegal


The AP State Government, based on "In Principle" approval accorded by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Govt of India for KNPP Project Site, issued GO. Ms. No.42 dated 1 st November 2012  notifying 5 villages in Ranasthalam Mandal of Srikakulam district, covering an area of 1916 acres having 1983 households with total population of 7960, as  the "Project Affected Zone". This was done for the purpose of acquiring the land as per Land Acquisition Act 1894 under the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy of 2007, for the proposed Kovvada Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

Statutory Site Clearance not obtained from AERB

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), constituted under Atomic Energy Act, has overall responsibility for Siting, Design, Construction, Commissioning, Operation and Decommissioning of the Nuclear Facility. AERB Safety Guide issued in March 2007 for Consenting Process for Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) and Research Reactors (RRs), details important stages of obtaining consent in respect of NPPs & RRs and specifies the relevant information to be submitted by the applicant at each stage for being reviewed and assessed, in order to evaluate the safety implications of the activity for which the consent is being sought.

 The Assessment and Consenting Process starts with Siting of the Plant, to determine whether the chosen site is suitable for the proposed type and capacity of the plant from environmental & safety considerations. The applicant NPCIL is required to furnish the Site Evaluation Report (SER) highlighting the site related aspects to AERB.  The findings and recommendations of the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) are reviewed by the Advisory Committee for Project Safety Review ( ACPSR), which makes recommendations to AERB. The findings and recommendations of ACPSR are considered by AERB for grant of consent for locating the project at the proposed Site.  

The purpose of site evaluation for Nuclear Installation in terms of nuclear safety is to protect the environment and the public from the radiological consequence of radioactive releases due to accidents, etc.  This will enable the public to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the likely environmental impact of the project.

DAE In-Principle Approval has no Sanctity

 The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), constituted the "Site Selection Committee" ( SSC) chaired by the Managing Director, NPCIL, for identifying possible sites for Nuclear Power Plants. The DAE based on the recommendation of SSC, accorded "In Principle" approval, by letter dated October 08, 2009, for setting up Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) with 6X1000MWE MWe each imported LWRs at the Kovvada Site.  The "In-Principle' approval accorded by DAE for Kovvada NPP, based on the report of SSC, chaired by MD NPCIL having conflict of interest is questionable and  has no sanctity.

 The AERB, by its letter dated 2 nd January 2013 confirmed that "No application from NPCIL has been received at AERB with regard to siting of Nuclear Power Plant at Kovvada of Ranasthalam Mandal in Srikakulam district, AP State"

Therefore, the In-Principle approval accorded by DAE for the project site, without following the process laid down for the "Site Selection' in AERB Safety Guide and without clarity regarding suitability of the chosen site for the proposed type and capacity ( 6X1000 MWe or 6X1500 MWe) of the Plant from environmental and safety considerations, is arbitrary and unjustified and it gravely injures public interest.

The entire population depending on Fishing/Agriculture/ Agriculture Labour in the proposed project site will be deprived of their livelihood and the rich agricultural land prospering with horticulture crops, by misadventure of acquiring the land without proper evaluation and assessment by the designated statutory agencies.

 Hence, the G.O.Ms.No. No.42 dated 01-11-2012 for land acquisition at Kovvada deserves to be quashed with a clear direction to all the concerned Departments to follow the procedures prescribed by law, after going through due process for the site selection and approval.


Monday, January 7, 2013