Call for public scrutiny of India's nuclear plants

The Indian Prime Minister and citizens both made a call for scrutiny of India's nuclear plants. Citizens in Lucknow called for a public scrutiny of India's nuclear plants. Padmashree Ranjit Bhargava, Environmentalist, was speaking at a discussion on demanding an end to India's nuclear programme held at PMT College, Hazratganj, Lucknow. Same evening, India's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh called for a re-examination of all nuclear safety systems in the wake of the recent nuclear emergency in Japan.

However the similarity ends here, and polar differences became evident: Manmohan Singh belongs to the school forecasting India's nuclear energy to expand from 4000 MW to 470,000 MW in the next 40 years. The citizens group led by Magsaysay Awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey and other members of Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Indian Doctors for Peace and Democracy (IDPD) Lucknow, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM),Asha Parivar and Lok Rajniti Manch, was demanding an end to India's nuclear programme.

"In 1945 when Japan faced the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombing for generations to come, it decided never to make a nuclear bomb because it never wanted any other country, last of all its own citizens, to face the heart-wrenching calamity as that of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Japan only had used nuclear power for energy purposes and the World is a witness that how dangerous are the outcomes if things go wrong! (even with nuclear power plant). India not only boasts of a considerable nuclear energy programme but also had gone ahead and made a nuclear bomb – despite being home to world's largest number of poor people" said Magsaysay Awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey.

One wonders what will Japan's take be on nuclear energy option after this tragedy - the magnitude of which is already nerve-racking and yet to be estimated. But other countries should get the message clear how dangerous nuclear energy option is - as well as - the deadly nuclear bomb option.

"Recent nuclear emergency in Japan leaves no doubt that this world needs to renounce nuclear power for military and civil/ energy purposes, as soon as possible, to put an end to any further catastrophe in the name of 'energy', 'security' or 'technology'. Nuclear power is clearly the most dangerous options for civil or military use - and - time is running out before we can act upon nuclear disarmament in the world" said SR Darapuri, former Inspector General of Police and member, state presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch.

The much-touted India US Nuclear Deal is not about India's energy security. "Energy security lies in using indigenous energy resources such as coal, gas, hydro (small, micro dams or run of the river categories), solar, wind energy, biogas etc., and ensuring our future energy supplies from Iran and other countries in West and Central Asia. Obviously, augmenting indigenous coal production, building hydro plants (small, micro dams or run of the river categories), investing in oil exploration, securing gas supplies through Iran Gas Pipeline are much more important for India's energy security than buying imported reactors and importing uranium for such nuclear plants. Although we realize that fossil fuel based method of energy production is also harmful contributing to global warming and ideally like European Union and Japan we should aim for a low-carbon energy production system. India’s future energy policy should be low carbon and no nuclear" said Dr Rahul Pandey, who is a noted energy expert.

The disabilities and diseases attributed to radioactive nuclear radiation have upped in the neighbouring areas where nuclear reactors, nuclear mining or nuclear waste dumping is done in India. Places like Jadugoda, where uranium mining and nuclear waste dumping is carried out, is an example where virtually every household is a living testimony of nuclear radiation hazards. Similarly most of the nuclear power plants in India have faced some or the other accident. For example, the recent tritium poisoning episode at Kaiga Generating Station (KGS) in India, which exposed about 50 employees to increased levels of radiation.

"The ominous shadow of accidents like those in Japan will linger on for generations probably, just like Bhopal gas tragedy or Hiroshima-Nagasaki atom bomb strikes that the humanity suffered for so long. We demand that India should demonstrate its commitment to world peace and put an end to its nuclear programme" said Dr Sandeep Pandey.

Hope saner voices from the civil society and Japan's experience with how dangerous nuclear energy can be will provide learning for decision makers like Dr Manmohan Singh sitting at the helm of affairs of India's nuclear programme.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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