Nuclear power and the necessity of oversight

My thoughts on nuclear power and the Kudankulam protests.

In a nutshell: Nuclear power, properly implemented and with safeguards, is not just safe but essential to cut down emission of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution. But an independent and transparent regulatory body is essential. The protestors’ worries are not surprising, but demanding a shutdown of all nuclear projects is unreasonable and not in anyone’s interests — especially not the interests of coastal fishing communities who will be the first affected by rising sea levels and extreme climate.

And the role of certain motivated activists in instigating these protests is despicable. Particularly revolting is yesterday’s news of a “jal satyagraha”, an exploitative imitation of the very genuine protest in Harda. (Note that the Harda people were not demanding a stop to the dam — they were demanding rehabiliation and compensation for their land being usurped, both of which had been promised by the Supreme Court and stalled by the state government.)

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  1. A very readable op-ed, Rahul. I quite enjoyed it and have broadcast it far and wide. This is very lazy of me, but would you happen to have handy a good-ish summary of the arguments _against_ Kudankulam specifically and nuclear power in India in general?

    • Ludwig – thanks. You can find a large collection of anti-Kudankulam arguments on dianuke. I’m not aware of one single article that makes a good case — the dianuke site is a grab-bag of sensible stuff (it’s where I found Gopalakrishnan’s piece, for example) and nonsense.

  2. Vivek

     /  September 14, 2012

    Excellent article RSid! Couldn’t agree more.

  3. So here is a question that just occurred to me. Even if nuclear reactor based power is safe from ‘perfect storm’ events like a Richter 9 earthquake + concurrent tsunami, how adequate are the safeguards against someone bunging a cruise missile or something like that at it? Wouldn’t any precaution such as a thicker and thicker concrete shell be neutralized by bigger and bigger explosives? One could bung a cruise missile at a thermal power plant, but wouldn’t it be orders of magnitude more of a disaster if it’s a reactor? In this neighbourhood, an errant cruise missile seems like a far more likely event than the earthquake + tsunami thing!

  4. gaddeswarup

     /  September 15, 2012

    Well written article but I have some concerns. An earlier Op-Ed in The Hindu
    and articles by Siddarth Varadarajan, Soli Sorabjee and others( raise concerns about the nuclear liability bill and the protection offered to the people in view of the Bhopal tragedy. A related concern is the pressure from USA when they themselves have discontinued constructing new plants. And whether safer processes of harnessing nuclear power are studied.
    The alternatives like solar power are not discussed in detail. John Quiggin discusses the fall in solar prices in
    and an update is here
    It would be good if you compare the prices.

  5. sacredfig

     /  September 15, 2012

    “[..] – especially not the interests of coastal fishing communities who will be the first affected by rising sea levels and extreme climate.”

    Haha! The funniest thing I read all day. The power plant is now expected to keep the sea level from rising !

    Interesting Op-Ed on nuclear power though, where the words “RISK” and “WASTE” don’t appear even once.

  6. I was trying to find information on studies conducted around nuclear plants, in India, to guaze the harmful effect if any on the nearby populace. I found this document!
    2 years was the maximum period looked into to check the effect of the presence of nuclear plants, I find it a little disconcerting!
    I am yet to find any research paper on such studies carried out in India. I find research reports from other countries! Also of concern is the briefness of the above document and the manner in which the queries have been answered – studies were conducted before plants were established (in two cases) it says but gives no references!
    I found another link which states that the average natural incidence rate of cancer among nuclear plant workers is half that seen among the general public (sounds a little dubious)! Same as in the general populace, beleivable, but exactly half! No references given yet again! Further this document states that a retrospective study of the hazardous effect on health will be carried out now!

    All this is very disconcerting! :( . How scientific are these studies?! Will we ever know?

  7. Also found this report!

    Is it not very early to conclude that nuclear energy is very safe? “If the precautions are taken.”…I feel given the present state of affairs, its too much to expect. And in such a scenario, would it be possible for people to accept building up of nuclear reactors in their court yard? People have lost trust in the government and it is understandable why. If there is any way out of this mess, its upto the government to take proper steps (I mean let them conduct studies which stands upto high levels of scrutiny) than force people to accept what it gives. In this way, development may be delayed, but the outcome will benefit generations to come. It will be a solid development in terms of trust regained and also infrastructure development. It is wrong to blame the people for this mess. Brow beating them will only escalate the problem!


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