I am not a Communist by any stretch of imagination but on the issue of signing the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement, I am with the Communists of India. My reasons for opposing the deal are not based on fear that the American government or other watchdog agencies would interfere in India’s use of nuclear technology but are based on common sense.
First I am afraid of nuclear accidents. In case of those who are advocating more nuclear power plants to meet our energy need do not remember two major nuclear disasters – Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl (also called Chornobyl) in the Ukraine – let me tell the story.
The Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station is near the city of Harrisburg in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. Here, a nuclear accident took place at 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, just six months after the plant started operating! It happened due to a malfunction in the cooling circuit, which caused part of the core in the Unit 2 reactor to melt. The plant’s operators could not respond rapidly to the accident due to inadequate instrumentation and training, and radiation was released in the air. There were, however, no injuries or adverse health effects but it took more than 1000 people, 12 years and around 973 million U.S. dollars to clean up the damaged reactor.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station is 3 kilometers south of the now ghost town of Pripyat and 110 kilometers north of the capital city Kiev in the Ukraine. Here, the accident happened at 1:23 a.m. on April 26, 1986, when the plant’s number four reactor exploded. The disaster killed 56 people, 31 of whom died within a very short time. The amount of radioactivity released was 400 times greater than that emitted after the Hiroshima explosion, and radioactive particles contaminated wide areas of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia and far beyond. In the absence of any containment structure, it was easy for the radioactive dust to get in the air. Some dust was carried by wind as far as 800 kilometers; however, most of it was deposited in the area surrounding the plant.
Some of the firemen who came to put out the fire that erupted after the accident were instantaneously burned to death by gamma radiation. The town of Pripyat is likely to remain uninhabitable for hundreds of years!
Moreover, doctors saw a sharp jump in the number of cases of thyroid cancer among children due to fallout from the explosion. “When will the cases of cancer end?” a doctor in Kiev was asked. He replied, “I think when this generation passes away.” Death estimates vary considerably. The United Nations has projected up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related cancer deaths. A Greenpeace report, however, shows an estimate of 93,000 deaths from cancer alone and up to 200,000 deaths when the fatalities from cancer and non-cancer illnesses are combined.
More than two decades have passed since the Chernobyl accident and still the remnants of reactor four continue to burn and smoke underneath a sarcophagus, a concrete-and-steel shelter that was rapidly built after the accident. This shelter, too, is now in need of major repair. A consortium of three companies is building a movable arch to be slid over the sarcophagus. The arch, 100 meters in length, 300 meters in height, and 270 meters in span, is likely to be completed in 2012 at an estimated cost of US1.2 billion dollars.
Are nuclear power plants desirable for our dense nation where more than 300 people live in one square kilometer? Can anyone predict how many people will perish in a nuclear accident? Are we capable of handling a disaster like Chernobyl, one many times in magnitude of the 1984 accident at the Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal? Are we capable of protecting nuclear plants from terrorists?
Second, I am concerned about the nuclear waste, which is generated from the moment the mining of uranium, the main ingredient of nuclear technology, begins. After mining, the uranium is enriched and each enrichment cycle generates waste. Then the enriched uranium is put to use in fields such as nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, and nuclear medicine and at the end of its useful life it becomes waste. In short, all three steps - the uranium mining, the uranium enrichment, and the uranium use - generate nuclear wastes. Where to throw away the wastes? What could happen after disposal?
There is no ideal place to throw away nuclear wastes. A common place to store nuclear waste is deep underground. For instance, the Canadian as well as Finish governments have vaults 500 to 1000 meters below ground on a stable land to store the waste. The nuclear waste in India is stored in deep underground; however, in the year 2001, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)’s former chairman, V K Chaturvedi, said that a long-term nuclear waste site was years away.
The storage of nuclear waste poses threats to safety, security, and environment. Take for an example the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). It was reported that nuclear waste leaked from Mayak facility, near Chelyabinsk, Siberia contaminated nearby river water. In Tajikistan, in the year 2003 local news media reported that more than 100 tons of nuclear wastes were stored all over the country in dumps, some of which did not have an enclosed fence or a guard. In 1990s, India has had more than one hundred hazardous incidents at our nuclear facilities – like a leak at the Tarapur plant that went undetected for approximately two months of 1995!
Most of the times it is hard to ascertain accidents, errors, omissions, and failures at nuclear power plants in India for they are operated by the NPCIL, a central government owned entity. An inadequate management of toxic nuclear waste poses a grave threat to the innocent public and the environment. Moreover, if a nation has weak environmental laws and insufficient safeguards to protect waste and is known for corruption, life’s necessities – air, land, and water – are at risk.
Simply put, the nuclear waste is just as bad as a nuclear accident; the former kills life slower than the latter. Each represents a side of a coin, an unwanted coin that nobody wants to see it, touch it, or carry it, and yet the government wants to cash it. The nuclear accidents and nuclear wastes make a compelling case against the use of nuclear energy.
Here is food for thought. While we are thinking of building new ones, Spain, a country in Europe, is working hard on shutting down its nuclear power plants. In the USA, since 1978 no nuclear power plants have been built and since 1989 eight nuclear power plants have been shutdown.
The author’s viewpoint is highly misplaced and away from the current realities. Every action for Change is challenging but that does not means that the agenda of Change itself should be dropped and look greener pastures without any risks.
Risk is a term associated with all the activities and especially with new activities but due to risks associated with them we cannot let go a golden opportunity. India is poised to take a major leap in the world and one of the biggest problems faced by us is of Power. We cannot grow well without uninterrupted power supply, which is an unthinkable thing at present.
Nuclear deal is a very crucial pact for India and it must be operationalised. A risk averse thinking will not lead us anywhere. No pain, no gain..
The points raised by Mr.Vasand Gandhi are pessimistic. I agree with Mr.Satish Bihari risk exist even you do not do any thing. Why all are dreaming to became (or in the queue) Prime Minister? Forget the cruel incident of Mrs. Indira Gandhi or Shr. Rajeev Gandhi
Do not look what BJP or Left is saying. They all have own political compulsions and about them every Indian knows little or more.
The need of scientific development is based on future generation's requirements. We develop more then more we can protect our nation from many unseen death, starvation, poverty etc. India is a democratic nation if we need to change the law to de link from any international agreements we can by passing a law by two third majorities.
Believe or not since 8 years i am struggling to resettle in India but at last of every plan drawback what business will run if no electricity.
There is risk in every thing. Even if you don't do any thing, you have risk of not doing anything. Important thing is manage the risk in way which gives you the desired result with acceptable cost.
So option one is to do something to improve the situation. In this case, its all about generating more power. There are limited number of ways in which we can generate power commercially. These are Power based on Coal, Crude Oil or its derivative, Hydel power, Wind power and Solar Power (still maturing). Not all option works every where. Says wind power can work in coastal area but not in location like Bihar where you dont have enough wind speed continously to generate power (at least with current technology). Power based on coal is too polluting. It can damage our envirnment to the extent that our people will die slow death. I think not much attention is paid about slow death caused because of enviroment pollution due to coal based power plan while talking about hazard of nuclear radiation. These pollution can even damage our environment which can lead to unpredictable pattern of whether leading to severe flood and drought. These natural disaster will also cause the death and misery to the population. In this perspective, if we can manage the risk of radition, I dont think nuclear energy fare worse than other source of energy including hydel (where there are huge environmental impact. May be should study the impact of China Three Gorge project).
Second option is to not do any thing. This will again lead to many death and misery because of poverty.
Some one has rightly said , that there is a malaise in our society that we have more opinion than the information we have
The reasons stated by the author sounds a bit childish, to every actions there is equal and opposite reaction, if Mr Gandhi buys a car and makes accident will he stop using the car, the reasons behind justifying to say no to the act of signing the pact are just useless, comments by Mr pradee and Vinod Sinha sound a bit convincing,
Dangers of such a nuclear power plant are negligible when you compare the benefits of its energy which country desperately needs, the author and those who are commenting on the article are trying to hide the real issue, one by saying I am not from congress and other by saying I am not from opposition, whether you belong to congress or opposition it does not matter, every Indian has a political leaning towards any political party of his choice, signing such an act is an act of national importance and its sovereignty. No one has the right to do so, in the name of
need of nuclear energy for it developments, it is much of a concern for the common man than those living in the corridor of power at the centre ,or players living 8000km away from our home , for them it was just a matter of political gain or loss . Do MR GANDHI feels that government does not know about the nuclear disasters and its wastes disposal in various parts of the world?
As per statement of Mr Lalkrishn Advani, BJP is not against the deal, they were against the process adopted for such a pact, for the left front it was a sword on their jugular. The only problem for the BJP was that they were not the part of the signatory, of such a pact which congress describes as historic,
Of course the Congress , left BJP far behind in the quest of their excellence in the political slavery. The communists ( the Hippocrates) were sandwiched between corrupt and the communal.
To get that we ‘ve never had, we must do what we have ,never done, but not in the way the corrupts do Or in the way the communal deny
Dr Anwer Ahsan
Dammam, Saudi Arabia
I am neither a Congress Party activist nor its ally by any stretch of imagination, but I do whole-heartedly support the Indo-US Nuclear Pact for the peaceful generation of electricity. It is ironic that both of us are writing these discourses for or against the deal while residing in the same state, but the actual corridors of power lie some 8000 miles away.
I do fully agree with the risks mentioned in the above posting. But, every single manufacturing process in this world has its fair share of risks. People do not shunt these manufacturing processes because of the associated dangers. Be it a plastic industry or an electronic chip company or a fertilizer factory or a nuclear power plant, all of them do come with the potential hazards. Some plants do pose greater risk to health and environment than the others, but what is required for all these processes are proper safeguards. With proper safety training and guidelines, a nuclear power plant is no more dangerous than a plastic processing factory.
Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor on December 20, 1951 at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho, USA, which initially produced about 100 kW. As of 2005, nuclear power provided 6.3% of the world's energy and 15% of the world's electricity. As of 2007, the IAEA reported there are 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries.
Nuclear reactors are operating continuously around the world for over 50 years. Yet there have been only two notable accidents worldwide. (I do not deny many other minor incidents at nuclear reactor sites.) March 28, 1979 (Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station accident) and April 26, 1986 (Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station accident) are black spots on development strategy for peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy. But, how do these two nuclear accidents compare with our very own Indian version of December 3, 1984 (Bhopal Tragedy). The Bhopal disaster was an industrial disaster that occurred in the city of Bhopal, resulting in the immediate deaths of more than 3,000 people, according to the Indian Supreme Court. A more probable figure is that 8,000 died within two weeks, and it is estimated that the same number have since died from gas related diseases. However, testimonies from doctors who provided medical assistance during the tragedy claim over 15,000 were dead in the first month and approximately 20,000 in total. Two decades later, more than 100,000 people have permanent injuries, light or severe. The groundwater around the plant area remains contaminated, and the question of cleaning up the area is still unresolved. Now, the million-dollar question is what is more dangerous: a pesticide plant or a nuclear power plant. I leave it to the readers to conclude.
The second point raised in the above posting is the inadequacies in nuclear waste disposal techniques. Many countries like USA, France, and Australia have already developed proper nuclear waste disposal procedure. With India being so many years behind these countries in nuclear technology, by ratifying Indo-US deal India can simply acquire those nuclear waste disposal methods from countries developed in nuclear power. The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 19% of the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical energy from nuclear reactors—78% as of 2006. In the European Union as a whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity. No body has ever heard of an accident from nuclear wastes in USA or France. India simply needs to acquire these proper disposal techniques. Whether these techniques are deep-sea or in-land or just converting the spent fuel to a non-radioactive form, India can do it all.
There is a third argument that goes heavily against the Indo-US nuclear deal, but the above posting did not mention it. The third point is a renewed nuclear arms race between the two South Asian neighbors. This is a very valid point and more dangerous than the previous two. Indians never look at this issue, and our western neighbor never fails to pop it up. Let me assert that Indo-US deal, and NSG pact, and IAEA safeguards are strictly for civilian nuclear energy only and nuclear arms are a different territory all together. India can not, shall not, and will not be allowed by international community to delude the very fine line between the two. On the other hand, whether India goes with Indo-US deal or not, our western neighbor always acquires 'Made in China' parts and will always continue to do so in future. Even their nuclear tests in May 1998 utilized 'Made in China' components and it will do so in future as well. China has never been friendly with India and it will never be. China will always utilize our western neighbor to cause troubles in India. The military president of our western neighbor visits China seven times a year. For what? When a certain earthquake strikes inside our western neighbor (October 8, 2005), it requests and uses donations from the entire international community including India for complete reconstruction, but it uses all its funds to buy F-16 fighter jets from USA. (The United Nations raised at least US$272 million to help victims of the quake, but the very own funds of our western neighbor were utilized to make payments for F-16s.) My point is that arms race in South Asia has nothing to do with the Indo-US pact. Our neighbors and failed states around us will never let Indians live in peace. This is our geographical reality.
So far, I have only counter-stroked objections in the last posting, but now let me argue why I am in favor of this deal. Energy is a very fundamental need of any society. There cannot be any progress in the society without energy. India has very limited options when it comes to energy. It is highly insufficient now and its growth with respect to the population growth is dismal. We have to diversify our sources of energy supply to sustain our current rate of growth.
India needs to grow at the rate of at least ten per cent per annum to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease, which still afflict millions of our people. A basic requirement for achieving this order of growth is the availability of energy, particularly electricity. We need increasing quantities of electricity to support our agriculture, industry and to give comfort to our householders. The generation of electricity has to grow at an annual rate of 8 to 10 per cent. Our production of hydrocarbons both of oil and gas is far short of our growing requirements. We are heavily dependent on imports. We all know the uncertainty of supplies and of prices of imported hydrocarbons.
We have large reserves of coal but even these are inadequate to meet all our needs by 2050. But, more use of coal will have an adverse impact on pollution and climate. We can develop hydropower and we must. But, many of these projects hurt the environment and displace large number of people. We must develop renewable sources of energy particularly solar energy. But we must also make full use of atomic energy, which is a clean environment friendly source of energy. All over the world, there is growing realization of the importance of atomic energy to meet the challenge of energy security and climate change.
Why not an indigenous nuclear program then? Though India's atomic scientists and technologists are meritorious, there are several shortcomings. First of all, we have inadequate production of uranium. Second, the quality of our uranium resources is not comparable to those of other producers. Third, after the Pokharan nuclear test of 1974 and 1998 the outside world has imposed embargo on trade with India in nuclear materials, nuclear equipment and nuclear technology. As a result, our nuclear energy program has suffered. Some twenty years ago, the Atomic Energy Commission had laid down a target of 10000 MW of electricity generation by the end of the twentieth century. Today, in 2008 our capacity is about 4000 MW and due to shortage of uranium many of these plants are operating at much below their capacity. Fourth, while India is self-sufficient in thorium, possessing 25% of the world's known and economically available thorium, we do not have the know-how to convert it in to a nuclear fuel.
The proposed Indo-US nuclear agreement will end India's nuclear isolation, nuclear apartheid and enable us to take advantage of international trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment. This is exactly what the common sense dictates.
The accidents in the United States or Ukraine are decades old stories and technology advancements today protects much more today to eliminate almost all the possibilities of nuclear accident. It is politicians in the United States who are preventing from using nuclear reactors. They are not willing to educate people here and do not want to disturb those people whose impressions are misguided today due to the Three Mile Island accident. Also, if the nuclear waste site is years away then new nuclear plants are also years away and I am sure officials will take the issue of nuclear waste into consideration before building the plants.
Then how can we generate Electricity. In our country not even single city gets 24 * 7 service electricity.
If we use coal for power generation then what about the air pollution and we don’t have enough coal for power generation.
Hydro electricity Idea works for Northern part of India But what about Southern part of India, where rivers flow only in Rainy season.
From today the Karnataka ministry decided to cut down power for 6-8 hrs in Bangalore itself then think about what will be the state of other districts in Karnataka.
I THINK THIS IS THE TIME FOR US TO CONCENTRATE ON THE SOLAR ENERGY. DO OUR GOVERNAMENT SHOW INTEREST TO INVEST ON SOLAR ENERGY POWER?