The Jaitapur haaru game

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  • Thursday, July 14, 2011

  • The Jaitapur haaru game
    TSV Hari
    Protestors in and around Jaitapur nuclear power plant are not being allowed to express their anger in the form of a peaceful, democratic demonstration as policemen say that the units are completely safe.

    “A statutory body has been created to monitor its health, by none other than Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan! So why are you endangering peace?”

    The above question is being asked by cops in Ratnagiri of persons described by them as ‘troublemakers’.

    But, they righteous indignation is a big lie, for the scandal that may soon come out is bigger than 2G by 20 times!

    For all practical purposes, the imbroglio is almost buried but for people who needlessly harp on the “unproven presumed dangers from the completely safe French nuclear reactors” [quote courtesy Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi].

    Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s now [in]famous ‘fingered-pause-button-comment’ has been dealt with Control-ALT-Delete move by the powers that be who may/may not have profited from the deal in monetary terms with his transfer.

    In my opinion, Jaitapur is one of the cleverest and biggest sleights of hands to slight India’s collective intelligence with special emphasis on Maharashtra.

    We have purchased a twin nuclear danger for Jaitapur in the name of a power plant that is capable of [1] destroy the Alphonso Mango strain forever that provides an annual turnover of the equivalent of US$1.4 billion, [2] destroy lives, flora and fauna in Ratnagiri irretrievably, [3] render some 4 towns including the district capital into multiple ghost cities like Pripyat in Ukraine [4] and also decimate the world famous tourist destination called Goa.

    And to achieve all this, we, the people of India have ended up paying some Rs.133,500 crores.

    If it incorrigibly alters the lives of some 50% of Maharashtra and the entire livelihood of Goa...whose annual GDP work out to the equivalent of US$ 70 billion [Rs.3.15 trillion] all of us can confess in some church, pray in some mosque or offer worship in some Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh shrine or do all those simultaneously to seek deliverance of the horrible sin of having also caused the horrible deaths measurable in thousands if not hundreds of thousands.

    And we have pledged the equivalent of US$175 billion [roughly 60% of our foreign exchange reserves of around INR 8 trillion] for total duds that can destroy India’s financial capital’s future forever.

    Have we done that only because French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a damn good salesman of dud reactors that have a horrible past by dangling the improbable seat in the United Nations Security Council – permanently with veto power and all?

    All this, many of us may believe, was done in return for a permanent seat in United Nations’ Security Council and solving the power-need-tangles in India’s most industrially progressive state - Maharashtra.

    The leaders of all the 5 veto-powered UNSC members - viz. UK [PM Cameron], USA [President Barak Obama], France [President Nicolas Sarkozy], Russia [President Dmitri Medvedev who is nothing but a benami of the real boss of CIS – Vladimir Putin] and China [Wen Jiabao] visited India towards the end of 2010.

    The first four sold military and civilian hardware - together valued at roughly Rs.133,500 crores [Rs.3500 crore flying coffin chopper deal with Westland - UK], Rs.17,000 crores worth war planes from the USA without any tender or study and announced incidentally by - not our Defence Minister - but US President Obama!], Rs. 45,000 crores worth nuke reactors for Jaitapur from France] and several reactors and military hardware updates worth Rs.70,000 crores from Russia - there are serious price discrepancies bound to be pointed by CAG in the future in all the purchases - but we will save that for later].

    All the four leaders sang paeans about India deserving a seat in the UNSC.

    Most colleagues in newspapers and television channels have gone overboard with their comments in praise of this as if India already has become the sixth UNSC member.

    None, however, pointed out that slit-eyed Jiabao was tight-lipped over the matter during his visit last year –despite having virtually inked many deals to filch our computer software skills for jokes of prices.

    Some 5 global years’ debate, a lot of lobbying [naturally we pick up the tab for that too] and sweating later, there may be a voting at the UN - and all the members say ‘aye’.

    Finally, one member from China puts his/her hand up and says one word VETO and sits down.


    We kiss the whole thing goodbye till the next jamboree over something else happens...again to our detriment.

    And why would China do that?

    If there is any global competition to the Chinese juggernaut, it is least now.

    Our growth, The Economist says, has outpaced that of China this year.

    We have problems with the Chinese over borders, military misadventures, forcible occupation, of our territory, their unjustified claims over our sovereign states, influencing and funding secessionist activity in various parts, decimation of the Buddhist religion in Tibet etc.

    All those are sideshows.

    Incidentally, whether the UN itself will be around that long thanks to the continuing African political convulsions is another question altogether.

    Here are the sordid details about the reactors and the dangers:

    Maharashtra politicians [of virtually all hues] are saying the following in ‘defence’ of the Ratnagiri reactors – after the recent riots in that region.

    1. Despite so many tremors in Japan, the nuclear power plants have not been jettisoned. They are being repaired with the help of the French and the Russians – who also have sold the plants to us.

    2. The future of power starved India is indeed only in ‘clean’ nuclear powered reactors generating ‘cheap’ electricity as they are the environment friendliest.

    3. The protests in Maharashtra are purely politically motivated by vested interests [read the not so saffron offshoots of Shiv Sena] without any substance.

    4. The spoilers only want to render to naught the US$175 billion ambitious Indian plan of achieving power sufficiency in the next two decades and they do not have any alternative idea either!

    5. In the bargain, these dogs in the manger are destroying India’s brand new nuclear deals with France and Russia that can immensely help us not only for civilian uses but also militarily as well.

    The problem about all these 5 points is that all of them are white lies pure and simple.

    In a nutshell, we appear to have purchased for Maharashtra is a pair of suspect reactors for US$9 billion plus that can cause our world famous Alphonso mangoes to disappear from the horizon as uneatable radioactive fruit, and what is more, it will obscure the best picture postcard locale and hard currency earning tourist destination of India – the Union Territory of Goa – behind the clouds of Hiroshima and Fukushima.

    First let us deal with the lies.

    Firstly Japan approached France first and immediately changed its mind after hearing the track record of AREVA – the company that sold us the reactors and asked Russia to come in.

    Now Japan is in a quandary because its engineers know what exactly went wrong in Chernobyl in the 80’s.

    And why should the Japanese be wary?

    Those with doubts see the ghost towns around Chernobyl - on its 'Silver Jubilee'!

    No too strangely, the Russians – Godless till the other day – are merely praying that nothing goes wrong with their other reactors!

    Japan is thus left between the Nuclear Devil and an unforgiving Deep Sea – in literal terms!

    The Japanese are not amused about the fact that nobody is able to shut the radioactive leak that can arguably go on for the next 12,000 years!

    Their simple question:

    “When victims of the World War II nuke bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki arecontinuing to be born with deformities even today, why on earth did our government agree to this ogre?

    The Japanese masses are asking their government to end the dependence on nuclear power – and are saying, “Find a safer alternative. Just do it!”

    Secondly, the safest is nuclear power in view of the above?

    Well, I am not cracking that sick joke.

    Thirdly, the protests in Maharashtra are purely political, the powers that be say.

    Of course they are political.

    Would Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan rather that they should be pelf and/or bribe-oriented or something?

    And most importantly, wasn’t the decision to buy the reactors a political one because France offered support for India’s permanent seat in the UN Security Council?

    Fourthly, the alternative in terms of wind and solar energy through photovoltaic cells to be installed in the length and breadth of every state in India is a cheaper and far better alternative in terms of power generated and renewed. This alternative has been with the government for over 10 years. So why are the Congress politicians lying through their teeth?

    The fifth argument is the cruellest of them all. We already know that the nuclear power plants have no future. That leaves the military need. Do we have one? Doesn’t the Government of India know that since WWII, no nation has ever used a nuke and cannot use one now because doing so will erase something like 24% of all electronic records in space that can bring the world to the brink of a financial catastrophe?

    Further the 123 Treaty with the USA expressly prohibits the dual use of the technology and nuclear assets again for any sort of military use, ever!

    Therefore, that argument is distilled rubbish!

    So, in simple terms, we, the people, have been made to part with US$9 billion [Rs. 405 billion] to kill our Alphonso mango trade worth roughly US$1.4 billion annually in terms of turnover and contaminate our richest state’s richest rural district which has an annual GDP of over US$6 billion [Rs. 270 billion].

    And this is being done in the name of progress. We are told by powers that be that major endeavours require ‘minor sacrifices’.

    One such minor sacrifice will also entail altering adversely the healthy lives of some 2.5 crore citizens of India.

    Here is how.

    The sudden series of nuclear ‘incidents’ in Japan have shown conclusively that India’s $175 billion spending spree to acquire nuclear reactors and supplies to bridge the severe power shortage in the country estimated at around 100,000 MW is definitely kaput whatever might be said in press releases issued by the government of the day.

    Two of our twenty nuclear reactors are of the same design as the ones which became part of a hugely catastrophic meltdown in Japan.

    “Our inspectors from the Department of Atomic Energy will check all the 20 plants to find out whether they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes,” Dr. Singh said.

    In December 2010, Dr. Singh had unfolded India’s plan to double the number of nuclear reactors to meet the power needs over the next two decades of an energy starved country.

    He had also indicated that this would adequately match the challenge of our neighbourhood giant – China.

    Incidentally, India is the only major nation other than China to have registered a healthy growth even midst worsening global recession which shows little signs of improvement.

    At the present time India is one of the signatory to two agreements for building nuclear reactors.

    The first is worth €7 billion (US$9.3 billion). It was concluded by India’s Nuclear Power Corporation with Areva – currently the world’s largest nuclear supplier.

    Is largest also the most reliable?

    Here is a track-record of its significant “achievements”!

    Areva has so far abandoned 210 uranium mines.

    The remnant radioactive dirt termed tailings from these is now part of school children’s playing grounds turned killing fields.

    Areva has bluntly refused to comply and clean up the mess it created.

    The people getting affected include school children, unwary tourists at ski resorts or shoppers in many cities’ parking lots.

    The cited reason: No uranium mining company in the world has ever cleared its mess – be it the USA or anywhere in the world!

    The contaminants being let loose into the atmosphere by Areva can, without any warning, cause deformed births or still-born children by hundreds of thousands and spoil the soil in its area permanently contaminated.

    When a French documentary exposing the French uranium mining mess was scheduled to be aired on national television in February, Areva tried unsuccessfully to block it from the airwaves.

    Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon proclaims transparency as one of the hallmarks of her company.

    But its failed censorship attempt, coupled with the July 2008 cover- up when a major uranium spill at a nuclear processing plant went unreported to the public for 14 hours, belies that assertion.

    Areva’s subsidiary at Tricastin, the huge nuclear complex where the spill that contaminated two rivers had occurred, was silent about the accident and then denied the spill that endangered human health and life.

    Nevertheless, drinking and bathing in the waters was temporarily banned, and Tricastin wine growers have struggled to market their products since the accident.

    Three more accidents in the region followed, prompting the French government to order radioactive readings at all 58 operating reactors in France.

    The dirtiest French nuclear site – with the cleanest of reputations – is the vast reprocessing plant at La Hague on the Normandy coast.

    The nuclear industry has successfully cast reprocessing as “recycling,” but nothing about reprocessing could be further from the collections of newspapers and soda cans that recycling conjures in the public's mind's eye.

    La Hague takes in irradiated reactor fuel – domestic and from other countries – and, through a chemical process, separates the plutonium and uranium for theoretical reuse as new reactor fuel.

    The plutonium is mixed with uranium to make a fuel known as MOX.

    However, fewer than 20 French reactors use MOX fuel, which in turn can handle only minimal proportions of plutonium and the waste these reactors produce cannot be reprocessed.

    Since all reactors also produce plutonium during the fission process – as much as 40 atomic bombs worth per year, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council – the net reduction of plutonium by MOX reactors is virtually zero and contributes nothing to the recycling of waste fuel.

    Instead, 80 tons of surplus plutonium is left behind at La Hague in the equivalent of hundreds of soda-can-size containers.

    About 30 tons result from imported irradiated fuel from client countries, most of whom have now cancelled their reprocessing contracts.

    This is despite a French law that mandates reprocessed waste fuel be returned to its country of origin.

    Most of the uranium isn't ‘recycled’ either.

    Ninety-five percent of the mass of spent French reactor fuel consists of uranium that is so contaminated with other fission products that it cannot be reused as reactor fuel at all (although France ships some of it to Russia).

    The vast majority of the uranium from reprocessing – non-fissile Uranium-238 - cannot be recycled either and will need to be permanently secured.

    Furthermore, reprocessing creates huge volumes of liquid radioactive waste and radioactive gases.

    These are simply dispersed into the sea and air.

    As much as 100 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste a year is pumped from La Hague into the English Channel and has radioactively contaminated the seas as far as the Arctic Circle.

    These liquid wastes have been measured at 17 million times more radioactive than normal sea water according to an analysis by a French laboratory at the University of Breme.

    In 1998, a Belgian laboratory at the University of Gent measured the aerial discharges from La Hague. The lab found they contained radioactive krypton-85 at 90,000 times higher values than natural levels. Krypton gas released from La Hague has been traced across the globe.

    Two independent medical studies have found high rates of leukaemia in communities close to La Hague.

    Beaches, fishing and swimming areas have been closed due to concerns about radioactive contamination of the sea water. Exposure to radiation is generally considered one of the four most likely causes of leukaemia (along with exposure to chemicals, viruses and genetics).

    Far from recycling radioactive waste, the French face the same dilemma as everyone else: they don't know what to do with it. France has no scientifically accepted or operating high-level radioactive waste repository.

    The sole site identified to date – at Bure close to the Champagne region in eastern France – has been met with organised opposition and has encountered technical difficulties.

    France has so much radioactive waste that the government recently approached 3,511 communities suggesting they become home to the so-called low-level radioactive wastes that have nowhere to go.

    ANDRA, the French national agency responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste, billed the dump project as a boon to local development but refused to publicly identify the handful of communities it says responded positively to the idea of hosting the country's nuclear detritus.

    In fact, there is no French love affair with nuclear energy, but rather a deep mistrust of this most secretive of industries. Some of this suspicion dates to the Chernobyl accident in 1986, when a French government spokesman assured the population that the radioactive cloud from the Ukrainian reactor explosion (which eventually dispersed across the globe) had stopped at the French border.

    Activists say the 1986 incident has so far killed over 1 million persons and will continue to cause deformed births for the next 200 years!

    Unlike other Western European countries, France has mandated no precautionary actions.

    Consequently, there are numerous hot spots, particularly in eastern France, where radioactive fallout was and is extremely high.

    This deception spawned the formation of an investigative laboratory – CRIIRAD or Commission for Independent Research and Information – as well as a burgeoning network of close to 815 French anti-nuclear organizations.

    In an annual fall poll, up to 60 percent of the French public consistently calls for a phase-out of nuclear energy.

    On March 17, 2007, 62,000 French citizens demonstrated across France against a proposed new reactor in Normandy.

    On the same day, a national anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., turned out one-third that amount.

    Areva's radioactive footprint also reaches beyond the borders of France.

    Such nations include Niger and Gabon where Areva had wreaked havoc under its older name COGEMA for over 40 years!

    The Gabon site is now closed, but joint investigations in Gabon and Niger by an organization of French lawyers from CRIIRAD – found existence of significant levels of radioactive contamination and serious health risks in both countries.

    Humanitarian crises are developing in Niger and Gabon ranked two of the poorest countries on the planet which also were former French colonies.

    And in both nations, Areva has been found responsible and the consequences may trigger a civil war.

    After four decades of uranium mining by Areva subsidiaries in Africa, there are environmental catastrophes capable of destroying the lives and livelihood of the surrounding communities thanks to the presence of radioactive dust everywhere and it contaminating already scarce water resources in the Sahara desert.

    Radioactive metals resulting from uranium processing, have been discarded as scrap or sold in the local markets and used by villagers in household items.

    Independent investigations have found that the Areva run subsidiaries in Niger have inflicted pulmonary and respiratory illnesses or cancers in unsuspecting members of the public.

    Upon being questioned, the simple folk were told that they were suffering from malaria and AIDS!

    Water was found to be 10 times more radioactively contaminated than the World Health Organisation's “acceptable’ level for safe drinking water.

    Letters from CRIIRAD to Areva CEO Lauvergeon pointing out the problem were ignored for long, but eventually Areva had to clean up the site.

    Areva's uranium-mining monopoly in Niger ended in 2007 but existing contracts with the Niger government were renewed, and the company was recently awarded the contract for the huge new Imouraren uranium mine, the largest in Africa and due to open in 2012.

    The Niger government, meanwhile, has declared open season on northern Niger, awarding close to 140 prospecting licenses to uranium-mining companies from China, India, Canada, the United States and elsewhere in its efforts to become the world's top exporter of uranium -- it currently ranks fifth.

    Faced with large swaths of the country virtually cordoned off for new mines, some in Niger are fighting back, predominantly the Tuareg, the poorest and most deprived of northern Niger's population.

    A largely nomadic people, the Tuareg have seen little of the benefits of uranium mining (they make up 3 percent of the workforce), and their traditional lifestyle has been the hardest hit.

    They view the government's new mining plans as a “pillaging” of the land, in which the Tuareg are sacrificed for corporate profit.

    Some have taken up arms. Others, including exiled leaders in France, are leading advocacy efforts to draw international attention to the plight of their people. Growing desertification in the Sahara has been compounded by the dual effects of climate change and mineral extraction.

    The Tuareg are dependent on clean water for grazing their animals and growing crops and want to see no more uranium mining until the environmental devastation is cleaned up. They point out that none of the profits from current mining efforts has been injected back into their struggling communities.

    The Niger government has responded by attempting to eliminate the Tuareg.

    Amnesty International has identified numerous human rights abuses, including disappearances, torture and summary executions. The Tuareg, fearing an attempted genocide, point to slaughter of their livestock by the Niger military in a further effort to eliminate their way of life.

    Areva has actively encouraged the Niger government to deal with the Tuareg problem.

    Late last year, an Areva vice president told a French government committee that the Tuareg were simply a romantic “illusion,” urging his government to aid Niger in crushing them.

    Areva has quietly established 42 offices with 5,300 employees.

    Its U.S. tentacles extend to virtually every phase of the nuclear fuel chain, from uranium enrichment to radioactive-waste management.

    Areva is behind the push to revive nuclear-waste reprocessing in the U.S.

    The separated plutonium would then be blended into MOX fuel and used in U.S. reactors, none of which is adapted to handle the hotter plutonium fuel.

    Until recently, Areva, in partnership with the U.S. Shaw Group, was running MOX fuel test assemblies at Duke Energy's Catawba nuclear plant in South Carolina before the operation was shut down prematurely for safety reasons.

    The U.S. MOX fuel was made at the French MOX fuel-fabrication plant at Cadarache, a facility that had been closed due to the danger of earthquakes in the area. The plant was reopened solely to store U.S. fuel, a move that was challenged as illegal by French anti-nuclear advocates.

    Areva recently won a contract to build and operate a new uranium-enrichment facility in Idaho.

    It operates more than 50 percent of this county's dry cask storage operations, where all of the U.S. spent reactor fuel still sits at the 65 reactor sites (there are 104 operating reactors in the U.S.) At least 30 percent of U.S. reactors use Areva-supplied fuel.

    The company’s U.S. plans also extend to new reactors, where it hopes to grab at least 33 percent of the U.S. market according to its Web site. This includes a proposal for seven of its unproven “generation three” design, the Evolutionary Power Reactor, billed as the world's largest reactor.

    (It is called the European Pressurised Reactor everywhere but the U.S.)

    Seven EPR reactors are slated for six U.S. sites, although so far only two sites -- at Calvert Cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Calloway near St. Louis – have filed initial applications.

    George Vanderheyden, chief executive for UniStar, the company hoping to build the EPR at Calvert Cliffs, says the EPR “will be one of the most expensive technologies in the United States to build.”

    On the project, UniStar has collaborated with Electricité de France (EDF), the state owned electricity company of France.

    However, cost may not be its only challenge.

    The two Areva EPR reactors under way – in Finland and France – have already run into trouble. The Finnish reactor at the Olkiluoto nuclear site started first, in August 2005, but has already fallen three years behind schedule after safety and quality-assurance problems with the piping containment liner and concrete base slab were discovered.

    This has put the Finnish EPR 50 percent over budget at a current estimated cost of at least US$6.7 billion.

    Areva partner Siemens has pulled out of the project, leaving Areva to buy out Siemens' share at an estimated cost to the company of US$2.6 billion.

    When construction began in December 2007 on a second EPR at the Flamanville site in France on the Normandy coast, similar problems surfaced rather quickly.

    By the summer of 2008, the French security agency had shut down the construction site – managed by EDF –due to safety concerns about technical and quality-control problems with the reinforced steel used in the concrete base.

    EDF insists the Flamanville EPR will open on the set date in 2012 after just nine months of construction work and that in spite of reports that the project is already nine months behind schedule.

    But, in early March this year, EDF ran afoul of the European Commission, which raided its offices, suspecting EDF of antitrust violations and illegal price hikes.

    EDF has come into the public spotlight before.

    In May 2006, a confidential security report prepared by EDF was leaked to French activists and the media. The report claimed that because the EPR could withstand the impact of a military jet it could also defend against a commercial jet airliner.

    But when analyzed by John Large, an independent nuclear engineer in the U.K., these claims were pronounced to be “entirely unjustified.”

    Large said the documents showed the EPR had “an almost total lack of preparation to defend against the inevitability of a terrorist attack or a devastating earthquake.”

    The second one inked between Moscow based Rosatom and the same Nuclear Power Corporation to build 18 reactors was signed during the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

    While the Government of India is yet to disclose the extent of the deal with Rosatom, the composite deal with Russia is said to be in the region of US$42 billion.

    And of this, the reactor component alone is said to be about US$30 billion.

    With 20 nuclear powered reactors, India is ranked 6th in the elite nuclear club after USA, France, Japan, Russia and Korea.

    Sergey Vladilenovich Kirienko heads Rosatom.

    Kirienko was accused of financial misappropriations while serving under Boris Yeltsin as prime minister.

    While the charges were never proved, Kirienko is generally considered guilty of dragging Russia towards the brink of bankruptcy by raising the national debt level to US$ 22.6 billion before the turn of the century.

    Now reporting directly to the real boss of Russia – Vladimir Putin, Kirienko has vowed to make Rosatom the only meaningful competitor to France and Areva.

    In this melee, what people have not seriously noticed is one major anomaly.

    India purchased 2 reactors from Areva at US$ 9.3 billion but has inked contracts to buy 18 more from Russia for a mere US$30 billion.

    If those prices are correct, why has India bought 2 reactors from Areva for roughly US$4.75 billion each when they were available for US$1.2 billion each from Russia?

    Already under severe criticism in France over its safety standards, prices of Areva shares have tumbled over 14 percent since March following concerns of nuclear accidents globally after the earthquake in Japan.

    Accidents in Areva plants have rendered a vast section of liquor and food product exporting districts of France ‘useless’ following bans on the imports of such products.

    Nations like Singapore and Malaysia already have unofficially banned Kobe steaks from Japan – considered a delicacy.

    Research reports have pointed to other grim possibilities.

    Future accidents in the nuclear plants to be installed in India’s western state of Maharashtra within the belt of the Ratnagiri district where the world famous Alfonso Mangoes are grown can arguably render the whole region ‘uninhabitable’.

    And even if that does not happen, a minor leak in one of the two plants [said to be of faulty design] can render the food products of Ratnagiri district [worth well over US$2 billion annually] ‘unfit for consumption’.

    India as a ‘responsible nuclear empowered state’ will be seriously questioned.

    “The controversial debate over India’s nuclear energy will start again. And this time, it will reveal what all has been hidden in the past with ineffective fig leaves,” says Uday Bhaskar, director of the New Delhi-based National Maritime Foundation, a research group.

    “Democracies are reactive and an accident of this magnitude will raise concerns among the population about the safety of the technology. The cataclysm being radioactive only worsens the whole thing,” Bhaskar added.

    So far reactor cooling systems have failed in 3 nuclear power plants in Japan following the 8.9-magnitude March 11 tremor that has so far resulted in a known toll of a little over 23,000.

    An equal number of people are missing. And none knows how many persons’ lives have been altered for the worse, permanently.

    Politically, nuclear capability has been a mixed bag for India.

    Since 1974, nuclear explosions to test India’s preparedness for atomic energy and manufacture of the same variety of ordnance have raised the hackles of the west.

    For over 3 decades, India’s nuclear plants had been blacklisted worldwide.

    The United Progressive Alliance government headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh was almost toppled in 2008 after one of its main allies the left and the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party branded India’s 2005 pact with the Bush regime a ‘sell out’ of India’s strategic national interests.

    The chicken that failed to hatch in 2008 has come home to roost with a vengeance now but in a slightly altered shape.

    The BJP and the left demanded a complete review and irrevocable overhaul of India’s plans to increase use of nuclear energy owing to “unimaginably great potential risks”.

    “Our entire policy of getting nuclear energy should be looked at afresh. We should now look at safer options because of the dangers involved,” says Yashwant Sinha, a former union cabinet minister who had handled the vital portfolios of finance and foreign affairs.

    The left criticism is more open and direct.

    “The disaster in Japan has opened a can of worms exposing inherent and potential danger in setting up nuclear power plants. A similar natural calamity in India can lead to the manmade one leaving us gasping for breath and worse. The events in Japan have proved beyond doubt that one of the most advanced nations known for the preparedness for risks may not even have taken the requisite steps to prevent the current catastrophes. One shudders to think what might happen in India given our record of shoddy incomplete measures to create, maintain and repair mistakes in virtually everything we do,” opines Gurudas Dasgupta, a member of parliament belonging to the left.

    Forced by the opposition parties to extend liability in the event of a nuclear accident to suppliers of technology, India has broken with the international convention of holding operators solely responsible for compensation claims arising out accidents.

    India’s nuclear industry is the second fastest growing in the world.

    As of now, India is supposed to go ahead with its plans to spend $175 billion of our money – the money of ‘we, the people’- by 2030 on nuclear generation to meet the rising demand for electricity.

    “It is obvious that our programme has been seriously affected. The Department of Atomic Energy will go through the whole process of reviewing every security angle with fine-toothed comb once again. And if we have to go back to the drawing boards after receipt of additional information from Japan, we do not have an alternative,” said Shreyans Kumar Jain, chairman and managing director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited [NPCIL].

    The current shortfall is roughly 100,000 MW.

    Instances of long power cuts during the freezing winters and simmering summers of India’s north and the bane of southern agricultural fields are legions already.

    Power shut downs are common experience even in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore – the financial capital, federal capital and best known IT hub respectively – badly hurting India’s image as a preferred destination in the third world for various outsourcing options.

    The gaps are bridged by fossil fuel generators – another matter that saps the nation not only in terms of a massive import bill but also because of the noxious fumes they emit into the atmosphere.

    In most cities, suspended impurities in the air are far beyond permissible limits.

    Over 75% of India’s energy needs are met through imports.

    Rising oil prices due to the unrest have already put a huge question mark as the 8% plus inflation is northbound notwithstanding one of the most aggressive global monetary policies.

    In a nutshell, is India going to be hoisted on its own energy petard thanks to the short-sighted nature of the United Progressive Alliance government – on the one hand vide the nuclear reactor route and on the other through increasing oil imports whose prices are rising all the time and whose emissions could make life miserable for the Indian masses thanks to the Japanese exposure, Areva’s forgettable track record and Russia’s worst global advertisement of its nuclear power – Chernobyl – which incidentally was also administered by Rosatom in its previous avatar?

    And the simplest solution is staring at us all the time.

    We have a vast coastline and have a burning hot sun almost all year round that can grant us electricity virtually ‘free’ with very little maintenance costs!

    Yet our governments are bent upon investing on mad white elephants well on a destructive course.

    So dear people of Maharashtra, you can get ready to wave a sad goodbye to the Alphonso mango [Haapoos], a sizeable portion of Ratnagiri District and some 5 lakh relatives.

    And the people of Goa...well that is the end of your tourism.


    Arre Waah, Arre Waah!

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