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March 2011

The Nuclear Crisis in Japan: a Wake-Up Call for India

March 30, 2011

Dear Editor/News Editor/Chief Reporter,

For immediate publication

The grave nuclear crisis in Japan has highlighted the issue of safety in atomic installations the world over, including in India. It has also prompted the demand for a thorough safety review of nuclear installations.

More than 60 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement calling for an independent safety review of nuclear installations in India, and pending it, a moratorium on further nuclear activities.

The prominent signatories include former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore director P Balaram, former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University Deepak Nayyar, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, historians Romila Thapar, Sumit Sarkar, Mushirul Hasan and Ramachandra Guha, economists Amit Bhaduri and Jean Dreze, psychologist Ashis Nandy, scientists PM Bhargava, Satyajit Rath and MV Ramana, writers Arundhati Roy and Nayantara Sehgal, painters Krishen Khanna, Gulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev and Vivan Sundaram, dancer-choreographer Leela Samson, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar, and many other social scientists, scholars and activists, including Aruna Roy.

The full list of signatories appears at the bottom.

In view of the critical public importance of the issue, could you please carry the statement in full in your paper, channel or wire service? Publication of the entire list of signatories on your website would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards, Praful Bidwai

PS: In case you want to contact or interview any of the signatories, please contact the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace at (011) 26517814 and 65663958.

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Warning signals

As the global nuclear industry's fate hangs in the balance, India must rethink its nuclear power expansion plans and impose a moratorium on new reactors.

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Nuclear lessons from Japan

Fukushima has highlighted the supreme importance of nuclear safety. Governments, especially in the West, cannot afford to ignore public concerns about safety. Switzerland has cancelled its plans to build three new reactors. And Germany’s conservative government has reversed its controversial decision to prolong the phaseout of all nuclear reactors. Nuclear authorities in many countries are questioning the assumptions on which they designed reactor safety systems and operating parameters. But in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), complacency and smugness prevail. Its secretary denies that there is “a nuclear emergency” in Japan, only “a purely chemical reaction”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a safety review of all DAE installations. He said his government “attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety”; the DAE has “been instructed to undertake immediate technical review of all safety systems… particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand… tsunamis and earthquakes”. That’s a red herring.

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Announcement: 'After the Japanese Disaster' -Talk by Praful Bidwai on 24 March 2011 (at Delhi University)

The Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, Invites you to a talk and discussion After the Japanese Disaster: Does Nuclear Energy have a Global Future? by Praful Bidwai, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, Eminent columnist

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India's Nuclear Neros

The colossal hubris, ignorance and smugness of India’s nuclear czars take one’s breath away. The day Japan’s crisis took a decisive turn for the worse, with an explosion in a third Fukushima reactor and fresh radiation leaks, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) secretary Sreekumar Banerjee declared that the nuclear crisis “was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency as described by some section(s) of media”. Nuclear Power Corporation chairman S.K. Jain went one better: “There is no nuclear accident or incident. It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme which the nuclear operators…are carrying out to contain the residual heat after…an automatic shutdown”.

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If Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan thought he could convince the people of Jaitapur, in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, of the virtues of the giant nuclear power complex which is being built there, he must have been sorely disappointed by his February 26 visit to the area. He harangued and taunted the 8,000-strong crowd, told people they were being misled by “outsiders” who “don’t want to see India progress”, and unleashed the aggressive, abusive industries minister (and former Chief Minister) Narayan Rane upon them. Rane had earlier declared: “No outsider who comes to Jaitapur to oppose the project will return (alive).”

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A murky meltdown

Fukushima in Japan is the global atomic industry's worst crisis since Chernobyl, and the first nuclear catastrophe watched by the global public almost in real time. We in India must be alarmed: the Tarapur reactors are also Boiling Water Reactors designed by General Electric, the same as Fukushima's, only smaller and one-generation older, probably with weaker safety systems. We must discard the 'It can't happen here' approach and introspect into our nuclear safety record, with embarrassing failures like a 1993 fire at the Narora reactor, the Kaiga containment dome collapse, frequent cases of radiation over-exposure at numerous sites, unsafe heavy-water transportation and terrible health effects near the Jaduguda uranium mines and the Rajasthan reactors.

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By threatening to withdraw its ministers from the United Progressive Alliance government over a seat-sharing dispute in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham sprang a stunning surprise on the Congress. DMK president M Karunanidhi assumed a self-righteous posture and charged the Congress with greed for raising its demand for tickets for the coming elections to the 234-strong Assembly from the 60 seats agreed earlier, to 63 seats.

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Indian Nuclear Group Demands Moratorium on Nuclear Reactor Construction After the Fukushima Disaster in Japan

The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) expresses its deep grief and sorrow at the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, which reportedly suffered a loss-of-coolant accident.

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The whirlwind of popular protests that overthrew Tunisian president Zine el-Abedin Ben Ali and Egypt’s long-standing ruler Hosni Mubarak shows no sign of abating. The entire Arab world is in revolt, from Yemen and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf to Morocco and Algeria in the Maghreb, and to Sudan and Djibouti in the South. Even the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti regimes are beginning to look vulnerable.

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Col Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s ruthless ruler since 1969, faces an unprecedented popular revolt and could soon join Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abedin Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in the rogues’ gallery of the Arab world’s deposed rulers. Gaddafi has had strong South Asia connections. A famous stadium in Lahore is named after him—thanks to a big donation. During the Janata regime in India, George Fernandes fervently advocated that India should transfer nuclear technology to Libya. That didn’t happen.

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