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Perils of promoting nuclear power

In an unusual move, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to halt construction of two nuclear reactors at Koodamkulam in Tirunelveli district, where more than 100 local residents have been on a hunger-strike against the project since September 11, supported by tens of thousands.

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From Chernobyl to Fukushima: the Hazardous Journey of Nuclear Power

Three partial core meltdowns and other crises have precipitated a nuclear nightmare. This is a wake-up call for the world.

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Learning From The Fukushima Disaster: India must put nuclear power on hold

What do social scientists Romila Thapar, Ramachandra Guha and Jean Dreze, dancers Leela Samson and Malavika Sarukkai, former bureaucrats/diplomats SP Shukla, Nirupam Sen and EAS Sarma, retired Navy chief L Ramdas, writers Arundhati Roy and Nayantara Sahgal, scientists MV Ramana and PM Bhargava, artists Krishen Khanna and Vivan Sundaram, and former vice-chancellors Mushirul Hasan and Deepak Nayyar, have in common? The answer is, concern about the safety of nuclear power, highlighted by the still-unfolding disaster at Fukushima in Japan. This impelled these eminent individuals to sign a statement demanding a thorough and independent review of India’s nuclear power programme, and pending it, a moratorium on further nuclear projects.

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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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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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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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Wrong call on nuclear liability

The government is set to move the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 in the current session of Parliament after withdrawing its earlier draft on March 15 without explanation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Congress MP T Subbirami Reddy has since heard various proponents and opponents of the Bill.

While the former mainly comprise Department of Atomic Energy officials, who stress the importance of moving the legislation quickly so as to encourage investment in the nuclear power programme, the objectors are a more plural group, including “official” experts such as former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan, and independent experts and activists from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Greenpeace India and the Delhi Science Forum, as well as political parties.

The opponents have raised a number of issues of vital public importance. The Standing Committee must faithfully and earnestly incorporate their suggestions and the government must pay heed to them if there is to be an informed and intelligent debate on the Bill. Any attempt to rush the Bill through would be thoroughly misguided.

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India Inc’s silence deafening

It is extremely distressing that the only articulate response from India’s corporate world to the recent Bhopal criminal case judgment has come from HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh. (The Times of India, June 18) Parekh, one of our most respected CEOs who sits on many corporate boards, did not comment, as might be expected of a conscientious person, on the gross unfairness of the verdict, which diminishes an industrial mega-disaster to a mere traffic accident punishable with two years’ imprisonment and a trivial fine (Rs 1 lakh). Rather, he spoke of the unfairness of holding company directors, including former Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) chairman Keshub Mahindra, criminally liable for corporate negligence.

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Bhopal still waits for justice

The contrast between BP’s response to the outrage over the oil spill in the US and Union Carbide’s attitude to the uproar over the Bhopal disaster of 1984 couldn’t have been sharper. Confronted by a hostile public and a president who wants to “kick ass”, BP has pledged $20 billion in initial remediation and is mobilising another $50 billion — although its legal liability is only $75 million.

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Major Blow To Carbide’s Victims: Bhopal’s unended tragedy

The victims of the world’s worst chemical disaster abandoned hope of securing real justice a long time ago. As someone who covered the gas leak at Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticides plant in Bhopal from an early stage and has probably written more on the issue than any other journalist, I would put the date at February 1989, when the Indian government reached an atrociously inadequate out-of-court settlement with Carbide for $470 million, totalling no more than UCC’s insurance cover plus interest. The Supreme Court put its imprimatur on the deal and extinguished Carbide’s liability, civil and criminal, thus shattering the victims’ hopes of getting enough compensation to pay even for their medical treatment, leave alone damages for prolonged suffering

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