Update: Investigate Koodankulam Irregularities – Letter from Seventeen Eminent Activists, Scientists and Retd. Government Officials

10 September 2012

Photograph by Amirtharaj Stephen

23 October 2014

We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed at newspaper reports about the serious damage sustained by Koodankulam Unit 1’s turbine even before the plant has begun commercial operation. We are also concerned at the total lack of accountability of the Department of Atomic Energy, NPCIL and AERB with respect to the Koodankulam project, and are worried about the safety ramifications of persisting with the commissioning of Unit 1 without a thorough and independent review of the plant, its components and the processes of setting it up. We are also shocked to see that unmindful of the problems plaguing Units 1 and 2, and the issues arising from lack of transparency in the nuclear establishment, NPCIL and the Government of India are moving ahead with work on Units 3 and 4.

It is now confirmed that Unit 1’s turbine is severely damaged and would require replacement. One Tamil newspaper reports that the turbine may be manufactured in India, and that this may entail a delay of two months. This is yet another instance of prevarication. Replacing a turbine at a nuclear power plant will take a lot longer than two months. As usual, no official clarification has been forthcoming from Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd or its regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. If the reports about the damaged turbine are true, then it is cause for serious concern. The delay in commissioning is the least of the problems; the damaged turbine spotlights far more fundamental issues that impinge on the long-term viability and safety of the reactor. It vindicates allegations by observers and civil society about the compromised quality control and assurance system in India, and raises troubling and as yet unanswered questions about the substandard quality of equipment purchased from Russia.

The manner in which Koodankulam Units 1 and 2 have been constructed represent everything that is wrong with the Indian nuclear establishment. Equipment for the nuclear reactor and related infrastructure arrived way before they were erected, and had to spend years exposed to corrosive sea-air. Instrumentation and other cables that had to be laid before the construction of the containment dome arrived well after the dome was completed. To “manage” this, Indian engineers demolished portions of the containment dome to insert several kilometers of cabling. This is not only unprecedented in nuclear history, but also extremely worrisome for two reasons – first, it compromises the integrity of the containment dome; second, it highlights the casual and unplanned manner in which an extremely delicate and highly risky facility such as a nuclear reactor is actually being constructed.

Many components and critical equipment were manufactured by corruption-tainted companies that had reportedly used substandard raw material. Where countries like China and Bulgaria, which also received such substandard components, held Russian manufacturers to account and forced them to replace or repair such components, Indian authorities continue to deny that any such problem exists. To make matters worse, the entire exercise is shrouded in unnecessary secrecy with NPCIL and the AERB either remaining mum or communicating with partial truths or outright lies.

For these problems to happen at a nuclear reactor that has been at the focus of massive public attention makes us shudder to think what is being passed off in other less visible nuclear projects. While Indian reactors have had an average lead time of 5 months between attaining criticality and commencing commercial production, Koodankulam’s Unit 1 will take more than two years to meet this milestone if ever it does.

We urge the Prime Minister’s office to commission an enquiry into the irregularities at Koodankulam Units 1 and 2, including an interrogation into how such a shoddy plant managed to secure safety, environmental and quality clearances. Such a move will inspire confidence in the minds of public regarding the intentions of the Government.

Sincerely,
Admiral (Retd) L. Ramdas, former Chief of Staff, Indian Navy, Raigad, Maharashtra
Lalita Ramdas, environment and women’s rights activist, Raigad, Maharashtra
E.A.S. Sarma, I.A.S. (Retd), former Union Secretary of Power, Vishakapatnam
M. G. Devasahayam, I.A.S. (Retd), Chennai
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Aruna Roy, Social Activist, MKSS
Nikhil Dey, Social Activist, MKSS
Dr. Suvrat Raju, Scientist, Bengaluru
Dr. M.V. Ramana, Scientist, Princeton, USA
Dr. K. Babu Rao, Scientist (Retd), Hyderabad
Dr. T. Swaminathan, Professor (Retd), IIT-Madras
Dr. Atul Chokshi, Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Praful Bidwai, Columnist, New Delhi
Arati Chokshi, Social Activist, Bengaluru
Achin Vanaik, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, New Delhi
G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal, Chennai
Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, PMANE, Nagercoil
Nityanand Jayaraman, writer and social activist, Chennai
Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM, Madurai

Please copy-paste and circulate this letter.

Update: KKNPP Must Tell the Whole Truth

Driving in Kopachi, the buried village in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
via Miguel Ortega Lafuente

If you are pro-nuclear for the benefit of progress of your beloved country, your imagination of anti-nuclear ‘activists’ might merely be of a hypocritical bunch of thumb-twiddlers waiting for disaster to win a simple argument. We don’t want another Chernobyl, Cancer Street, Pripyat, or Kopachi in your/our beloved country. We don’t want our fish to die of brine accumulation or radioactive bio-magnification. We don’t want people to disappear and houses to be buried. We want transparent, trust-worthy technology that actually cares about the breathing lives in this land and sea. We don’t want disaster. And heck if disaster happens, we truly know we have nothing in place to manage it!

sam pc

Koodankulam Press Release | October 20, 2014
KKNPP Must Tell the Whole Truth and the Director Must Go

The turbine of the first unit at the KKNPP is said to have developed some major problem. Although the first unit attained criticality in July 2013, it has not begun commercial operation yet even after 15 months of its erratic functioning. Even before starting its commercial operations “the world class third generation plant” is on the blink. It is ironic that the Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, KKNPP and scores of pro-government scientists have been issuing “the best and the safest” certification to this project for the past three years.

It is reliably learnt now that the faulty equipment in the turbine are being replaced and it may take a considerable amount of time to do that. It is quite pertinent to note here that there was a valve burst at the first unit a few months back and six workers were badly injured. All this attest to our claim that they have used shoddy and substandard parts at the Koodankulam project.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board tested all the equipment and their functioning so carefully and methodically and issued certificates for each step. How come they did not detect any problems with the turbine then? What kind of tests did they do? How did they give “all clear” certification? If this is the efficiency and efficacy of the AERB, we have to be really worried about the safety and security of 8 crore Tamils and 4 crore Malayalis in the southern tip of India.

It is really disconcerting that the KKNPP authorities remain tight-lipped about the excessive diesel purchase, recurrent accidents, and equipment malfunctioning that keep happening at the KKNPP. Mr. R. S. Sundar, the Site Director of the KKNPP, must resign from his job. He has been refusing to tell the truth to the people of this country and the press about the KKNPP. This is a major dereliction of duty. He would do the same mistake even if a major accident were to happen here at Koodankulam. It is not clear who he is trying to protect. It is also not clear if he does care about the safety and security of the people of this area. People in this region cannot sleep peacefully with our children with officers like Mr. Sundar in charge of a mega nuclear power park. So he must resign from his job.

Interestingly, the Russian Ambassador to India, Mr. Alexander Kadakin, has spoken recently that the Koodankulam nuclear power project is the best and the safest in the world and that his country would sell some 22 more plants to India. But today we hear that the turbine is not working at Koodankulam. The turbines the Russians had supplied to China (Tianwan) and to Iran (Busher) had serious problems too. We have strong reasons to believe that there are problems not only in the turbine of the KKNPP but also in the reactor core and other crucial areas.

When the first two reactors at Koodankulam are limping and tumbling, it would be a reckless move to erect two more reactors at the Koodankulam site. It is all too clear that the KKNPP project is a complete and total failure and it must be shut down permanently to safeguard the safety and security of the people of the southern tip of India.

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
Idinthakarai

Paper Flowers

“Clapping gives us strength.” – Latha

Tamil (with English subtitles) 24 mins 46 s

How can one move from treating the third gender as a spectacle and object of curiousity for the camera and instead attempt to capture fellow human beings’ lives, aspirations and dreams?

After the landmark Supreme Court ruling recognizing the third gender status of all transgenders in the country, Rajiv Krishnan (the cinematographer of Paper Flowers) uploaded this film on Youtube as a celebration and salute.

In 1998, Hijra Guru Meena and Deepa Krishnan, were invited to a trans-gender conference organised by a theatre group in Austria. Unfortunately, Meena couldn’t get her passport. And so friends got together, and made a film to represent her in the conference. The result is an intimate and yet quick window in to family of individuals on a journey for their rightful dignity and respect.

Please watch, screen or share.

Our Family

“People should realize who an Aravani is. People should know that we too have a life. They should learn to respect our feelings. Society should also accept us. If we’re accepted, everything is fine.”
– Seetha, a dancer

Tamil (with English subtitles), 55 mins 20 s

Maybe you remember Urvashi Butalia ask whether an organ, some hormones, a choice or an obligation makes one a mother. Let’s ask, what makes a family?

The School of Media and Cultural Studies in Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai have their very own Youtube channel, where every week they release a film from their archives. Our Family (2007) directed by Anjali Monteiro and K P Jayashankar, weaves together the story of a family of three generations of trans-genders, Aasha, Seetha and Dhana, with excerpts of  Nirvanam, a one person performance, by Pritham K. Chakravarthy. Watch, share and subscribe to the SMCS channel.

Conversation

In the past many people have been too frightened to talk much, publicly and even privately. It has been too dangerous or embarrassing or painful, There are still places where it is dangerous to speak. The powerful have always known that they are threatened by conversation. For most of history, the world has been governed by the conversation of intimidation or evasion. We cannot abolish timidity altogether, but we can redirect fears, so that they stimulate generosity rather than paralysis. 

- Theodore Zeldin, Conversation, Hidden Spring, 2000, p. 7

This essay is pretty much the base of every work by Theodore Zeldin. This book is like a mash up of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents and Gregory Stock’s The Book of Questions. However Zeldin does not merely push you to self-analyse or develop a vague idea of love for everything around you. He simply opens up the importance of conversation and the meeting of minds. He writes history by talking to people and this essay is to justify his method and share it with others. Read this and catch hold of all his books.

samyuktha pc

கற்பெனப்படுவது யாதெனில்

Kannagi and Sex Problems. Photo from Kamini Dandapani’s blogpost The Streetwall Journal

கற்புனா என்ன … இது பால் சார்ந்ததா …. பெண்ணுக்கு மட்டும் விதிக்கப்பட்டதா …. தமிழ் இலக்கிய கற்புக்கரசிகளை நினைத்தால் பாவமாக இருக்கிறது … பொய்யான போற்றுதல் … அம்மா கண்ணகி, சீதா , நளாயினி உங்களுக்கு சிலை வைத்து கடவுளாக போற்றுவதில் ஒரு பொய்யான பாரபச்சமுள்ள அரசியல் இருக்கிறதே அது உங்களுக்கு தெரியுமா … பள்ளிபருவத்தில் உங்களை படித்து கொண்டாடிய நான் இன்று உங்களை வெறுக்கிறேன் … நீங்கள் கற்புதேவதைகளாக தெரியவில்லை அரசியல் கலாச்சார அடிமைகளாகவே தெரிகின்றன … உங்கள் தினிக்கப்பட்டுள்ள அரசியல் யாரால் எழுதப்பட்டவை … உங்கள் கதாபாத்திரங்கள் யாரால் வடிவமைக்கப்பட்டவை … ??? அந்த ஆண் பெரிய புத்திசாலி … அடுத்த பல தலைமுறைக்கு தன் பாரபச்சமுள்ள கற்பெனும் ஆதிகத்தை எல்லா பெண்தெய்வ பாத்திரங்களிலும் போற்றி பொய்யுதுள்ளான் … உங்கள் கதைகளில் தேவர்கள் அசுரர்களைவிட
மோசமான கதாபாத்திரங்களாக உள்ளனர் …

ஒரு எழுத்து யாரையும் மாற்றும் வல்லமை கொண்டது … ஆண்டாண்டு காலமா அடிமைப்படுத்தும் அதிகாரமும் கொண்டது … பெண்ணோ ஆணோ உணர்வுவெணப்படுவது ஒன்றுதான்.. நான் அணியும் ஆடை முதல் என் தலையில்
இருக்கும் முடி கூட நீஙகள் நினைத்தபடிதான் இருக்கவேண்டும் அது தான் ஒழுக்கமுறை என்றால் தனிமனித சுகந்திரம் என்பது யாருக்கு மட்டுமே விதிக்கப்பட்டது … ??? கேள்விகள் 1000 இருக்கு இந்த அத்தனை கேள்விகளுக்கும் விதண்டாவாத பதில்கள் கோடி இருக்கின்றன … எனக்கு பதில் தேவையில்லை …. உங்களை மாற்ற நான் முயலவில்லை …

உண்மைபெயனப்படுவது யாதெனில் ???? Ha ah ha
ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளமுடியாதவை
மறுக்கப்படைபவை
ஆதிக்கம் செலுத்தி பிரித்துப் பார்க்கப்படுபவை ..

Malini Jeevarathnam’s facebook post graciously shared with us. 

Experimenting with Gandhi

the thousand children gandhis

Gandhi is a popular symbol and brand like Rajnikanth. It is quite hard to look at such a brand as a human being who breathes, sweats, defecates, ponders, falls in and out love, explores his own body and so on. We almost want to deny him that. As a public collective we expect each other to limit criticism or investigation, and instead encourage ourselves to build a delusional patriotic awe for a diluted version of Gandhi’s value system and historical doings.

Luckily, some people think it is necessary to talk about him in all ways possible. Whether it is Hitler, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Rajnikanth, Modi or Jayalalitha it is counterproductive and dangerous for our own understanding to flatten such public symbols to just a bunch of iconic events and actions remembered in strange costume parties as above.

In a ‘series of dialogues on belief’ LILA Inter-actions, which is like our local Edge, invited Pritham K Chakravarthy and Amitabh Mitra to experiment with Gandhi – the icon, the man, the philosophy and anything else they pleased to understand. Pritham leaves this man in the books and goes in search of Kasturba, whose role is usually limited to wife or a facet of his story – the woman behind his greatness. How much do we know or remember of Kasturba? Amitabh Mitra, on the other hand, finds himself quite confused about Gandhi’s relevance in contemporary South Africa, especially among the Indians and blacks. His article makes us look at the political necessity for violence and trauma in par with Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence in South Africa and India.

Read this dialogue here and participate in the comments section.

samyuktha pc.