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.

Koodankulam Update: Hot water spillage injures six workers at the nuclear power plant

14 May, 2014. 2.00 p.m. Shopkeepers from Anjugramam, a village about 15 km from Koodankulam nuclear complex, reported seeing at least 6 ambulances rushing by at around 1.15 p.m. Anjugramam lies near a fork in the road, where one fork leads to Kanyakumari town and the other to Nagercoil. Another Idinthakarai resident, Mildred, who was at Myladi (25 km from Koodankulam) reported seeing 3 ambulances rush by at around 1.45 p.m. Myladi is en route Nagercoil. Nagercoil and Kanyakumari are two major towns within 30 km of the nuclear plant, with large hospitals. Predictably, the nuclear establishment denied the occurrence of any accident first. Later they admitted to a minor incident and are reported to have said that the injured were taken to the hospital in the NPCIL township, where they were well enough to walk on their own. Sources from inside the plant report that at least three of the injured were contract workers and the other three were NPCIL staff. Reports also suggest that the accident happened in or around the boiler section of Unit 1, which reportedly attained criticality mid-year last year.
After initially flashing news about the incident, the media is now reportedly playing NPCIL’s statements denying and downplaying the incident. If NPCIL’s past record is anything to go by, truth will be a while in coming. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was unavailable for comment.
This accident comes less than a week after the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that it was satisfied with the safety features installed at the plant.

Conversation with NPCIL, Koodankulam Station Director R.S. Sundar on his mobile phone 9443350706 at around 3.40 p.m, on 14 May 2014

NJ (me): Hello Sir. This is Nityanand. I’m a freelance writer. I’m calling to find out if the workers admitted at Krishna Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil are from your plant.
RSS: Who are you? First tell me who you are.
NJ: My name is Nityanand Jayaraman and I’m a freelance journalist from Chennai, currently speaking from Coonoor.
RSS: I don’t speak to freelance journalists, only normal journalists.
NJ: Sir, I am a normal journalist. There are a lot of rumours doing the rounds. I merely wanted to confirm that there was an incident at Koodankulam.
RSS: What did you say your name was?
NJ: Nityanand Jayaraman.
RSS: I don’t know you. Who do you write for?
NJ: I’m a freelancer sir. I write opinion pieces and have published in Yahoo, The Hindu, Tehelka and have written extensively about Koodankulam.
RSS: I only speak to journalists I know.
NJ: Obviously, you can’t know all the journalists. How can I get a confirmation then?
RSS: You go speak to someone else. Speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: You seem very angry with the media sir. Any problem?
RSS: No problem. There is nothing. i don’t know you. That’s all.
NJ: But you are not likely to know many of the international media either. How can you speak to them then?
RSS: I cannot speak to international media. I cannot speak to you.
NJ: I am not from the international media. I am a Chennai based freelancer. I just wanted a simple confirmation sir. Did any incident take place at Koodankulam today?
RSS: You come on the land line.
NJ: Can you give me the land line number sir?
RSS: You speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: Can you give me their number sir?
RSS: No. I don’t have it. You call on the land line.
NJ: Can I have the number sir?
[Hands it over to assistant]
Assistant: Take down sir. 259718.
NJ: Area code sir?
Assistant: 04637
NJ: Who should I speak to sir?
Assistant: You just call that number?
NJ: Who should I ask for?
Assistant: Speak to the person who picks up the phone.
[Hangs up]

It makes one wonder, especially when the person who picks up the phone when I called says cryptically that “All the injured are in conscious condition.” If it is a “small incident” as stated by Mr. R.S. Sundar to NDTV, why all this cloak and dagger. If the plant has a sound disaster/emergency response system, why did they have to drive more than 1 hour on bad roads to Nagercoil to treat the injuries from a “small incident.” Clearly, NPCIL does not have a disaster management plan in place, and its corporate communications itself is a disaster that has to be managed.

Click to read Of small incidents and big disasters, Tehelka.com

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam set-up has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor and non-transparent communication, lack of emergency response infrastructure, non-compliance with operating procedures, lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel…

Shared by Nityanand Jayaraman, a writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

Koodankulam Update: Reaching Criticality

Statement from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace:

In a shocking development, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has announced that the first nuclear reactor at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu has reached criticality, or the beginning of a fission chain reaction.

This is an important step in the plant’s commissioning and towards making the fission process irreversible. But it violates the spirit of the Supreme Court’s May 6 order, which asked that NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board “oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant. A report to that effect be filed before this Court” prior to its commissioning.

Implicit in the order is not just the formal filing of such a report, but its perusal and approval by the Supreme Court. However, the agencies concerned merely filed the report in a sealed envelope, but the Court confirmed on July 15 that it has not even seen, let alone approved, the report.

This is part of a pattern followed by the nuclear establishment in cutting corners and bypassing essential procedures in matters of safety. It amounts to a breach of public trust, ans shows contempt for democratic and judicial processes.

The Koodankulam reactor was made critical despite the massive and sustained peaceful popular protests against the plant, and despite numerous warnings by nuclear experts, including former AERB chairman A Gopalakrishnan, about the plant’s vulnerability to hazards and the use of substandard equipment supplied by Russian company Zio-Podolsk.

This is profoundly anti-democratic and totally unacceptable. Ironically, the Koodankulam reactor reached criticality on the same day that China bowed to public protest by announcing the abandonment of a nuclear processing project in the Southeast.

We demand that the commissioning of the Koodankulam reactor be immediately halted and an independent safety review be initiated at the earliest into the plant.

The authorities must revoke the criminal charges filed against the protesters in Koodankulam with immediate effect in keeping with the Supreme Court’s order.

Achin Vanaik
Praful Bidwai
Lalita Ramdas
Abey George
P K Sundaram

Summary from Koodankulam Criticality: Tickling the Dragon’s Tail, Dianuke: 

The Commissioning of the first VVER-1000 reactor at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant [KKNPP] has been delayed by 66 months. According to a report dated 19 June 2013 by Dr A Gopalakrishnan, formerly Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board [AERB], the instrumentation and control cables in the reactor are giving out spurious signals which is the operator’s main headache now. KKNPP’s Station Director had appointed a committee of scientists to clarify this issue. The clarification has not been given so far. Instead, the authorities have decided to go for the first act of criticality [FAC]. There are eight other reactors in the world – 6 in South Korea and 2 in the Czech Republic, which have had cable-related problems. The problems in the Korean reactors have been due to counterfeit cables which the Korean regulator has decided to replace. Studies have shown that the KKNPP reactors have counterfeit equipment such as the reactor pressure vessel, polar cranes and safety-class valves. Taking the reactor to FAC without clarifying the safety issues is a high risk operation.

Dr. V. Prakash, Dr Joseph Makkolil, K Sahadevan, VT Padmanabhan, Dr R Ramesh, V Pugazhendi

KKNPP Update 2 April: Police picks up fight with Kootapulli villagers; lob teargas, beat up fishermen

2 April, 2013 — between 4-5 p.m: A 200 strong posse of police had been deployed to the Koodankulam township area in anticipation of PMANE’s declared protest at the Township tomorrow. Instead of stationing themselves near the township, the 200-strong police force entered Koottapulli fishing village. This led to an altercation between the villagers and the police, with the former demanding that the police station themselves outside the village, as their presence inside the village vitiates the atmosphere. Instead of leaving the village, an enraged police force lobbed tear gas shells and began a baton-charge. Orders for cane charge and tear gas shells cannot be taken in the absence of senior officials. However, the Superintendent of Police was not anywhere in the vicinity at that time, and arrived much later. Two people were reportedly injured badly in the police attack. The police has currently retreated and left the village premises, even as fishing villages in the region are tense.


As conveyed by Lena Kumar to Nityanand Jayaraman

An evening on the sea

Poovulagin Nanbargal presents

An evening on the sea – screening of documentary films on Koodankulam struggle.

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence” – Leonardo Davinci.

The screening of documentary films is intended to shed some light on the struggles of the people from Koodankulam spread over a year.

We believe that by screening these documentaries, we could effectively re-construct the various phases of struggle, and also record the voices of the people involved in the struggle in the mainstream.

Join your voices, with theirs. For silence only strengthens authority.

When: December 10, 6.00 P.M

Where: VisCom Hall, Loyola College 

Speakers: Writer Joe De Cruz, director Seenu Ramasamy, Director Ram, director Ranjith,Writer Baskar Sakthi and writer Ajayan Bala.

Contact: 98410 31730

invitation

Chingari Award to the women of Idinthakarai – epicenter of the non violent struggle against the powerful nuclear lobby

Chief Guest Dr. Vandana Shiva lauds the role of women in fighting corporate crime

Bhopal, December 1st 2012: The ‘Chingari Award for Women against Corporate Crime’ was handed over to two women, Rani Dasan and Thenmozhi Manickam, representing the thousands of brave women activists who have rallied against the powerful nuclear establishment in a continuing struggle for justice against great odds. Eminent environmental activist, Dr.Vandana Shiva, the Chief Guest at the function, said, “The Kudankulam struggle has emerged not merely as the most defining challenge to nuclear power in the country today but is also one of the strongest demonstrations of non-violent people’s power. The role of the women in the struggle has been critical in ensuring that the energy of the fight remains undiminished. They are truly the ‘chingaris’ of the struggle and it is an honour to be able to present the award to them.”

Referring to the contribution of the women in the fight, the citation of the award read,” The simple women of Idinthakarai, Kuthenkuzhi, Kootapully, Koodankulam, Vairavikinaru and numerous other coastal villages in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thootukudi districts embody the spirit of democracy, courage and resistance. Their antagonists are no ordinary entities. Ranged against the beedi-rollers, agriculturists and fisherwomen of South Tamil Nadu is a formidable array of opponents – the Governments of Tamil Nadu, India and Russia; a nuclear supplier lobby comprising multinational companies who see the entire Indian market shutting its doors to them if the Koodankulam struggle were to succeed; a media that has for most part been hostile; a disinterested and cynical public, and national political parties that have either remained curiously silent or come out vocally in support of nuclear energy. In celebration of the power of non-violence over violence, of truth over falsehood and of people’s resolve over the might of a corporate police state, the 2012 Chingari Award is given to the brave women of Idinthakarai, Koodankulam, Kuthenkuzhy, Kootapully and Vairavikinaru.”

Speaking at the award ceremony, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, Managing Trustees of Chingari and women who’ve lead from the front in the fight for corporate accountability against multinational Dow-Carbide, said:

“We feel honored to be able to stand in solidarity with the women of Idinthakarai. The Chingari Trust is for the 6th year running been able to shine the spotlight on brave women activists across the country fighting powerful vested interests at great risk to their lives. We also remember today the feisty Dayamani Barla a journalist and tribal activist, who was a recipient of this award in 2008 who is now imprisoned by the Madhya Pradesh government, in a blatant attempt to intimidate and repress a fight against land acquisition. We condemn this action of the state and call for her immediate release.”

The Chingari Trust was started by two women survivors of the Bhopal disaster who were awarded the Goldman Environmental prize in 2004. The women – Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla used the prize money of 125 thousand USD to set up Chingari Trust. More than 150 children affected by the toxic legacy of the Dow – Carbide plant, are provided medical and social support at the Chingari rehabilitation center on Berasia road.

Rashida Bee

Managing Trustee

Champa Devi Shukla

Managing Trustee

(forwarded by Nityanand Jayaraman)

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Fresh cases against Idinthakarai Trio

from Nityanand Jayaraman (Chennai Solidarity Group)

09 November 2012 Idinthakarai Updates:

The Tamil Nadu Police has added three new cases against three Idinthakarai women — Xavier Ammal, Selvi and Sundari — who are already in Trichy Women’s Prison.

The trio were originally jailed in three cases that claimed that they were involved in everything from shouting obscene slogans to carrying aruvals (sickles) and crowbars, to waging war against the Government of India (with an aruval) and Sedition. On 18 October, 2012, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court heard the bail appeals of 50 villagers from villages around Koodankulam. The court released 47 villagers, but denied bail to three women — Xavier Ammal, Selvi and Sundari. The women have already spent nearly two months in jail, and given the High Court’s rejection, they are unlikely to return to their families anytime soon.

Their alleged crime was an act that most women would commit intuitively, namely acting to protect their families, their communities and their future generations. Xavier Amma, Selvi and Sundari are strong, though gentle, women who have worked hard to keep their families together by rolling beedis, and selling fish, even while spending time daily in the protest venue with other women. When the occasion demanded, and it did with the impending commissioning of the Koodankulam reactors post-Fukushima, the women of Idinthakarai and surrounding villages galvanised into action. Among these thousands of women, these three have clearly stood out as leaders.

Separately, about a week ago, the Police have booked A. Lourdusamy (68), a seaweed collector, and Nazarene (40), a fisherman, under the draconian Goondas Act. Both are from Idinthakarai. According to an extract from the Wikipedia, “The Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Forest-offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video Pirates Act (Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982; “Video Pirates” was added by Act 32 of 2004), Section 2(f) states “goonda means a person, who either by himself or as a member of or leader of a gang habitually commits, or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offence, punishable under Chapter XVI or Chapter XVII or Chapter XXII of the Indian Penal Code (Central Act XLV of 1860).”According to a 2011 ruling of the Madras High Court, even a single offense under the Act permits detention of a person as a goonda.

After, sedition and waging war against the State, the Tamil Nadu police’s creative abuse of law is now turning to the Goondas Act as a tool of suppressing dissent.

This is part of the State Government’s vicious program to teach protestors a lesson. It is meant to serve as a warning to everyone that if you are too insistent with your demands, the Government will leave no stone unturned to make life unlivable.

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