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.

Games for Actors and Non-Actors excerpt – The Nuclear Power Station

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a dance piece where the dancers dance in the first act, and in the second showed the audience how to dance? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a musical where in the first act the actors sang and in the second we all sang together?

What would also be wonderful would be a theatre show where we, the artists, would present our world-view in the first act and where in the second act, they, the audience, could create a newworld.

Let them create it first in the theatre, in fiction, to be better prepared to create it outside afterwards, for real.” (p.29)

Forum Theatre is a technique, or a compendium of methodologies, developed in the 1970s by a Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal. It creates a theatre where the audience is encouraged to be participants (spect-actors) in identifying and dramatizing the connections between socio-cultural problems, economic and political repression, and also internal and personal oppressions. First, a group of actors devise, rehearse and enact a play presenting a certain view of the world, with at least one political or social problem, which can be analysed during the forum session. Then, the spect-actors are asked if they agree with the solutions given by the protagonist. The actors then perform the play one more time, but this time the audience members can yell stop and take the space of the protagonist and change actions. Forum theatre plays can be surreal, linear, or in any style or genre that organically grows from the rehearsals, but the objective must be to discuss concrete situations. Games for Actors and Non-Actors is a collection of games and exercises that can be used in any space that needs discussion, dialogue, theatre, and action. Boal has written experiential notes along with the games, to give you the context of where it was developed, and how it played out. Here is an excerpt from the book, an example of a forum theatre play in Sweden, discussing many themes we have spoken about in Chai Kadai –

“In Sweden, the controversy over nuclear energy and the construction of power stations was very much a live issue. Some even said that the main reason for the gunning down of Prime Minister Olof Palme was his having affirmed that he would pursue a policy of nuclear gearing-up. His opponents said the opposite – and afterwards, they did it anyway…

1st action

Eva is in her office, at work. The scene shows friends, the Boss, day-to-day problems, the process of finding new projects to work on, the daily grind of a hard life.

2nd action

Eva is at home; her husband is out of work, their daughters are spendthrifts, they need money. A Female Friend drops round, they go out. They go straight to a demonstration against the construction of atomic power plants.

3rd action

Back at the office. The Boss comes in whooping with joy: a new project has been accepted! Everyone celebrate the news! Champagne is consumed! Joy unbounded…. till the Boss explains what this new project is about – the development of a refrigeration system for a nuclear power station. Eva is torn; she needs work, she wants to support her fellow workers, but this situation poses a moral problem for her. She gives all the reason she can for not accepting this new project, and her colleagues give their opposing reasons. Finally Eva gives in and accepts the job!

The forum

In this piece it was clear that the protagonist was going to have to commit an error and not be heroic. The audience almost cried when Eva gave in. And the effect of this was an extraordinary intensification of the fight – the game of actors/oppressors against spect-actors/oppressed – when it came to finding reasons for Eva to say no. Each time a spect-actor gave in and saw that she was beaten, the piece rapidly retraced its path towards Eva’s ‘Yes’. Passions in the audience ran high again till someone shouted ‘Stop!’; then the scene stopped a new spect-actor tried a new solution starting from the first action, or the second, or even the third. Everythin was analysed: the husband’s unemployment, the daughters’ mania for consumption, Eva’s indecision. Sometimes the analysis was purely ‘psychological’, then another actor would come in and try to show the political side of the problem.

Should we be for or against nuclear power stations? Can one be against scientific progress? Can the word ‘progress’ be applied to science when it leads us to the discovery of nuclear weapons?

And on the question of the disposal of ‘nuclear waste’: surely it could be satisfactorily disposed of in a social system whose central value was the human being rather than the profit motive.

I have already twice had the opportunity to take part in pieces of this kind. The first time was in the USA, where an analogous piece had been written about the inhabitants of a town which was producing the napalm used in Vietnam. In the end, in the American example, the inhabitants accepted the factory, reaching the conclusion that it would be economically ruinous to close it….. Ruinous for whom? The second time was in Lisbon, again with a similar model: there is a refinery there which is causing a noticeable increase in the occurrence for lung cancer…. but it is important for the economy. Here again, the residents give way and resigned themselves to living with pollution, rather than living without jobs.” (p. 26, 27, 28.)

Read more on the International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation’s website: www.theatreoftheoppressed.org

shared by samyuktha pc

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

Radioactive Wolves

English. 52 mins 09s.

What happens to nature after a nuclear accident? And how does wildlife deal with the world it inherits after human inhabitants have fled? The historic nuclear accident at Chernobyl is now 25 years old. Filmmakers and scientists set out to document the lives of the packs of wolves and other wildlife thriving in the dead zone that still surrounds the remains of the reactor.

Dangers at Kudankulam – Mainstream Weekly

Anti-nuclear protests in Idinthakarai, Koodankulam

The dangers present at Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and surrounding areas are several, but they can be separated into two categories, namely, dangers as seen by government and as seen by people. This is not to imply that government is not legitimate, because it has been elected by the people. But from what follows it is apparent that the government is not for the people.

via Dangers at Kudankulam – S G Vombatkare – Mainstream Weekly. 29 September 2012

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Anugundu – The Atom Bomb | Documentary

Anugundu – The Atom Bomb ( Tamil with English subtitles) – YouTube. 48 minutes.

A film by Manila Mohan, a journalist with a Malayalam literary magazine, who visits the protesters in Koodankulam. The documentary details many pitfalls in the building and commissioning of the nuclear power plant in Idinthakarai, Koodankulam. It interviews many of the villagers, including women and children, who express concerns about their safety, the stupidity of such an unsafe technology, and question for whom is this development and electricity that the States promise.

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“to fight for our future without nukes together”: Joint Letter from three Japanese anti-nuclear activists

To our friends who struggle for nuclear free future,

A Historic movement is underway in Tamil Nadu State against Koodankulam nuclear power station. People across the world are moved by the resistance and want to express solidarity. We tried to visit India to show our solidarity on September 25 but were denied access at Chennai airport. After an hour-long interrogation, we had our paper written as “Inadmissible person” ,which denied our entrance to India. It is unforgivable for the government, which invites countless nuclear merchants from Western countries, to deny such small citizens like us. We are writing this letter because we would like you to know what we experienced.

When we got off the plane and approached the immigration counter, one personnel came to us smiling. We asked them where we can get arrival visa. They immediately checked our passport and brought us to the immigration office. There were more than 5 personnels asking questions to us respectively. I was brought to another room and three personnels asked me whether I am a member of No Nukes Asia Forum Japan. I was surprised because they mentioned the concrete name of the organization.

“You signed the international petition on Koodankulam, didn’t you? Your name was on the list. It means you are anti-nuclear” a personnel said. It so happens that all three of us our signatories of the international petition (May 2012). Another one asked me what we would do at Koodankulam. I was surprised again because no one had mentioned about Koodankulam. But the man showed me a printed itinerary of our domestic flight that I have never seen yet.

“We already know that you have booked the domestic flight. So you are going there. Who invited you all? Who is waiting for you at the arrival gate now? Who will pick you up at Tuticorin airport? Tell me their names. Tell me their telephone number. Will you join the agitation? ”  They asked many questions and surprisingly, they knew all our Indian friends’ names. We felt scared. We felt something wrong would happen to you. So we didn’t answer.

We know that many scientists supportive of nuclear power, and some that are paid by the nuclear industry have visited India and spoken on behalf of nuclear power. These were not merely allowed by the Indian Government, but even encouraged. With India’s avowed commitment to democracy, one would imagine that contrary points of view would be encouraged.

Then, they asked me another questions about us, referring to a bunch of papers. “What is Mr. Watarida’s occupation? He is involved in the anti-nuclear movement in Kaminoseki, right?” According to Mr. Watarida, there was a lot of information about our activities in Japan written on those papers. They already researched our activities in detail.

They tried to ask various questions. At first they talked in a friendly manner. They told us that we can enter India if we gave them the information about the movement in Koodankulam. But gradually they got irritated because they wanted to deport us as soon as possible. The Air Asia airplane that brought us to Chennai one hour earlier was about to leave again for Kuala Lumpur. We were at the office more than one hour. Finally, they said ” Answer within 5 minutes, otherwise you will be deported.” We answered a little but it seemed that they didn’t get satisfied with our answer. We were taken to the departure area. Mr. Nakai asked them to allow him to go to washroom, but they refused. Probably they didn’t want us to call some of our Indian friends, or they were waiting us to make domestic phone call. They wanted to know the exact names and telephone number of our friends, so I couldn’t use my cell phone.

At the last gate, Mr. Watarida asked a immigration staff why we got deported. He answered that the Indian government directed us to be sent out and that we would be in jail if we didn’t obey. We were taken to the Air Asia airplane and it took off immediately.

We were given a paper. Mine was written as below;

WHEREAS Mrs. Yoko Unoda national who arrived at Chennai Airport from Kuala Lumpur on 25/9/2012 by flight No. AK1253 has been refused permission to land in India.

You are hereby directed under para 6 of THE FOREIGNERS ORDER 1948 TO REMOVE THE SAID FOREIGNER Mrs. Yoko Unoda out of India by the same flight or the first available flight failing which you shall be liable for action under the said PARA of Foreigners Order, 1948.

We had come to India in peace, to extend our peace and to extend our learnings about the dangers of nuclear power. As Japanese, we should know what the problems are with both the military use and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are aware that in India, your government has organised international meetings of the nuclear industry, where the people interested in selling nuclear equipment have been invited as state guests to come and flaunt their wares. We have nothing to sell, just our stories about the dangers and pains that nuclear energy will bring you. It is unfortunate that your Government denied us the hospitality that the people of India were extending to us. In a democracy, and particularly with controversial technologies like nuclear energy, it is important that free and fair debate is conducted in a fear-free atmosphere. It is clear that the nuclear establishment in India is not prepared for such a free and fair debate.

In Japan, a report of a high level committee set up by the Parliament after Fukushima found that the disaster was made in Japan and was a result of secrecy, the failure of people to question their Governments and the closeness between the regulators and the nuclear energy operators.

Your Government’s refusal of entry to us merely because we bear an opinion contrary to theirs on the matter of nuclear energy speaks poorly of your Government’s claims to democratic ideals and free speech. We are fearful of the consequences of deploying a hazardous technology like nuclear power in such a secretive and oppressive context.

We could not see people in Koodankulam and those sympathized with them. It is truly regrettable that we could not meet them. However, after being denied entrance, our concern has become more serious and our solidarity has been stronger. Those who push for nuclear energy are closely connected. Globally, there are no boarders when it comes to nuclear devastation. Then let us overcome the difference of nationalities and languages and make thousands of, ten thousands of comrades to fight for our future without nukes together. We hope to see you in India on next opportunity.

Masahiro Watarida(Hiroshima Network against Kaminoseki NPP)

Shinsuke Nakai(Video Journalist)

Yoko Unoda(No Nukes Asia Forum Japan

[forwarded by Nityanand Jayaraman, Chennai Solidarity Group]

What is Nuclear Energy?

A book in English written by Neeraj Jain, published by Lokayat, Pune to create awareness amongst people regarding nuclear energy. We are publishing the first two chapters of this book for it is a very good introduction to the science and technology of nuclear energy. [ Please read more of the book – Unite to Fight Nuclear Madness pdf Second Edition June 2012.  This book answers many important questions like – Is Nuclear Energy Green? Is Nuclear Energy Safe?]

Part I: The Basics of Nuclear Power

The basic operation of a nuclear power plant is no different from that of a conventional power plant that burns coal or gas. Both heat water to convert it into pressurised steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. The key difference between the two plants lies in the method of heating the water. Conventional power plants burn fossil fuels to heat the water. In a nuclear power plant, this heat is produced by a nuclear fission reaction, wherein energy in the nucleus of an atom is released by splitting the atom.

The Atom

Everything is made of atoms. Any atom found in nature will be one of 92 types of atoms, also known as elements. (Actually, an element is a pure substance made up of only one type of atoms.) Atoms bind together to form molecules. So, a water molecule is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Every substance on Earth—metal, plastics, hair, clothing, leaves, glass—is made up of combinations of the 92 atoms that are found in nature.

Atoms are made up of three subatomic particles: the positively charged protons, the neutral neutrons and the negatively charged electrons. Protons and neutrons bind together to form the nucleus of the atom, while the electrons surround and orbit the nucleus.

Every element is characterised by its mass number and atomic number. The mass number is the number of protons and neutrons in its nucleus, while the atomic number is the number of protons. The chemical properties of an atom depend upon the number of protons in it, that is, its atomic number. There are atoms whose nuclei have the same number of protons, but different number of neutrons. The chemical properties of these atoms are identical, since they have the same number of protons. Such atoms are called isotopes. An isotope is designated by its element symbol followed by its mass number. For instance, the three isotopes of uranium are designated as U-234, U-235 and U-238.

Nuclear Fission

Fission means splitting. When a nucleus fissions, it splits into several lighter fragments. Nuclear fission can take place in one of two ways: either when a nucleus of a heavy atom captures a neutron, or spontaneously. Two or three neutrons are also emitted. The sum of the masses of these fragments (and emitted neutrons) is less than the original mass. This ‘missing’ mass has been converted into energy, which can be determined by Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 (where E is the energy, m is the mass, c is the speed of light).

Typical fission events release about 200 million eV (electron volts) for each fission event, that is, for the splitting of each atom. In contrast, when a fossil fuel like coal is burnt, it releases only a few eV as energy for each event (that is, for each carbon atom). This is why nuclear fuel contains so much more, millions of times more, energy than fossil fuel: the energy found in one kilogram of uranium is equivalent to the burning of 2000 tons of high-grade coal.

It is this energy released in a nuclear fission reaction that is harnessed to convert water to steam and drive a turbine and generate electricity in a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear Chain Reaction

The nuclear fission reaction is accompanied by the emission of several neutrons. Under suitable conditions, the neutrons released in a fission reaction fission at least one more nucleus. This nucleus in turn emits neutrons, and the process repeats. The fission reaction thus becomes self-sustaining, enabling the energy to be released continuously. This self-sustaining fission reaction is known as nuclear chain reaction.

The average number of neutrons from one fission that cause another fission is known as the multiplication factor, k. Nuclear power plants operate at k=1. If k is greater than 1, then the number of fission reactions increases exponentially, which is what happens in an atomic bomb.

Nuclear Fuel

The isotopes that can sustain a fission chain reaction are called nuclear fuels. The only isotope that can be used as nuclear fuel and
also occurs naturally in significant quantity is Uranium-235. Other isotopes used as nuclear fuels are artificially produced, plutonium-239 and uranium-233. (Pu-239 occurs naturally only in traces, while U-233 does not occur naturally.)

We discuss the use of U-235 as nuclear fuel here. Uranium has many isotopes. Two, U-238 primarily, and to a lesser extent, U-235, are commonly found in nature. Both U-235 and U-238 undergo spontaneous radioactive decay, but this takes place over periods of millennia: the half-life of U-238 (half-life is the amount of time taken by half the atoms to decay) is about 4.47 billion years and that of U-235 is 704 million years. (For more on radioactivity and half-life, see Chapter 3, Part I.)

While both U-235 and U-238 are fissionable, that is, both undergo fission on capturing a neutron, there is an important difference in their fission properties. U-238 can only be fissioned by fast moving neutrons, it cannot be fissioned by slow moving neutrons; therefore, it cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction as the neutrons released during its fission inevitably inelastically scatter to lose their energy. However, U-235 has the property that it can be fissioned by slow moving neutrons too. This is what makes it fissile; in other words, it can sustain a nuclear chain reaction and can be used as nuclear fuel.

The concentration of U-235 in naturally occurring uranium ore is just around 0.71%, the remainder being mostly the non-fissile isotope U-238. For most types of reactors, this concentration is insufficient for sustaining a chain reaction and needs to be increased to about 3-5% in order that it can be used as nuclear fuel. This can be done by separating out some U-238 from the uranium mass. This process is called enrichment, and the resulting uranium is called enriched uranium. [Note that not all nuclear reactors need enriched uranium; for example, Heavy Water Reactors use natural (unenriched) uranium.]

As mentioned above, U-235 also undergoes a small amount of spontaneous fission, which releases a few free neutrons into any sample of nuclear fuel. These neutrons collide with other U-235 nuclei in the vicinity, inducing further fissions, releasing yet more neutrons, thus starting a chain reaction.

If exactly one out of the average of roughly 2.5 neutrons released in the fission reaction is captured by another U-235 nucleus to cause another fission, then the chain reaction proceeds in a controlled manner and a steady flow of energy results. However, if on the average, less than one neutron is captured by another U-235 atom, then the chain reaction gradually dies away. And if more than one neutrons are captured, then an uncontrolled chain reaction results, which can cause the nuclear reactor to meltdown; this is also what happens in an atomic bomb. To control the fission reaction in a nuclear reactor, most reactors use control rods that are made of a strongly neutron-absorbent material such as boron or cadmium.

The neutrons released in a fission reaction travel extremely fast, and therefore the possibility of their being captured by another U-235 nucleus is very low. Therefore they need to be slowed down, or moderated. In a nuclear reactor, the fast neutrons are slowed down using a moderator such as heavy water or ordinary water.

Part II:  The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The nuclear fission reaction that we have discussed above is only a small part of the entire complex process of generating electricity from uranium. The entire process is known as the nuclear fuel cycle. We now take a brief look at the various stages of this process (including the phase of uranium enrichment).

Mining: The nuclear fuel cycle starts with mining of uranium. Since 90% of the worldwide uranium ores have uranium content of less than 1%, and more than two-thirds have less than 0.1%, large amounts of ore have to be mined to obtain the amounts of uranium required.

Milling: The mined ore is then trucked to the mill to be processed to extract the uranium. Here, the ore is first ground into fine powder, and then treated with several chemicals to extract the uranium. The coarse powder thus obtained is called yellowcake. It contains 70-90% uranium oxide (U3O8).

Enrichment (not for Heavy Water Reactors):  The uranium oxide in the yellowcake contains both the fissile U-235 and non-fissile U-238. The yellow cake is now taken to a processing facility. Here, the uranium oxide is converted to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), as this compound is gaseous at low temperatures and so is easier to work with. The UF6 is now enriched either through diffusion or centrifugation, meaning the proportion of fissile U-235 in it is increased from 0.7 percent to 3-5 percent. The process yields two types of UF6: one is enriched, and the other, which contains primarily U-238, is called depleted, so-called because most of the U-235 has been extracted from it.

Fuel element fabrication: The enriched uranium hexafluoride gas is now converted into solid uranium oxide fuel pellets, each the size of a cigarette filter. These pellets are packed into very thin tubes of an alloy of zirconium, and the tubes are then sealed. These tubes are called fuel rods. Each fuel rod is normally twelve feet long and half-an-inch thick. The finished fuel rods are bundled together to form the fuel assembly (or fuel bundle), which may have as many as 200 fuel rods. Several fuel assemblies are now placed in the reactor core of the nuclear power reactor—the number may go up to several dozen, depending upon the reactor design.

Nuclear reactor: The nuclear reactor is where the nuclear fuel is fissioned and the resulting chain reactions are controlled and sustained at a steady rate.

Decommissioning: Nuclear power plants are designed for an operating life of 30-60 years. When the reactor completes its working life, it is dismantled. Unlike conventional coal and gas power plants, the dismantling of a nuclear power plant is a very long-term, complicated and costly operation, because the entire nuclear power plant, including all its parts, has become radioactively contaminated. The long-term management and clean up of these closed reactors is known as decommissioning, which can take anywhere between 5 to 100 years, depending upon the type of decommissioning plan.

Disposal of radioactive nuclear fuel waste: Every year, one-third of the nuclear fuel rods must be removed from the reactor, because they are so contaminated with fission products that they hinder the efficiency of electricity production. The uranium fuel after being subjected to the fission reaction in the reactor core becomes one billion times more radioactive; a person standing near a single spent fuel rod can acquire a lethal dose within seconds. This spent nuclear fuel is going to be radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Therefore, it needs to be safely stored for centuries to come.

Generally, the spent fuel is first stored for many years in on-site storage ponds and continually cooled by air or water. If it is not continually cooled, the zirconium cladding of the rod could become so hot that it would spontaneously burn, releasing its radioactive inventory. The cooling period can be from a few years to decades. After cooling, there are two options for the waste—either it is reprocessed, or it is moved to dry cask storage.

In the latter case, the spent fuel rods are packed by remote control into highly specialised containers made of metal or concrete designed to shield the radiation. These casks must be stored for centuries to come; however, no country having nuclear plants has succeeded in building such a long-term nuclear waste dump site. Presently, in most countries having nuclear plants, these casks are ‘temporarily’ stored near the spent fuel cooling ponds.

Reprocessing spent fuel: Reprocessing is a chemical process to separate out the uranium and plutonium contained in the spent fuel, which can then be used as fuel for what are known as Fast Breeder Reactors. Reprocessing also segregates the waste into high-level, intermediate-level and low-level wastes.

Part III: The Nuclear Reactor

Most nuclear reactors work on the same basic principles. The basic components common to most types of nuclear reactors are as below:

Reactor core: The part of the nuclear reactor where the nuclear fuel assembly is located.

Moderator: The material in the core which slows down the neutrons released during fission, so that they cause more fission. It is usually ordinary water (used in Light Water Reactors) or heavy water (used in Heavy Water Reactors).

Control rods: These are made with neutron-absorbing material such as cadmium, hafnium or boron, and are inserted or withdrawn from the core to control the rate of reaction, or halt it.

Coolant: A liquid or gas circulating through the core so as to transfer the heat from it. This primary coolant passes through a steam generator (except in Boiling Water Reactors or BWRs), where the heat is transferred to another loop of water (in the so-called secondary circuit) to convert it into steam. This steam drives the turbine. The advantage of this design is that the primary coolant, which has become radioactive, does not come into contact with the turbine.

Pressure vessel: Usually a robust steel vessel containing the reactor core and moderator/coolant.

Steam generator (not in BWRs): Here, the primary coolant bringing heat from the reactor transfers its heat to water in the secondary circuit to convert it into steam.

Containment: This is typically a metre-thick concrete and steel structure around the reactor core. After the zirconium fuel cladding and the reactor pressure vessel, this is the last barrier against a catastrophic release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. Apart from a primary containment, many reactors have a secondary containment too, which is normally a concrete dome enveloping the primary containment as well as the steam systems. This is very common in BWRs, as here most of the steam systems, including the turbine, contain radioactive materials.

Types of Nuclear Reactors

At a basic level, reactors may be classified into two classes: Light Water Reactors (LWRs) and Heavy Water Reactors (HWRs). LWRs are largely of two types, Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs). LWRs, and of them, the PWRs, are the most widespread reactors in operation today. Heavy Water Reactors can also be of different types, one of the most well known being the CANDU reactors developed by Canada, which are a type of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Most of India’s indigenous reactors are CANDU reactors.

Below, we discuss the most well-known type of nuclear power reactor—the PWR, and also the reactor design of most of India’s reactors—the PHWR or CANDU reactor.

Pressurised Water Reactor

A PWR uses ordinary water as both coolant and moderator. It has three water circuits. Water in the primary circuit which flows through the core of the reactor reaches about 325°C; hence it must be kept under about 150 times atmospheric pressure to prevent it from boiling. Water in the primary circuit is also the moderator, and if it starts turning into steam, the fission reaction would slow down. This negative feedback effect is one of the safety features of this type of reactors.

The hot water from the primary cooling circuit heats the water in the secondary circuit, which is under less pressure and therefore gets converted into steam. The steam drives the turbine to produce electricity. The steam is then condensed by water flowing in the tertiary circuit and returned to the steam generator.

Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR or CANDU)

A PHWR uses heavy water as the coolant and moderator, instead of ordinary water. Heavy water is a more efficient moderator than ordinary water as it absorbs 600 times fewer neutrons than the latter, implying that the PHWR is more efficient in fissioning U-235 nuclei. Hence, it can sustain a chain reaction with lesser number of U-235 nuclei in uranium as compared to PWRs. Therefore, PHWR uses unenriched uranium, that is, natural uranium (0.7% U-235) oxide, as nuclear fuel, thus saving on enrichment costs. On the other hand, the disadvantage with using heavy water is that it is very costly, costing hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

Conceptually, this reactor is similar to PWRs discussed above. Fission reactions in the reactor core heat the heavy water. This coolant is kept under high pressure to raise its boiling point and avoid significant steam formation in the primary circuit. The hot heavy water generated in this primary circuit is passed through a heat exchanger to heat the ordinary water flowing in the less-pressurised secondary circuit. This water turns to steam and powers the turbine to generate electricity.

The difference in design with PWRs is that the heavy water being used as moderator is kept in a large tank called Calandria and is under low pressure. The heavy water under high pressure that serves as the coolant is kept in small tubes, each 10 cms in diameter, which also contain the fuel bundles. These tubes are then immersed in the moderator tank, the Calandria.

2. Is Nuclear Energy Green?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Aug 21, 2011): “I am convinced that nuclear energy will play an important role in our quest for a clean and environmentally friendly energy mix as a major locomotive to fuel our development process.” [i]

Taking advantage of the growing crisis of global warming, political leaders, administrators and the global nuclear industry have launched a huge propaganda campaign to promote nuclear energy as the panacea for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

While it is true that nuclear reactors do not emit greenhouse gases in the same quantity as coal or oil powered generating stations, but to conclude that nuclear energy is “an environment friendly source of power” is a far stretch. Nuclear reactors do not stand alone; the production of nuclear electricity depends upon a vast and complex infrastructure known as the nuclear fuel cycle. And the fact is, the nuclear fuel cycle utilises large quantities of fossil fuel during all its stages, as discussed below.

Carbon Emission and the ‘Nuclear Fuel Cycle’

Uranium mining and milling are very energy intensive processes. The rock is excavated by bulldozers and shovels and then transported in trucks to the milling plant, and all these machines use diesel oil. The ore is ground to powder in electrically powered mills, and fuel is also consumed during conversion of the uranium powder to yellow cake. In fact, mining and milling are so energy intensive that if the concentration of uranium in the ore falls to below 0.01%, then the energy required to extract it from this ore becomes greater than the amount of electricity generated by the nuclear reactor. And most uranium ores are low grade; the high-grade ores are very limited.

The uranium enrichment process is also very energy intensive. For instance, the Paducah enrichment facility in the USA uses the electrical output of two 1,000 MW coal-fired plants for its operation, which emit large quantities of CO2.

The construction of a nuclear reactor is a very high-tech process, requiring an extensive industrial and economic infrastructure. Constructing the reactor also requires a huge amount of concrete and steel. All this consumes huge quantities of fossil fuel. After the reactor’s life is over, its decommissioning is also a very energetic process.[ii]

Finally, constructing the highly specialized containers to store the intensely radioactive waste from the nuclear reactor also consumes huge amounts of energy. This waste has to be stored for a period of time which is beyond our comprehension—hundreds of thousands of years! Its energy costs are unknown.

Energy Balance

A study done for the Green parties of the European Parliament by senior scientists Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith in 2004 estimated that under the most favourable conditions, the nuclear fuel cycle emits one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions of modern natural gas power stations. They excluded the energy costs of transportation and storage of radioactive waste in their calculations, and also assumed high grade uranium ore is used to make the nuclear fuel. But these high grade ores are finite. Use of the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors would produce more CO2 emissions and nuclear energy’s green choga will no longer remain green.[iii]

The concentration of uranium in India’s uranium ores is very low. From the total uranium mined in Jaduguda over the last 40 years, Dr. Surendra Gadekar has estimated that the ore quality at Jaduguda hasn’t been better than 0.03% for many years.[iv] At such meagre concentrations, it is obvious that the total CO2 emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle in India must be fairly high.

Actual Potential: Even Less

However, this represents only half the argument. Burning of fossil fuels is not the only factor responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, though it is the largest (see Table 2.1). Obviously, nuclear power cannot help in reducing these other causes of GHG emissions, like use of fertilisers in chemical agriculture, industrial processes that emit GHGs, etc. Then again, fossil fuels are burnt for various uses, and nuclear power can replace fossil fuels only in large scale electricity generation, and not in its other uses, like in the transportation sector.

Worldwide, use of fossil fuels for electricity and heating contributes to only 25% of the total GHG emissions. Therefore, replacing burning of fossil fuels with nuclear energy can only bring about some reduction in this part of the total global GHG emissions. (And that too, assuming that the nuclear energy is generated using high grade uranium ore.)

How much reduction is possible? The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that even if nuclear energy contribution were to quadruple by 2050, it would reduce global CO2 emissions by only 4 percent![v] The crisis of global warming is very acute, and to tackle it, what the world needs is not a marginal reduction in GHG emissions, but deep cuts in them—40 percent by 2020 and 95 percent by 2050. Obviously, nuclear power cannot significantly contribute to bringing about these reductions.

On the other hand, implementation of this scenario would require construction of 32 new 1000 MW nuclear reactors every year from now until 2050. Investment costs for these 1,400 new reactors would exceed $10 trillion at current prices. That is huge! Given the enormous subsidies needed to build just one reactor (discussed in Chapter 5), that would bankrupt even the richest countries!!


What About Renewable Sources of Energy?

The above discussion compared CO2 emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle with that from gas- and coal-fired power plants. The nuclear lobby focuses on this comparison to make an argument for building nuclear power plants. But there is another facet to the whole issue, which the nuclear lobby very conveniently forgets: renewable energy sources emit less greenhouse gases than nuclear plants! In comparison to renewable energy sources, power generated from nuclear reactors releases four to five times more CO2 per unit of energy produced, when taking into account the entire nuclear fuel cycle.[vii]

If the growing crisis of global warming is an argument in support of promoting nuclear energy as compared to electricity from burning fossil fuels, then, by an extension of this same logic, shouldn’t renewable energy be promoted as compared to nuclear energy?

[i]       Pallava Bagla, “Indian Leader Goes to Bat for Nuclear Energy”, August 22, 2011, http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider

[ii]      Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is not the answer to Global Warming or anything else, Melbourne University Press, 2006, pp. 7-13.

[iii]      Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, ‘Nuclear power — the energy balance’,  http://www.stormsmith.nl; Helen Caldicott, ibid, p. 6.

[iv]     Surendra Gadekar, ‘India’s nuclear fuel shortage’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Aug 6, 2008, http://www.thebulletin.org

[v]      Energy Technology Perspectives 2008, IEA/OECD, June 2008, cited in: Nuclear power: a dangerous waste of time, Greenpeace, Jan 2009, http://www.greenpeace.org

[vi]     Statistics taken from the flowchart: World Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2005, World Resources Institute, http://www.wri.org

[vii]     Bill Dougherty, senior scientist, Stockholm Environmental Institute, cited in: Nuclear Power and Children’s Health, Symposium Proceedings, Chicago, Illinois, Oct 15-16, 2004, http://www.helencaldicott.com/childrenshealth_proc.pdf

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A comprehensive book on India’s Atomic Energy establishment.

A book in English published by Aakar Books in association with Lokayat, Pune to create awareness amongst people regarding nuclear energy. The book  critically examines the most important claims made about the benefits of nuclear energy, that it is clean and safe, cheap, and green and is the answer to global warming. It also takes a close look at the reality of the claims about a ‘global nuclear renaissance’, by examining the present scenario and the likely future prospects for nuclear energy in North America and Western Europe. We are publishing an excerpt of the Intoduction to this book (Nuclear Energy – Technology from hell), you can also download a PDF version form the link.



The government of India is promoting nuclear energy as a solution to the country’s future energy needs and is embarking on a massive nuclear energy expansion program. It expects to have 20,000 MW nuclear power capacity online by 2020 1 and 63,000 MW by 2032 2 . The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has projected that India would have an astounding 275,000 MW of nuclear power capacity by 2050, which is expected to be 20 per cent of India’s total projected electricity generation capacity by then. 3 The signing of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal having opening up the possibility of uranium and nuclear reactor imports, the Prime Minister stated, in September 2009, that India could have an even more amazing 470,000 MW of nuclear capacity by 2050. 4 Dr Anil Kakodkar, then Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), is even more optimistic. He has predicted that India’s nuclear energy capacity could reach 600-700 thousand MW and account for 40 per cent of the estimated total power generation by 2050. 5 This would be a quantum leap from the present scenario. As of March 31, 2010, the total installed power generation capacity in the country was 159,400 MW, of which the contribution of nuclear power —more than sixty years after the atomic energy program was established and forty years after the first nuclear reactor started feeding electricity to the grid—was just 4560 MW, 6 or 2.86 per cent of the total. Thus, the projected capacity in 2050 would represent an increase by a factor of over a hundred.

New Projects

The government has taken rapid steps to implement this plan. Following the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, it has given ‘in principle’ approval to setting up a string of giant size nuclear parks all along India’s coastline, each having six to eight reactors of between 1000 to 1650 MW—at Mithivirdi (Gujarat), Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh) and Haripur (West Bengal). It is also proposing to set up four indigenous reactors of 700 MW each at Gorakhpur in Haryana, and another two similar reactors at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh. To meet the fuel needs of these plants, it is proposing to set up several new uranium mining projects: at Tummalapalle (Kadapa district) and Lambapur-Peddagattu (Nalgonda district) in Andhra Pradesh, Gogi (near Gulbarga) in Karnataka and West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.

Government Claims

Justifying this huge push for nuclear energy, India’s politicians, nuclear scientists and many prominent intellectuals are claiming that nuclear energy is clean, safe, green and cheap. This propaganda campaign is being led from the front by the Prime Minister himself. Here are a few quotes from some of his recent statements (emphasis ours in all quotes):

  • At the inauguration of a new fuel reprocessing plant at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Tarapur on January 7, 2011: He praised the plant at Tarapur as ‘an outstanding example of clean, economic and safe energy that our nation requires’.
  • At the Nuclear Security Summit, held in Washington, D.C. on April 13, 2010: Today, nuclear energy has emerged as a viable source of energy to meet the growing needs of the world in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. There is a real prospect for nuclear technology to address the developmental challenges of our times … The nuclear industry’s safety record over the last few years has been encouraging. It has helped to restore public faith in nuclear power.
  • Speech after dedicating Tarapur-3 and 4 atomic reactors to the nation on August 31, 2007: A nuclear renaissance is taking place in the world, ‘and we cannot afford to miss the bus or lag behind these global developments.’ Elaborating on the reasons for the growing importance of nuclear energy, he stated: ‘Our long-term economic growth is critically dependent on our ability to meet our energy requirements of the future … [Since] our proven reserves of coal, oil, gas and hydropower are totally insufficient to meet our requirements (and) the energy we generate has to be affordable, not only in terms of its financial cost, but in terms of the cost to our environment’, this was the reason why ‘we place so much importance on nuclear energy’.
  • Statement to the Indian Parliament on July 29, 2005, after returning from a visit to the United States where the first steps were taken towards signing what has come to be known as the ‘Indo-US Nuclear Deal’: ‘Energy is a crucial input to propel our economic growth … it is clear that nuclear power has to play an increasing role in our electricity generation plans … For this purpose, it would be very useful if we can access nuclear fuel as well as nuclear reactors from the international market … There is also considerable concern with regard to global climate change arising out of CO2 emissions. Thus, we need to pursue clean energy technologies. Nuclear power is very important in this context as well.’ Since ‘the US understood our position in regard to our securing adequate and affordable energy supplies, from all sources’ and because President Bush was willing to ‘work towards promoting nuclear energy as a means for India to achieve energy security’, this was the reason why India has decided to enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement with the USA.

On January 18, 2011, at an ‘open house’ on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project organised by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra in coordination with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), to clear misconceptions about nuclear power, an entire galaxy of scientists and doctors emphasised that nuclear power was safe, clean and green. They stated that the claims made by activists and scientists opposing nuclear energy—that radiation leakage from nuclear plants has a horrendous impact on human health, that it causes cancer and birth deformities in children, that mankind has yet to find a solution to the problem of what to do with the terribly radioactive waste generated by nuclear plants and that nuclear plants are prone to catastrophic accidents—were either an exaggeration, or lies:

  • S.K. Jain, NPCIL chairman and managing director, claimed that India already runs 20 nuclear plants without any blemish on its safety record.
  • The ‘experts’ claimed that nuclear plants do not harm the environment. Dr S.P. Dharne from the NPCIL said that nuclear power was clean and green energy, and that it could reduce the impact of global warming since it did not generate carbon dioxide. 12 Dr Srikumar Banerjee, current Chairman of the AEC, in fact, came up with the fantastic claim that flora and fauna had actually increased around India’s nuclear plants.
  • Dr Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of the AEC, tried to prove that the atomic waste generated by the Jaitapur nuclear plant would not cause any problems, as ‘there is no question of the waste being thrown in the open areas’. He stated that the nuclear waste would be ‘taken to reprocessing plant afteruse’, and therefore ‘[t]here is no hazard of the waste to the biodiversity of Konkan region.’
  • On fears about radiation leakages from nuclear power plants, the government experts came up with another amazing explanation: they stated that the belief that nuclear plants cause impotency and cancer and deformities among children is due to superstitions because of illiteracy! 15 Dr Rajendra Badwe, head of the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, tritely stated that the plant was safe as, otherwise, it would not have been permitted. Referring to the survey by the anti-nuclear activist-scientist Dr Surendra Gadekar on the incidence of abnormalities in children around the Rawatbhata Atomic Power Station in Rajasthan, which has been published in a leading international journal, he blithely lied that the report was without any foundation since it had not been peerreviewed and published in reputed scientific journals. On the contrary, he made the bewildering claim that radiation was used to cure cancers. 16 Nuclear scientists Sharad Kale and Shrikumar Apte said there would not be any effect of radiation on agricultural products and marine life in the area.

The propaganda is so intense that most people in the country, at least those who read the newspapers and watch television, believe that nuclear energy is an environmentally friendly solution to India’s power shortages.


The people’s movement against nuclear energy in India dates back to the 1980s. The movement was especially strong in Kerala, where people succeeded in forcing the cancellation of plans to set up nuclear plants at Kothamangalam and Peringome. Tens of thousands of people came out onto the streets to protest government plans to set up nuclear plants at Kakrapar (in Gujarat) and Kaiga (in Karnataka). There were also protests against the decision to site a nuclear plant at Narora in the thickly populated state of Uttar Pradesh.

In continuation of this glorious history, people are rising up in revolt at each and every place where the government is proposing to set up a new uranium mining project or a nuclear power plant. Protests have stalled the uranium mining project in Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh for the last five years, while a powerful movement led by the Khasi Students Union, together with various tribal organisations, has held up the mining project in the state of Meghalaya for over one and a half decades now. Likewise, people everywhere are strongly protesting proposals to set up nuclear plants, be it in Haripur (West Bengal), Gorakhpur (Haryana), Mithivirdi (Gujarat) or Jaitapur (Maharashtra).


The people of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin districts have fought long and hard against the two Russian VVER-1000 reactors being built in Kudankulam village in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Plans to build the reactors were first announced during the visit of Prime Minister Morarji Desai to Moscow in 1979; a formal agreement for the project was signed during President Gorbachev’s visit to New Delhi in 1988. People’s opposition to these plans intensified in the late 1980s, with more than 10,000 people participating in a rally in Kanyakumari called by the National Fishworkers Union to focus national attention on environmental issues, including the Kaiga and Kudankulam atomic power plants. Soon after, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 stalled the project.

This fortuitous reprieve lasted only a few years. In 1997, the Indian Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, and the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, signed an agreement to revive the Kudankulam project. The people, too, revived their struggle. The struggle has further intensified after the government signed another agreement with Russia to build four additional reactors there. Various people’s organisations have come together and formed an umbrella organisation, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), to fight the nuclear plant. They have held meetings in practically every village in the area and have organised dozens of demonstrations, cycle yatras and seminars against the project.


More than 20,000 people, organised under the banner of ‘Haripur Paramanu Bidyut Prakalpa Pratirodh Andolan’, prevented a team of experts from the NPCIL from visiting the area on November 17, 2006, even though they were accompanied by battalions of armed police. Thousands of men, women and children from villages around the proposed site blockaded all entry points and vowed to embrace instant death rather than allowing their coming generations to suffer from the nuclear menace. The attempt was repeated on the next day; but again the experts and police were forced to go back.

The stakes for building nuclear plants are very high, and it makes for strange bedfellows. While the CPI(M) was strongly against the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, which was crucial for the construction of the Haripur plant to go ahead, and has also been protesting the Jaitapur nuclear plant probably because it is in the opposition in the state of Maharashtra, the West Bengal Chief Minister has repeatedly expressed his support for building the Haripur plant, and the local goons of CPI(M) have tried to portray the opposition as either Maoists or as being anti-development environmentalists. Yet, repression has not broken the resolve of the people, and they have not allowed a single Introduction 78 Nuclear Energy: Technology from Hell official of India’s atomic energy establishment to visit the area for the last 5 years.


A powerful movement of the people of Mithivirdi, Jaspara and nearly 40 surrounding villages in district Bhavnagar of Gujarat has being going on for the last three years against government plans to construct a 6000-8000 MW nuclear power plant there. 7000 people attended a public meeting against the project on April 25, 2010. In June 2010, NPCIL officials together with truck loads of police tried to visit the area to take soil samples for testing, but thousands of people surrounded them and firmly told them to go back. After trying to use force, the officials and police finally retreated.


NPCIL is proposing to set up four indigenous reactors in Gorakhpur village, in Fatehabad district of Haryana. Despite efforts by NPCIL scientists to convince the local people about the benefits of nuclear power, the villagers of Gorakhpur and nearby villages have launched a militant protest against the project. They have been sitting on a dharna outside the office of the District Collector since October 2010. The biting cold wave led to one farmer being martyred and many farmers being hospitalised. However, this has not broken the resolve of the people. Support groups for the struggle have been formed in a number of nearby cities, including Chandigarh.


Amongst the most heroic of these struggles has been the militant struggle of the people of Madban, Nate and other nearby villages against the Jaitapur nuclear plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The government has forcibly acquired land from 2275 families, after more than 95 per cent of them refused to accept the hiked compensation offered by the government of Rs.10 lakh per acre and the promise of a job. The few people who have accepted the cheques are mostly absentee landlords. The issue for the people is not displacement, which is why not just the affected people, but peoplefrom dozens of nearby villages too, are waging a fantastic struggle despite intense police repression. Farmers, mango growers, rickshaw drivers, transporters, fisherfolk, shopkeepers, everyone has joined the movement. They are refusing to believe assurances given by the top official scientists of the country, media intellectuals and politicians of various parties, that nuclear energy is safe, clean and green. They firmly believe that the plant will destroy not just their livelihoods, but will also affect the very sustainability of life in the entire Konkan region for centuries. When the government issued a directive to school teachers to brainwash students into believing that nuclear energy is green, the children boycotted the schools for a few days!

The government has unleashed savage repression on the people. It has promulgated prohibitory orders disallowing people from holding meetings and demonstrations under Section 144 of the CrPC and Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act. It has resorted to lathi-charges, beatings, indiscriminate arrests, registering of false cases against hundreds of men, women and even children, including the atrocious charge of ‘attempt to murder’ on many of them. Thousands of people have courted arrest, and many have spent several nights in jail on trumped up charges. Leading activists of the area have been issued externment notices from Ratnagiri district. Eminent citizens of the region who have extended support to the struggle, including former Supreme Court Judge P.B. Sawant, retired Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Ramdas and noted economist Dr Sulabha Brahme, have been barred from entering the district! The government is using every trick in the book to divide the people and break their will, by trying to split them along communal lines, labelling activists as Maoists and ‘outsiders’ with an ideological agenda, setting up police camps in the area to intimidate the people, issuing threats, and so on.

However, the people are standing firm and have refused to be cowed down! They are united in their resolve that, come what may, they will fight, till the plant is cancelled!!