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.

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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.

Survey among Women Workers in the IT Industry on Gender Sensitivity and Women Empowerment

The IT industry has broken many traditional characteristics of relationships between employees & employer. It provides handsome salaries and a sort of flexible work time/location. Women too enjoy more rights than in other industries.Yet, due to less gender sensitivity in this industry women continue to face challenges in their work life balance. Save Tamils Movement, a collective of IT and other professionals from Chennai, is conducting a survey among women workers in the IT industry to understand the ground reality of their day to day life. 

Friends from other industries are please requested to share this far and wide. (Participate in the survey here – itsurvey.in)

Is your experiment time travel?

by samyuktha pc.

*

Forty kilometres,

one foot after another, another one of mine,

in front of one foot, then another foot of mine,

it only takes one lakh and twenty thousand,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

walking away from my two-storey-two-TV house,

to the nearest nuclear power plant.

Uranium and Plutonium, however travel faster than me.

 

Three continuous days of rain,

and the one road that envelops my house,

it’s empty plots on either sides,

now are filled with water, knee-deep,

so one foot after another is a bit hard to count,

beautiful crabs and snakes distract me.

Then why would I want the main road,

where the buses speed in plenty?

 

“Leptos Pirosis”, someone warns me,

from inside the tiles of the house,

“Elephantisis”, I thought. “Dengue”, they say.

“SARS was many years ago”, a friend knocks my head,

“TB just might be your fate.”

“No cancer is not out of fashion.”

 

Forty more kilometers to go,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

Six hundred and ninety four kilometers,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

one foot after another, my foot after another…

phew…

one more nuclear power plant!

 

Thyroids and bladders in danger,

invisible half-lives floating around.

My stomach has been crying for days,

“Take me away from all of this,”

it craves.

 

Constitutions and nations too hard

for my four chamber stomach to mulch.

In a week, I’d be sitting

in colorful camps by governments

to scan irises,

deploy vaccines,

run emergency drills,

copy fingerprints,

build barbed wire fences,

maybe even shave our heads.

Biometric bullshit

inside my house, inside my head,

inside inside yours and mine,

inside every tube and cell.

 

Just that this is not new,

reaching this cow a little too late,

when parts of it just fall away,

inside its breath, inside its balance,

inside its sexual common sense,

not able to place any foot after another.

The cow and I stand still.

 

It takes a cold glass of buttermilk,

some prolonged sleep, and no other humans

asking it questions. Then, they, my organs, agree with me.

On this planet, third away from the sun,

maybe no longer the only one with life or diamonds,

(believed to be rare), we shall be our next dinosaurs.

 

Like the rusted seas of years ago,

now the iron we swallow,

Like the ice age remnants,

that NY uses to reach high skies,

Like the million histories, we each,

try to convince each one of us, individually,

each to be convinced, maybe that those

planes can’t crash down on

all of this and more.

No, we will all go.

 

Not together. Just disappear.

You will remember me for a few days.

Remember the post-mortem details,

and the new incinerator that burnt me up,

maybe even a biometric unique i.d.

but how would you know

how my mind decayed…

for everything we release

is invisible now.

*

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Appropriate Technology: E F Schumacher

E F Schumacher’s lecture on Appropriate Technology at the Great Circle Center, University of Illinois, Chicago, 3/19/77. (Peter Gillingham Collection, E. F. Schumacher Library Archives.) From Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems –

E.F. Schumacher was an internationally influential economic thinker, viewing things from a systems perspective. His work in economics led him to develop a collection of connected ideas in energy, work, technology, development, organisation and ownership, education, traditional wisdom and religion. E.F. Schumacher’s work is about a way of living that is as relevant today as it was in 1973 when his seminal book Small is Beautiful was first published.

Part 1: 4 mins 40s

Part 2: 4 mins 42 s

Part 3: 8 mins 32s

Part 4: 6 mins 18s