Nuclear Leak In Kakrapar, Plant Shut Down For Indefinite Period. A Case For Renewable Energy?

Al Arafat Sherfuddeen

March 15th, 2016 / 7:01 PM

Image Courtesy: indianexpress

Shutdown Again
Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat went into automatic shutdown after a heavy water leak in the reactor’s primary heat transport system.  A rupture in the coolant system of one of the nuclear reactors in Gujarat on Friday morning forced the authorities to indefinitely shut down the plant.

“All safety systems are working as intended. The radioactivity/radiation levels on the plant premises and outside are normal.” 

Some of the past incidents of shutdown

Kakrapar Atomic Power has undergone serious shutdowns or failure’s, at least, three times in the past in 1994, 2004 and 2011.
Kudankulam nuclear power plant has faced multiple shutdowns owing to instrumentation deficiencies and maintenance shutdowns for many times and it has barely reached full capacity.
1999, somewhere between four and fourteen tons of heavy water leaked from the pipes at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, during a test process, and 42 people were reportedly involved in mopping up the radioactive liquid

Potential health hazards – Kalpakkam as an example

According to one study 244 Kalpakkam employees were detected with various types of cancer between 1999 and 2009, and most of them were affected with thyroid diseases, which are very common for people living in and around nuclear reactor sites.

A study funded by the DAE and executed by an NGO called ASPIRE, however, did a comparative study between 22 villages within an eight-km radius of the plants at Kalapakkam and three villages 50 km from the plant. The full report said the morbidity rate in nearby villages is two to three times higher than distant villages.

“Cancer was the leading cause of death for the 3,887 health-related deaths in the atomic energy hubs across the country  between 1995 and 2014.” – according to an RTI filed by Chetan Kothari

Europe’s push towards renewables

Even as India debates and discusses the benefits and effects of Nuclear Power in India, Europe is taking huge strides towards renewable energy sources. Countries in the European Union are smashing all records in its hard push to replace their nuclear and other non-renewable capabilities with renewable resources. Let us look at some of the numbers which elucidate the above-mentioned opinion

Denmark set a new world record for wind production in 2014, getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from the clean energy source. The latest figures put the country well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables.

In the UK, wind power also smashed records in 2014, as generation rose 15 percent from 24.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) hours to 28.1 TWh.That’s more than any other year, and the country now generates enough wind energy to supply the needs of more than 6.7 million UK households.

Renewable energy was the biggest contributor to Germany’s electricity supply in 2014, with nearly 26 percent of the country’s power generation coming from clean sources. That’s according to Berlin-based think-tank Agora Energiewende.

Windy conditions in Ireland meant the country saw not one but two wind energy records set already this year. According to figures record by EirGrid on Wednesday (Jan. 7), wind energy had created 1,942 MW of energy, enough to power more than 1.26 million homes.

India’s potential

In the year 2015, the MNRE set the target for Wind Power generation capacity by the year 2022 at 60,000 MW. It is estimated that only 3% of the total wasteland available in a state is used for development of solar power projects.  Rajasthan, with its healthy resource of solar radiation and availability of vast tracts of wasteland in the form of the Thar Desert, has a potential of about 142 GW. India’s current solar power installed capacity is around 3 GW or less than 0.5% of the estimated potential. Naturally there exists a massive opportunity to tap this potential.

Going Beyond The Numbers & Facts

We have to ask ourselves – how democratic has the decision to implement nuclear power been? The debate has been informative and largely balanced, the verdict is for the reader to make. But even as we judge on the future of nuclear, we have to keep in mind the people who are living close to the nuclear power plants which are largely being ignored or categorized as anti-state. Would the urban population of Chennai or any city for that matter be willing to accept a proposal that would place a nuclear plant in the city? If the hypothetical scenario does happen you could expect people protesting about the potential hazards it could cause to drinking water, children and elders alike. Let democracy prevail, let the people’s insecurities be answered or let us put all our efforts into renewables instead of a questionably dangerous technology whose track record in Japan and Chernobyl took a beating.

The Logical Indian appeals to the government to conduct a detailed survey by an independent body on the nuclear infrastructure of India. Besides, we request the government to embark on a massive consultation process taking in opinions on the need, hazards and future of nuclear energy in India in lieu of the huge potential that renewables offer us.


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