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Should India Pursue Nuclear Energy Or Not? : An Insightful Interview With Mr Sundar Rajan

Al Arafat Sherfuddeen

February 8th, 2016

SHARES

The debate over nuclear power is gathering pace, with Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant struggling with frequent trips, the voice of the protesters against Nuclear Power seem to be vindicated for now. We spoke to Mr Sundar Rajan, who has been at the fore front of Anti-Nuclear protests. Mr Sundar Rajan shares his thoughts on why India should shun Nuclear and embrace renewable energy like Wind and Solar among many other things which The Logical Indian had questioned him.


1.) Why is there so much opposition to the existing Kudankulam plant and for further expansion?
There is a quote in French, Nuclear Energy and Humans cannot co-exist. In a nuclear power plant there will be continuous radiation in all forms, gas, liquid and solids and will be destroying the livelihoods and health of people in the immediate vicinity of the plant and also in Koodankulam once 6 plant start production they will let out 4,000 crore litres of hot radioactive water into sea. You don’t have to be a marine biologist or ecologist to understand the devastating effects of the marine wealth thereby completely destroying the livelihoods of fisherman. In KKNPP (Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant) it has been clearly established that there is quite a number of sub-standard components that have come from Russian Suppliers like Zio-Podolsk. The procurement director of that company has been arrested by the Russian authorities as he certified Low quality steel as high quality. These steel are the one’s that would go to make lot of components of nuclear plants in India, china and Iran. Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant is the only nuclear plant in the world that has tripped 30 times since commissioning  1.5 years ago.

Coast guard aero plane was flown too low over the protesting villagers who ventured into the sea as a part of their Jal Sathyagraha.
Coast guard aero plane was flown too low over the protesting villagers who ventured into the sea as a part of their Jal Sathyagraha.

 


2.) Some have raised doubts over the protests, they say they have waged a motivated campaign and also have questioned “why have protesters waited until the plant got commissioned to raise their voice” ?
There were protests even during the inception stage. There was shoot out in Kanyakumari in end 80’s and after sometime USSR broke down and the project was shelved. After 97-98 there were low key protests happening against the plant. But people’s perception about Nuclear plant changed after the Fukushima disaster. All people who thought there may be some development in that area now felt threatened that there is a monster in their vicinity and their life is not going to same. So they all came out and fought a fight that was peaceful and did not harm any one. Motivated protests is an allegation given by the ruling class that didn’t have answers to the question that people asked.

Villagers from the Koothankuli, prevented from going to Idinthakarai by the imposition of a curfew, gather in front of the church and shout anti-government slogans.
Villagers from the Koothankuli, prevented from going to Idinthakarai by the imposition of a curfew, gather in front of the church and shout anti-government slogans.

 


3.) It is said Nuclear power is cheaper with low carbon footprint, how do you respond?
The last weapon that the Nuclear Industry has taken to save it multi million dollar profits is that Nuclear Energy is green and has low Carbon foot print. If a process has to be certified it is low carbon foot print means that the entire life cycle has to be taken, starting from uranium mining to milling, enrichment, yellow cakes and above all storing the Nuclear waste for 1000’s of years. If we calculate all these then the most polluting energy form would be the Nuclear energy. Just because there is no let out of Co2 in the power production stage it doesn’t mean it is green. Two 1000MW coal powered power plants are being run to fuel the enrichment facility in USA. The amount of CFC’s that come out of 2 enrichment facility in Portsmouth and Paduccah in US constitutes about 94% of entire CFC emission in USA. The entire process of milling and mining is very high energy and intensive process. With increasing safety issues you need more steel and cement to build safe nuclear plants that is once again energy intensive. That Nuclear energy is Green is just a Myth. Above all, Poisoned earth cannot be answer for polluted air.

Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin Port and block passage of ships to protest the attack on villagers in Koodankulam by police forces.
Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin Port and block passage of ships to protest the attack on villagers in Koodankulam by police forces.

 


4.) How much has Fukushima strengthened your argument against nuclear power?
Our resolve has further strengthened. We have always been saying that Nuclear Energy is the most dangerous form that can make this world unsuitable for living being. Fukushima has proved it. A country that is so perfect in its systems, processes and all is not able to handle such a  accident. With the reality of natural disasters increasing and striking our face, it will be much more difficult to build safe Nuclear Power Plants. Even today about 300 tons of radioactive water is getting inside pacific ocean and Japan does not have a clue how they will stop it. Also Japan will spend about 15 lac crore to face this crisis.

I have been to Fukushima and I have seen the destruction with my own eyes.

Villagers observe a candle light vigil to pay homage to Hiroshima victims on Hiroshima Day.
Villagers observe a candle light vigil to pay homage to Hiroshima victims on Hiroshima Day.

 


5.) France is reaping the benefits of Nuclear power, wouldn’t it be beneficial for India to capitalize?
The whole world shows France is the only example out of 194 countries. After Fukushima, France has declared that their dependence on Nuclear power would come to 40% from the existing 75 to 80%. Even France doesn’t have a clue where to put its nuclear wastes. Nuclear energy is a failed option. India has to harness its huge renewable energy potential.

Police forces assemble in front of the KNPP before going on rounds in Koodankulam village after the imposition of a curfew. (May 10, 2012)
Police forces assemble in front of the KNPP before going on rounds in Koodankulam village after the imposition of a curfew. (May 10, 2012)

 


6.) Lot of experts have said the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant is safe by design, not re-assuring enough?
First who are these experts? Is Dr. Gopalakrishanan not an expert? He has clearly said “we don’t know what will happen and when in Koodankulam”. The only nuclear reactor in the world that has tripped 30 times in 1.5 to 2 years is the Koodankulam plant, whereas the world average is one trip in 2 years. So where is it going? The most unsafe plant is the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

Women weep and pray to Mother Mary at the church after the police attacked villagers during the siege. September 11, 2012.
Women weep and pray to Mother Mary at the church after the police attacked villagers during the siege. September 11, 2012.

 


7.) The Indo-US nuclear deal is widely appreciated, what are your thoughts?
The INDO – USA deal is not widely appreciated. They signed it in 20008 and not even a single project is taken off since the last 8 years or so. If USA is very keen on selling Nuclear technology to India, why has it not built any new plant since 1979. US companies like Westinghouse and GE is not having any business globally to sell their plants, so they lobbied with US govt to put pressure on India to buy their reactors. So they signed it and India lost its sovereignty in signing this deal. Why are US companies not even ready to accept the liability act of India that caps liability to just 1500 crores, if they claim they have the most safe technology? Its all absurd.

Villagers cry and pray during a cleansing ceremony which was performed after police forces broke the idols of the Mother Mary and urinated in the church.
Villagers cry and pray during a cleansing ceremony which was performed after police forces broke the idols of the Mother Mary and urinated in the church.

8.) You have claimed in the past about the effects of radiation from Nuclear plants to the people in the nearby locality? Can you elucidate with evidence?
You can see evidently in Kalpakkam, tarapur, Jadugoda and most of these places. One of the main causes of cancer is Ionizing radiation according to WHO, nuclear reactors are a source of ionizing radiation, so the effects are horrible.

Children of Sahayam cry during his funeral mass. He fell off a boulder he was standing on inside the waters due to fear when the coast guard aeroplane flew very low and was killed by the impact. September 17, 2012.
Children of Sahayam cry during his funeral mass. He fell off a boulder he was standing on inside the waters due to fear when the coast guard aeroplane flew very low and was killed by the impact. September 17, 2012.

 


9.) What are the alternative you suggest to Nuclear Power?
Our policy of generating electricity should change. Instead of a centralized electricity generating policy we shoud move to a de-centralized policy. In India we have roughly about 5900 sub-districts, and about 80% need only 15 to 20 MW that should be able to be produced by Solar, wind and ocean currents. Germany has gone into energy by wind where the people have become “Prosumers”, they produce and consume also. So We need to move towards that.

Amirtharaj Stephen (19)

 


10.) How have people responded to the protests?
There has been great response from People. All over India there is a debate over nuclear power. All coastal communities and farmers are up and against nuclear plants in their vicinity.A day will come where India declares No Nuclear Country. We are all work towards that.

Xavieramma, a resident of Idinthakarai, cries out for help after being chased into the sea with no place to run. She was later helped out and arrested by the security forces. She has been charged with 16 cases including serious charges like sedition and waging war against the nation.
Xavieramma, a resident of Idinthakarai, cries out for help after being chased into the sea with no place to run. She was later helped out and arrested by the security forces. She has been charged with 16 cases including serious charges like sedition and waging war against the nation.

 

Photo Courtesy: Amritharaj Stephen

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