Delhi Rally against Nuclear proliferation

Nuclear Power IndiaNational Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM)

On October 2, 2009, Friday at New Delhi

If you wish to attend the events, Please call organizers on : Ahivaran Singh – 9811330977; Shree Prakash – 9871880686; Kabir Arora – 9911879675; or S. P. Udayakumar – 09865683735.

CONCEPT NOTE

Soon after Independence, the ‘Indian Atomic Energy Commission’ was set up in August 1948 in the new and fledgling Department of Scientific Research. But it was only on August 3, 1954 the fully-fledged Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was created under the direct control of the Prime Minister through a Presidential Order. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) itself was established in the Department of Atomic Energy by a Government Resolution of March 1, 1958. Just three months after the DAE was established, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru unequivocally declared in a conference on ‘Development of Nuclear Power for Peaceful Purposes’: “We want to utilise atomic energy for generating electricity because electricity is most essential for the development of the nation.”

Long on Talk, Short on Performance

Quite contrary to all the fanfare and high-pitched public relations exercises by the DAE, it is one of the most under-performing sectors in India. Just to illustrate, in 1954 a grand three stage program for development of nuclear power was announced. It had at that time been projected that there would be 8000 MW of nuclear power in the country by 1980. As the years progressed, these predictions were to increase. By 1962, the prediction was that nuclear energy would generate 20-25,000 MW by 1987 and by 1969 the DAE predicted that by 2000 there would be 43,500 MW of nuclear generating capacity. All of this was before a single unit of nuclear electricity was produced in the country.

As against these promises, the installed capacity in 1979-80 stood at about 600 MW, about 950 MW in 1987 and 2720 MW in 2000. The only explanation that the DAE has offered for its failures has been to blame the cessation of foreign cooperation following the 1974 nuclear weapons test. At the same time, these sanctions also provided the DAE with an opportunity: each development, no matter how small or routine, could be portrayed as a heroic success, achieved in the face of staunch opposition by other countries and impossible odds, while any failures could be passed off as a result of the determination of other countries to block and prevent India achieving technological advancement. Such continuous failures were, however, not because of any paucity of resources. All governments in New Delhi have favoured nuclear energy and the DAE’s budgets have always been high except for a brief period in the early 90s.

Currently 17 nuclear power reactors produce 4,120 MW (2.9% of total installed base – as against the current installed base of renewable energy being 13,242 MW which is 7.7% of total installed base with the southern state of Tamil Nadu contributing nearly a third of it, largely through wind power). The DAE is planning to set up 20 units of indigenous 700 MW of pressurised heavy water (PHWR) type reactors. The DAE hopes to be overseeing a $100 billion investment in nuclear energy in the coming decade and importing some 40 light water reactors that will help India stabilize its demand for power by 2020. The DAE predicts that the nuclear share of electricity by 2020 would be 35,000 MW.

Big Plans for the Near Future

According to the present DAE chief, India’s Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which use natural uranium as fuel, “are world class.” He claims further: “Our Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) are globally advanced. Our Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) is globally unique.” He contends that the FBRs would use plutonium-uranium oxide as fuel and the AHWR would have thorium as fuel. Even as the DAE expects to “overcome all the problems” by 2012-2013 relating to the shortage of natural uranium that has led to a drop in the capacity factor of the reactors, they are making grandiose claims on thorium as nuclear fuel. The DAE chief claims: “In technology terms, we have mastered thorium technology to get energy from it. We have small unit where we use U233 fuel extracted from thorium. We have mastered all aspects of thorium-based energy. It is on a small scale, we have to expand it.” The DAE leader argues further: “We cannot afford to hasten the thorium programme and we have to go step by step to get to use the thorium for the next 200 years.”

The DAE has claimed that the PWR, built by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), forms the powerhouse of INS Arihant, India’s indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine. It was a joint endeavour of the DAE, the Navy and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). But the Director of BARC has admitted that “we have used the Russians as consultants. The DAE chief claims “We have the technical expertise and capability to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and warships of global standards.” He declares, “When the government asks us to build such ships, we will do it… we are confident that we can build even supply propelling energy for aircraft carriers. Now the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and BARC scientists also plan to power some parts of Chandrayaan II, an unmanned mission to the Moon, with nuclear energy.

With the clinching of the nuclear deal with the United States and consequent waiver by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on September 6, 2008, India is now projected to generate an additional 25,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020. Two sites –in Gujarat (Mithibor in Bhavnagar district) and Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts)– reportedly stand “earmarked” for the US companies such as General Electric-Hitachi and Westinghouse in the wake of the July 2009 visit by Hillary Clinton. A French nuclear company Areva has been setting up plants at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, and at least four additional reactors are in the pipeline from Russia for Koodankulam in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. This is an extremely ambitious and massive expansion program.

Similar large-scale expansion plans are on in the Uranium mining sector also. The DAE claims that the capacity of the reactors would go up because the capacity of the mills at Jaduguda in Jharkhand that convert natural uranium into yellow cake has been augmented. Another mill at Turamdih in Jharkhand has been commissioned and its production of yellow cake is also said to be going up. The expansion program at Jaduguda is said to be complete and the Turamdih expansion will be completed in 2010. The uranium mine and the mill constructed at Tummlapalle in Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh is expected to go on stream in 2013. Exploration mining is taking place at Gogi (near Gulbarga) in Karnataka, and at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.

Nuclear Nirvana?

Nuclear energy is being bandied about as THE panacea for all of the country’s ills and evils. It is projected as the single solution for the nation’s lack of energy security, military security and the over all national security. All this in a country where hundreds of millions of people do not have food security, water security, sanitation security, other basic needs of life or human dignity! In the ruling classes’ colonial mode of thinking, “the quality of life greatly depends on amount of energy spent. For a developing country such as India that has many other pressing needs like food, housing, education, health, transportation and so on, energy alone cannot and should not be a top priority.

When all is said and done, nuclear energy certainly cannot be the answer for our energy needs because of several important reasons:

[1] High Cost: Nuclear energy was once promoted as something which will be “too cheap to meter” but it has actually become “too costly to matter.” The most conservative estimate has it that one MW of nuclear energy costs approximately Rs. 6.5 crores. This is definitely more expensive than thermal, hydro and other sources of power. If you factor in reactor construction delays, the exploding costs of material, governmental subsidies, departmental mess-ups, waste management costs, decommissioning expenses, and the other “usual” mega-project costs such as PR expenses, bribes, commissions, kick-backs and so forth, nuclear energy is prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, importing Uranium, reactors and other assorted technologies from foreign companies will impose a huge economic burden on the “ordinary citizens” of India while those companies reap high profits at our cost.

[2] Dangerous Waste: The DAE does not reveal what they do with the nuclear waste or how they will deal with the huge amounts of waste that will be produced by all the upcoming nuclear power plants. The director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) has recently denied news that radioactive waste from IGCAR and other nuclear sites all over India are brought to Kalpakkam and disposed into the sea. The DAE is yet to reveal to the public what they plan to do with the radioactive waste and how the safety of our people, our children, our grandchildren and the successive generations will be safeguarded for the next 48,000 years.

[3] Safety Issues: Serious hazards are associated with Uranium mining, reactor safety (with the possibilities of damage due to accidents, breakdowns and natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunami), nuclear installation security (with the possibilities of damage due to sabotage, terrorist acts, aerial/missile attacks, or war-time assaults), and short and long-term waste disposal. No one can honestly claim that all these problems of safety and security have been overcome. Neither can anyone guarantee absolute safeguards against the above possibilities. In fact, a major accident in a nuclear power plant would surely be catastrophic in nature as was amply demonstrated by the Chernobyl accident on April 26, 1986. (This is why and how nuclear industry is unique in that no insurance company insures a nuclear power plant). And this possibility alone, which can never be ruled out, disqualifies nuclear power as a rational option.

[4] Health Hazards: A heavy dose of radioactivity will cause “radiation sickness” and bring about immediate death. Lower doses can cause fatal cancers, leukaemia, and genetic defects that may not show themselves for 20 years or more and result in delayed death. The carcinogenic hazard associated with nuclear installations is quite severe.

[5] Environmental Impact: Uranium mining, thorium extraction, emissions from the nuclear power plants, waste dumping and nuclear weapons production all have a serious impact on our natural resources such as the air, the sea, fish catch, the land, ground water, food production, farm animals and so on. These operations have dangerous impact on our people, especially women, children, marginalized communities such as the tribals, dalits and fisherfolk in places like Jadugoda, Meghalaya, Hyderabad, and the coastal villages of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The nuclearization of India exhibits a blatant disregard to the overall environment and to the human rights of millions of people. The land rights, water rights, right to life and livelihood are all seriously impeded by the nuclear estate and its institutions and agents.

[6] ‘Developmental’ Perils: All the nuclear installations and activities will displace hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Many more people will lose their traditional livelihood activities and there will be a very high people-cost in our highly and densely populated country. Moreover, with highly centralised power generation, nuclear power would militate against decentralised development and further accentuate the “development” pattern, which, in the first place, has brought the humanity to the brink of total ecological destruction. Thus nuclear power is neither ‘green’ nor ’sustainable’ and is definitely NOT a valid answer for climate change concerns.

[7] Decommissioning Woes: Our future governments will have to incur heavy expenses to decommission the nuclear power plants, maintain those installations and keep them safe for the public for years to come. Similarly, our future generations will have to deal with this deathly heritage just so we can have electricity for 40 years.

[8] Deadly Weapons & Arms Race: Worst of all, nuclear energy has a strong technical linkage with and thereby provides a strong push for nuclear weaponization program and India itself is a graphic illustration. We are being pushed into a nuclear arms race with both Pakistan and China that renders us all more impoverished, vulnerable and unsafe.

[9] Wrong Choice: Contrary to the “nuclear renaissance” claims, many countries around the world are phasing out nuclear energy because of the high cost, waste management issues and other complexities. The United States has not constructed a new nuclear power plant for more than 30 years and Russia has not erected a new plant since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. When we should be focussing on renewable sources of energy, planning micro generation of power, and emphasizing demand-based local generation through appropriate technology with popular participation, we are being forced to accept supply-based centralized power generation with dangerous advanced technology and absolute elite control. Squandering the chance to focus on sustainable development and appropriate technology and become a natural world leader in this day and age of climate change, our colonized leaders are taking us down the same old path of ‘development of mass destruction.’

Nuclear “Power”

Nuclear power in India has always enjoyed official patronage, financial power, and military backing. Now it is also gaining political power. The most dangerous is the trend of the nuclear estate gaining more prominence, power and a forcible say in the country’s socioeconomic-political power structures and decision-making processes. Their gaining an upper hand in the political circles with their autocratic values and tendencies is deleterious to the democratic fabric of our country.

To give just one example, the Land Transfer Act of Meghalaya, introduced in 1972, bars non-tribals from buying or transferring land in that state. Hence the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) cannot go ahead with Uranium mining activities without clearance from the District Council and the state government. To circumvent this dilemma, the Meghalaya government is being pressurized to exempt the Land Transfer Act from the uranium rich belt in Mawthabah so that UCIL can set up a processing unit there for Uranium mining.

The nuclear estate is getting ready for joint ventures in nuclear energy sector where private companies, both Indian and foreign, could join hands with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ltd. (NPCIL). Secretive efforts are on to rewrite the Indian Atomic Energy Act 1962 in order to facilitate private participation in nuclear activities. This combination of profiteering capitalists, secretive government and careerist scientists and engineers will not auger well for the country.

Kanyakumari Declaration

As a significant step toward addressing some of these important issues, a National Convention on “The Politics of Nuclear Energy and Resistance” was held in Kanyakumari (near the upcoming nuclear power plant at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu) on June 4-6, 2009. The Convention that founded the “National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM)” to coordinate the ongoing and upcoming local struggles and to back them up with a vigorous national campaign resolved in the Kanyakumari Declaration, inter alia:

In the context of the unprecedented threats facing the world due to global warming and the rapid depletion of conventional energy sources, the nuclear establishment is most opportunistically pushing nuclear energy as a climate-friendly energy source. However, all the activities associated with nuclear power generation – the mining and processing of uranium, the building of nuclear power stations involving huge amounts of cement and steel, the long construction process, the decommissioning of plants and the handling of radioactive waste – are highly unsafe and expensive, and cause enormous climate-changing pollution. Nuclear energy is not cheap, safe, clean or sustainable. It also does not offer a solution to our energy problems.

It also further observed:

India’s nuclear program has been and continues to be vigorously resisted by the people of this country whose struggles in the past have stopped two nuclear power stations – Peringome and Kothamangalam – from coming up. [Similarly, huge public protests by the people of Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh stalled a proposed nuclear power plant in 1988 and a proposed Uranium mining project since 2003.] This convention declares total support and solidarity to the struggles of people resisting the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. It also declares support and solidarity to people in all other parts of the country such as Jadugoda, Meghalaya, Haripur and Jaitapur who are struggling against uranium mining and nuclear power plants.

“Delhi Rally”

Given this situation, there is an immediate and urgent need to mobilise public opinion against the reckless nuclearization of the country and to build up resistance on a pan-national scale. In order to do that, all the various anti-nuclear organizations and movements need to come together and put up a united front. In the spirit of the Kanyakumari Declaration and the newly-formed “National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements,” we must plan some national activities jointly.

It is precisely in this context, we propose to organize a “Delhi Rally” on October 2, 2009 (Gandhi Jayanti) in a location as close to Rajghat as possible. The “Delhi Rally” can be a display of our combined strength and a platform to meet each other and plan a national strategy. We all together must monitor the national energy strategy and the developments on the energy market, undertake economic analysis of the development of nuclear energy, carry out independent risk assessments of various nuclear projects and activities, and plan regional and national joint future actions.

Below are a few suggestions for the “Delhi Rally” and the Organizing Committee would finalize the program on the basis of available resources, time and other practicalities. The idea, however, is to connect with Gandhi’s powerful image as a symbol of peace and justice and utilize that to strive for nuclear-free status and environmental redemption for India and humane development for Indians:

[1] The day-long program may begin with a group of youth and children gathering and wailing at the Father of Nation’s grave about the Indian government’s nuclear policies and programs and the bleak future these are going to bring about for them.

[2] Activists could make a national appeal from Rajghat to all the Gram Sabhas across the country to pass a resolution against the nuclearization of the country and send it to relevant authorities.

[3] These activities may be followed by deliberations by anti-nuclear activists from across the country, songs and dances, exhibitions and demonstrations.

[4] Anti-nuclear activists may cook food with solar cookers and serve the participants lunch.

[5] In the afternoon the activists from across the country may rally to the nearby ‘Delhi Gate’ carrying a giant piece of (fake) yellow cake, (balloon models of) nuclear power plants, (mock) nuclear waste and (imitation) nuclear weapons to highlight the grave dangers that Uranium mining, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste, and nuclear weapons pose to the Indian public.

[6] A Press Meet could be organized at the ‘Delhi Gate’.

[7] A delegation could meet with the President of India and other select leaders with a memorandum exhorting them to make India nuclear-free.

No Deals, No Mines, No Reactors, No Dumps, No Bombs!

Don’t Nuke Our Children’s Futures!

We Say ‘NO’ to Nuclear

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