March 15, 2011 Leave a comment
No More Fukushimas! No More Chernobyls!!
Scrap the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant!!!
NUCLEAR POWER IS DEATHLY! SAY NO TO NUCLEAR POWER!!
One of the world’s worst ever nuclear disasters has occurred at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. On March 11, 20011, a huge earthquake led to a complex series of events, ultimately leading to a huge explosions at Unit One and Unit Three of the plant. Unit Three had plutonium fuel, which is even more deathly than ordinary uranium fuel, as plutonium is one of the most terrible elements known, with a radioactive half-life of over 24000 years! Less than one-millionth of a gram of Plutonium if inhaled can cause lung cancer. The authorities are desperately trying everything possible to prevent a Chernobyl type meltdown, but already there has been release of huge amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere from these reactors. There are another 4-5 reactors in 2 other nuclear plants which have also suffered damage. There has been release of significant amount of radioactive gases from these reactors too. Over 2 lakh people living near these plants are being evacuated, and this is probably just the beginning. Eventually, if they do go back to their homes after many months, they will go with the knowledge that their environment is contaminated with deathly radiation…
Nuclear Energy is Accident-prone
Nuclear energy is generated in a nuclear reactor when nuclear fuel (uranium 235) kept in the reactor core is split up, releasing huge amounts of heat. This heat is used to produce steam, which in turn is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.
During this fission process, more than 200 types of new, highly radioactive elements are created. The reactor core of a 1000 MW nuclear power plant contains an amount of long-lived radiation equivalent to that released by 1000 Hiroshima bombs! Many of these radioactive elements will continue to emit radiation for thousands of years. The impact of this radiation on the human body is deathly: it causes cancer, infertility, premature aging, kidney problems, and several other diseases, and also mutates the reproductive genes – causing all kinds of diseases and birth deformities in future generations.
Because of the complex nature of nuclear technology, nuclear reactors are inherently prone to accidents; no amount of safety devices can prevent them. If a major accident occurs, and these radioactive elements are spewed into the atmosphere, they can devastate and render unlivable huge swathes of land, for thousands of years. As happened in Unit Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in northern Ukraine, on April 26, 1986. It contaminated almost all the countries in the Northern Hemisphere, with horrendous consequences. ● More than 100,000 square miles around Chernobyl – an area roughly the size of Maharashtra – is contaminated to varying degrees, and will remain so for thousands of years. ● While four lakh people were evacuated, the many millions who continue to live in this region know that they are forever contaminated, that they could develop cancer anytime, that their children and grand children and great grand children could be born with severe birth defects. ● Almost ten lakh people have died so far due to the delayed health effects of the accident, and the number will continue to increase, according to a report by the US Academy of Sciences in 2010.
The global nuclear industry, in connivance with nuclear authorities the world over, tried to play down the severity of the accident. Following Chernobyl, while many countries in Western Europe banned nuclear plants (and countries like the USA did not order new plants), a few countries like the USA, France and Japan allowed their reactors to continue operations. France, Finland and Japan even built new reactors – they claimed that lessons have been learned and they will be able to avoid future such accidents, that their reactors are strong enough to withstand terrorist attacks, tsunamis, earthquakes… The earthquake of March 11 has blown apart their claims.
The Fukushima NPP is located in Japan’s main island, just 240 kms from Tokyo. From newsreports coming in, it is obvious that the Japanese nuclear authorities are trying to cover up the severity of the accident. The unfortunate truth is: by their connivance with the nuclear industry’s greed for profits, the Japanese political leadership has radioactively contaminated the main Japanese island, and many other islands of this island country, for thousands of years. The fallout is definitely going to affect many nearby countries too, like Korea, China, Russia and Taiwan. By choosing nuclear power as an energy option, the Japanese leadership has done incalculable harm to the country and the Japanese people are going to pay with their health and the health of their future generations.
Nuclear Energy is Deathly
Even if nuclear reactors operate normally, their environmental costs are terrible. People living near the reactors are inevitably exposed to radiation leakages: the diabolical elements created in the fission reaction leak out of the reactor into the environment through a number of ways. The consequence: they will continue to suffer from cancer and other deathly diseases and children will continue to be born with mental and physical deformities for thousands of years!
An even more monstrous problem is the problem of waste disposal. Each 1000 MW nuclear power plant generates 30 tons of radioactive waste annually. This waste contains elements like Plutonium and Technetium, and is intensely radioactive and remains so for more than 2 lakh years! There is no safe way of storing these deadly wastes; they are generally stored in temporary storage sites near the reactors. Everywhere, the waste is leaking, leaching, seeping through the soil into aquifers, rivers and seas, to ultimately enter the bodies of plants, fish, animals and humans. Its consequences are going to be with us for the rest of time!
And if there is an accident… Due to numerous near-misses after Chernobyl, when a similar catastrophe was only narrowly avoided, anti-nuclear activists like Helen Caldicott had repeatedly warned that statistically speaking, an accidental meltdown is almost a certainty sooner or later in one of the 438 nuclear power plants located in thirty-three countries around the world. It has happened, sooner than later, just 25 years after Chernobyl.
India… Down the same road
Proclaiming that nuclear energy is safe, clean and green, is the solution to the country’s energy crisis, the government of India is proposing to set up the world’s biggest nuclear power plant of 9900 MW at Madban (near Jaitapur, Ratnagiri district). The notorious French company Areva is to supply two new generation EPR reactors of 1650 MW each for this nuclear plant initially, and four more units later. It is a part of the government’s plan for a quantum jump in nuclear power generation, from 4560 MW at present to 63,000 MW by 2032. More such massive nuclear parks are also proposed, including one each in the coastal areas of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
India’s Dangerous Reactors
Nuclear experts worldwide have described India’s nuclear power plants as amongst the “most dangerous in the world”. There have been at least 300 accidents at India’s reactors! Some of these, like the accident at Narora in UP in 1993 and the flooding of the reactors of Kakrapar in 1994 were extremely serious. Routine and accidental radiation releases from India’s reactors have led to a sharp rise in congenital deformities, tumours, thyroid disorders, fertility problems and other diseases in people living in the nearby villages.
Despite this distressing record, India’s nuclear establishment is now importing giant sized EPR nuclear reactors from France. Which are inherently more dangerous than our present reactors! When nuclear safety authorities of US and UK have expressed serious concerns about their design! The nuclear plant will destroy the unique ecology of the area, which is one of the world’s top ten biodiversity hotspots. Its cooling system and hot water discharges will destroy the marine ecology and fish breeding grounds and deplete the fish population of the area.
As if these dangers were not enough, the Jaitapur nuclear plant will be located on the coast, in an area that is prone to earthquakes. Till before the Japanese nuclear meltdown, India’s nuclear authorities were citing the example of Japan, saying that if that earthquake-prone country can safely operate nuclear reactors, India can also do so.
If a major accident were to happen at Jaitapur-Madban, just once, even 25 years later, while many kilometers of area would have to be permanently evacuated, entire Western Maharashtra, including Pune, would be radioactively contaminated! For ever. Even after Fukushima, are we going to allow this?
Alternative Solution to Energy Crisis
As the people of Japan are now learning through bitter experience, how can a technology which can be so devastating be called sustainable? The genuinely safe, and actually the only environmentally sustainable solution, to the country’s energy crisis and our future growth needs is: maximizing energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources. Through measures such as increasing generation, transmission and end-use efficiency, and elimination of wasteful consumption, it is possible to reduce electricity demand by a whopping 30-40%! That would not only wipe out the entire power sector deficit in the country which is less than 20%, there would be no need to build new power plants for the next few years!! Our future growth needs can then be met from renewable energy sources. Even the government admits their potential to be: Wind Energy – 48,500 MW; Small Hydro Power – 15,000 MW; Biomass Energy – 21,000 MW; and at least 50,000 MW from Solar Energy. The actual potential is much more. Furthermore, while nuclear electricity costs are rising, renewable energy costs are rapidly falling: wind energy is already cheaper than conventional electricity, while solar photovoltaic energy cost is expected to become so by 2015-20. Even if construction begins now, it would take at least 10 years to build a nuclear power plant. By then, it would have become unviable.
The Real Reason for India’s Nuclear Push
Why then are India’s rulers indulging in this madness of constructing nuclear power plants? One important reason: to provide foreign corporations and big Indian corporations another opportunity to make huge profits. Ever since 1991, when the government began the globalisation of India, successive governments have been running the Indian economy solely for maximising the profits of giant foreign and Indian business houses – through schemes like SEZs, privatisation of public sector corporations and financial institutions at throwaway prices, allowing them to plunder mountains, forests and rivers for their immense mineral wealth displacing lakhs of people, allowing them to take over education, health and other essential services and mint super profits, and so on. With nuclear power on decline in the West, the global nuclear industry is looking to Asia, especially China and India, for markets. And so the Manmohan Singh government has decided to promote nuclear energy in India. This is expected to provide foreign nuclear corporations and their Indian collaborators a $150 billion business opportunity. India’s rulers have sold their souls to the devil for a price that would have shamed Faust!
The people of Jaitapur area of Konkan have launched a determined struggle against the Areva nuclear plant. The government of India has launched a fascist onslaught on the people in order to crush their resistance. It is resorting to lathi-charges, beatings, indiscriminate arrests, false cases. Leading activists of the area have been issued externment notices from Ratnagiri district. Eminent citizens of the country, including retired judges, academicians, scientists, who have extended support to the struggle, have been barred from entering the district!
The people of Madban and nearby villages are fighting to defend their livelihoods and the environment of their region and the health of their coming generations. It is a struggle to save Konkan, the Kashmir of Maharashtra, from permanent destruction. We must support their struggle, Konkan belongs to all of us. Young and old, students and teachers, working people, all of us must join this struggle and demand of the government of India:
1. Scrap the Jaitapur nuclear power project! Scrap all new nuclear power plants!!
2. End the reign of terror in Jaitapur area!
3. Invest massively in energy saving and development of renewable technologies!
Join us in the following program for these demands
Dharna outside Collector Office, Pune,
Demanding scrapping of Jaitapur NPP
Date: March 17, 2011, Thursday
Time: 9 am to 11 am