March 18, 2011

INDIA CAN’T AFFORD A JAPAN TYPE DISASTER...

WE MUST STOP SELLING OURSELVES TO RECESSION-STRUCK WESTERN COUNTRIES WHO ARE IN SEARCH OF PROFITS FROM INDIA AND WE SHOULD STOP OUR QUEST FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY. BY ARINDAM CHAUDHURI

I have heard that in African countries, hunters find it tough to catch monkeys and in order to do so successfully, they place a jar with a small opening filled with nuts near the trees. The jar is so designed that it allows a monkey’s hand to go inside, but once in, the monkey finds it difficult to take it out. Most of the time, the monkey stays there as it is unwilling to let go of the nuts. These peanuts which trap a monkey are actually unrealistic desires of this animal! This is what brings me to the point I want to write on. There is no secret that we evolved from apes and thus few actions of ours closely relate to similar behaviour. Our penchant for having nuclear energy is quite similar, wherein we have no idea where it is going to lead us to. And unfortunately, right now we are unable to see beyond the nut!

The recent heart paining earthquake and tsunami in Japan that has led to a nuclear disaster that is still unfolding in Japan as an aftermath, speaks volumes of how fragile nuclear plants are and how dangerous such leakages can be. Any case of nuclear meltdown would cause leakage of radiations which not only can lead to a high death toll and permanent physical and mental disorders but in the long run can make the vicinity uninhabitable for tens of decades. India, which is blindly following a dream of going the nuclear way, is largely ignoring the threats that these reactors bring with themselves! The Three Mile and Chernobyl disasters during the eighties are testimonies to catastrophes that can be caused by such plants. And it is not that this is something new for India – in August 2010, the Journal of Contemporary Asia reported that between 1993 and 1995, more than 120 hazardous nuclear accidents took place in India. And then, there are protests which are already being organised in Jaitapur in Maharashtra after adverse effect of nuclear plants were seen on the ecology. Even if one ignores the Jaitapur protests, what comes as a surprise is how our government seems to have forgotten the biggest disaster of all time in Indian history. People have not even come out of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and mind you, there was nothing nuclear in that disaster!

The whole nuclear saga began in the October of 2008, when we signed the controversial and much criticised 1-2-3 deal with the US. This deal opened a $250 billion nuclear reactor market for India and today we are finding companies (mostly American and European) waiting for their contracts. This brings me to the biggest contract we signed with Areva that furthered our dream of becoming nuclear powered nation by adding a 9,000-MW plant at Jaitapur in the Konkan region in Maharashtra. As it is said that the devil is in the details, interestingly the Konkan coast is located in the seismic belt of the nation and is categorised under the high damage risk zone. For the record, in the last two decades, this zone has experienced a whopping number of 92 earthquakes, of which three were major, with the highest being measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale in 1993. And on the top of this, we are using a very controversial and unapproved nuclear reactor for this plant. As of now, we’ve more than 20 nuclear reactors dotted along the coastal areas of the nation that may be either exposed to quakes or tsunamis.

Taking a cue from Japan, Germany has suspended contracts and agreements that would have else ensured an extension of their nuclear facilities while Switzerland have, for the time being, kept aside all files meant for approval of nuclear plants. What we are repeatedly ignoring is the magnitude of the disaster that can occur. God forbid a Japan-like disaster occurs in our nation. With no earthquake-resistant buildings and literally no public awareness on such issues, a Japan-like incident can literally wipe out a major pie of our population leaving behind equal numbers of Indians crippled and physically and mentally handicapped. In case of India, the problem is just not one of fragile plants but also about the way we dispose our nuclear waste. A year back, radioactive substances were found in a Delhi market and what is the guarantee that tomorrow Indian roads will not be littered with radioactive substance with garbage collectors and ragpickers merrily collecting them without realising what they are holding?

Rather than going gung-ho over nuclear power, we should tap our renewable sources of energy and especially bank on solar power plants, given the fact that India is blessed with ample sunlight round the year. It would not be just economical, safe and green but would also reduce chances of future irreversible damages in case any disaster becomes an unfortunate reality!! Studies show that the average daily solar energy incident over our country is around 7 kWh/m2 (equivalent to 2000 solar hours per year) – any day more than the current total energy consumption of the entire nation and yet solar energy comprise less than one per cent of the total energy produced in India – while it is 35 per cent in developed nations. What is of most importance is the fact that now technology makes it possible to produce solar power at a lesser cost than nuclear power. It is therefore a huge question why the government is hell-bent on opting for nuclear energy when it very well knows that solar energy is now more cost-effective as well as safer. Alternatively of course, there is another thing we can do. Why we are keeping quiet about it is beyond my understanding. We can opt for thorium-based plants, owing to the fact that thorium is found in abundance in our country as we have 25 per cent of the world’s thorium reserve. Topmost, energy scientists have confirmed that it can be a very easy alternative for our energy problems. However, not a single media entity writes about it properly and the common man has no clue about it... Also the fact that thorium produces hundred times the power of that of uranium and leaves essentially no waste. And as per research, if thorium acquires scale in mining, it would cost lesser than uranium! Given such potential power generation resources, it is foolish to suffer from a nuclear complex!

All in all, there is not a single reason as to why India should take part in this rat race to become a nuclear-powered nation. Instead, we should learn from Japan and switch to much safer and cleaner energy sources like solar, hydro and thorium. Needless to say, a single nuclear reactor is equal to hundred atom bombs and in a country like India with high population density, a single explosion would lead to hundred Hiroshimas! And if such a huge disaster can occur in a country like Japan which is known for its zero defect attitude and stringent quality control, then in this country where short cuts, corruption, fraudulent practices are more of a rule than exception, it will definitely happen. And God forbid if a disaster of this magnitude happens in India, we would be shattered completely. Unfortunately, the Indian government is unable to see things beyond the peanuts as of now!! I hope though it does so and takes the corrective measures as soon as possible and openly declares that India does not need nuclear energy.

Share/Bookmark

29 comments:

Yesh said...

3000 people are killed in China EVERY YEAR in Coal Mines. In India also many are killed. Due to Air pollution in India, 527,000 people are killed EVERY YEAR in INDIA. Did we stop using Petrol?? Just cuz a accident happend, you can't say the technology should be stopped Mr.Arindam! The opportunity cost of NOT using Nuclear Technology is way too high.Also, if the media is not writing about thorium as you claim, You can start advertising it. If you give more importance to the nation than you give to daily full page ads of your IIPM, your hypocrisy would not have been so brutally exposed. :)Looking forward to your reply on this, if you have one.

tik-tiki said...

Huge conservation efforts and minimum use energy packages for homes (where going over limit is charged more) need to be put into place. the curbing of human activity is an option no one wants to talk about. Introducing time zones in India could also conserve tons of energy. Let's look at energy use in a new way. We cannot expect limitless energy supply forever.

tik-tiki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tik-tiki said...

Don't agree about thorium though...

http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/thorium2009factsheet.pdf

kushwanth said...

the fact of not handling disasters like japan in india is way out!!!

this type of disasters come and we know..we can control or eradicate them...but the biggest disaster of "WE JUST TAKE IT EASY"..policy is more dangerous.

there is a point where we check our house first before spitting on others...if u can just claim one situation where we handled the situation and came out clean in india...is very rare...

before taking some topics in to considerations ...just consider the situation india is going through...can u just get one certifivate from municipal for free??

can u get an admission in school for free??...
can u get a tender without bribing??..

things like these..will never change...we just celebrate by the lights of buildings but dont see the person who is under the lights...

WAKE UP INDIA

Sourav said...

It's not just India, no country in this world can afford such a disaster! No offense meant, but this article seems to be coming from any particular rather than from a management guru, and holds no significant logic!

Disappointed.

Sajid said...

I agree with Arindam. While I do not oppose nuclear energy but taking a more objective view(keeping in mind our population and lack of health and safety measures and due diligence amongst our officials) for a country so highly populated, any alternative that can preserve our civilization certainly is more appropriate.

yadavgs said...

I appreciate the information provided in the article. I may agree with some that switch over to renewable or solar or thorium cannot be and should be taken as a desperate measure but it will certainly create a chance to discuss alternates.
solar source is economical needs elaboration as even commercial stake holders has not brought it out.

bharat said...

the logical load of human beings exceeded post industrialization itself... all we are now dependent is on technology only... choosing wisely would be the only way forward.... anyway on the article... "its to vague"

neha said...

i do agree that a movement towards renewable sources of energy is the call for the day in india. it would not only economic but healthy for the common citizens of india.
but at the same time, i believe in what Homi Bhabha suggested ATOM FOR PEACE. in todays world where there are countries with nuclear power, india cant afford to be naive. india should concentrate on all round development that includes defensive power also.

but yes, the government should plan the layout of such nuclear plants with utmost care and also a special post disaster management team should be set up. not only that, the government should formulate strict rules and regulations regarding the disposal of nuclear wastage.
but just because the government is not able to fulfill this, india cant afford to be weak in any respect when it comes to the defensie front.

MSIM said...

To Yesh, I disagree with your characterization of Mr. Chaudhari as a hypocrite. It is the millions of so called educated Indians like you who continue to 'accept' the atrocious conduct of their elected representatives who should be considered hypocrites and in many cases are co-conspirators in the corrupt conduct. I believe I am among many readers who find Mr.Arindham's bold and incisive articles that should be embrace his point of view and his call to action on many of the festering problems in Indian society. I suggest you read his other recent posts about the budget and corruption and learn from it rather than push your agenda and make rude statements about such a well meaning author.

Saptadeep said...

I'm a power plant engineer and prefer to clarify few points.
1. India meets nearly 75% of its power requirement through coal fired plants which is an ecological mess. Big hydro projects require submergence of huge areas under water and u can't ignore the relocation of lives and the medha patkars. Solar, wind and tidal energies are still babies yet to be tapped to full extent. Solar power is very expensive even today and requires huge area setup. So, that leaves us with the choice of nuclear power. One that is clean, already exploted to the hilt and cost effective in the longer run.
2. Nuclear power have to be built up in coastal regions because of huge water requirement and thereby reduce cost. As a civil engineer I can assure that a seismic study incorporating 100 years of earth quake data is collected before designing a power plant. The Jaitapur plant is in seismic zone-III which is a moderate earthquake zone. NTPC has built several coal powered thermal projects in seismic zones-V and they have never been damaged in any eartquake. The Japan plant being much older in technology and was already beyond its expiry period is the main cause behind the havoc. Else other newer nuclear plants too were hit by the tsunami but no disaster was observed. Moreover our own nuclear facility at Kalpakkam was hit by the tsunami with no damage at all.
3. India being heavily power deficit and desiring to be a major player in world politics cannot make choices. It needs power (clear power) and we are equipped enough to design a safe nuclear plant.
4. Nuclear power deal with USA was also a major deal for a nation which aspires to be in UN security council to build healthy business relations. This will enable India to be on a level platform with ther developed nations.
5. Bhopal gas tragedy was a man made error and any error like that can happen in any toxic industry which needs to be prevented with better checks and not abolish the item if it pays a larger good. Better we abolish our nuclear weapon programme then.
6. I don't have much knowledge about thorium but as it seems it will take years to develop and by that time a healthy mix of different energy sources will provide us flexibility and help pave our way to become a power abundant nation and a superpower.
Lastly, I want to urge people not to spread malice here. This is a platform where atleast Mr. Arindam is speaking for the nations cause. We may debate it but no under the belt blow pl.

rahulmohite2009 said...

HOW U SAID LIKE THIS you not belive what you are - remind it

"IF YOU NEED TO MAKE OMLET YOU NEED TO BREAK EGGS".

I THINK YOU KNOW IT WHAT I SAID..IN SHORT

"FAILURE IS NEW BEGINING".

Kumar Diwakar said...

Hi Arindam! I don't agree to the idea associated in the topic.From the beginning of the creation the human beings have invented lots of things which are useful or harmful that depends upon the way they are used.
Again, you can't stop a tsunami whether you are an atomic power or not.India has also faced a tsunami.Actually, nothing is stable in this world.Earthquakes, tsunamies etc have always been destroying the human societies throughout the world even then, when the world was not aware of the atomic power.

swati said...

agree wid u sir on using the thorium as an alternative source of energy as it is available in abundance and secondly it has various advantages over other resources v r using nw ....bt if we talk about d disasters so i thnk india ,if wants to go for a nuclear reactors plants then it is essential dat we also have to prepare ourself for fighting against such type of disasters like japan did....v needs to get high tech in technology first to get over if any type of disasters will take place den v can easily move on to nuclear based plants also

आदित्य प्रताप वन्देमातरम said...

@ Yesh

Just cuz a accident happend, you can't say the technology should be stopped Mr.Arindam!"


Mr. Yesh, please go and tell this to the the kith and kin of those who died in Japan.


"The opportunity cost of NOT using Nuclear Technology is way too high."
The opportunity cost of NOT using Nuclear Technology is way too high.

not higher than the cost of human life.

Building a nuclear reactor in a seismologically dangerous zone is not merely foolish, it is suicidal!

SHRAYASH said...

i don't think you said right Mr. Arindam!!! But yeah have said true.....
@Arindam you know what is the cost of setting up solar panels????

and nuclear reactors may survive any disaster but solar panels or any other type of energy plant set up on land can't do that!!!

And moreover think about our environment also. Any other forms will also consume a large number of resources much that that consumed by fission reactors . but there's one more thing that time we will suffer energy crisis and for that we will have to build more and more nuclear reactors. and for accidents i must say car mishaps take place and i am also sure you travel in car aren't you. so can india stop using nuclear enrgy???????????? think about it Mr. Arindam

now i have a question for you also

Can you think beyond IIPM??

Ameeque Jamei said...

arindam , first congrats to u for courage writing about Binayak..he is our hero..who never gone to US or UK for medical services and choosen to serve in indian interior region..our govt send him for this life imprisonment and IT minister raja for a AC 5 Statr jail..thanks for courage...arindam we the youth r not blind i want indian should devolop and become superpower but at what cost..our country economy based on agriculture and ofcource famers are indian economy asset and Pm gdp may be..so Arjun sen gupta report are really matter for us he said 73 Crore indian earn 8-20 repee daily..farmer commit suiside 2 in three day..in last 4 yr 60 lack youth unemployed due to PM neo liberal economic policy..those loyal ..nationalist...who wear cheap khadi and talking about bhagat-sukhdev rajguru indian we r sending jail and those who r culprit and wiki exposed those dalaal of america they got the no 1 cityzenship...u said about N-deal..deal was only dalaali deal..thats it we know when in my country a farmer labor son aplly fir grade four post of home guard he has to pay first 1 lack...so N-Deal UPA NDA involve in corruptioon and americaprasti..so they Said India shining and bharat nirman..darasl nirman paise ka hua..shayad aapko bhi anti national ghosit kar diya jaye kyoki aapbhi kuch sarfiro ki tarah deal pwer sawaal uthha rahe hai..lekin baat sirf itni hai arvindam..aap admi ke bhavishya se upar koi desh aur rashtra ho hi nahi sakta..sawaal karte hai ..desh ka naujawan aapke sath hai

rajani said...

All those nuclear plant lovers, will you buy a house any where near the plant? In US we get incentives to install solar panels on the roof top. We don't have to make big solar plants and mass produce energy. Learn from others mistakes.

devas said...

hello

mghariharan said...

Solar energy is the most polluting souurce of energy. It will create many deserts like sahara to produce the required energy.
You ( Arindam ) said you have plan to take our country through 14% growth. Can you show the plan

incognito said...

hats off to your nuclear knowledge(sarcastic)...U must have got the reply already Mr.Arindam

Trushit said...

u want to feed thorium into hydrothermal plants instead of coal (ha ha ha)... better check ur knowledge with nuclear phenomenon before uttering non sense.. u should give more efforts on ur knowledge than advertising IIPM... 'almost zero waste by thorium usage'... its ridiculous.. if its true, please send me link from where u gt this. i can easily do my Ph.D. on this.. and beside this, our nuclear scientists already know about thorium abundance,they are working on it already.

vmlatey said...

Mr. Arvindam, you are not really an expert in any discipline related to nuclear science. Some of the your views in your above write-up are such that they not only reveal your shallow understanding of this subject, but also the lack of originality and academic understanding of it. This is evident from your advocating thorium for power generation, while saying India should not pursue nuclear power. Thorium is not some oil which can be burnt. Thorium is an element that first needs to be converted to Uranium (U233) and then fissioned to generate energy.

sandi said...

Mr Arindam C.. jack of all trades master of none.
1. U don't have any idea about solar energy, check the process for making solar grade silicon. It produces more CO2 and require more electrical energy than any other processes, maximum efficiency is around 18 % and that is also for 8 hours a day.
2. U don't have even a slightest idea about the nuclear energy and technology involved in nuclear power plants.Some of the brightest minds of INDIA are working in DAE (without any reservation).
3. "Thorium" what a joke. Man first u have to convert thorium into uranium to use it and this alchemy to convert an element into another is not a piece of cake. Only inside nuclear reactor it is possible.This is a future technology on which research is going on.

Nuclear power is not in the hand of crazy politicians, it is guarded by brilliant scientists. So don't do politics on a natural disaster, in japan people died because of earthquake and tsunami. please update your knowledge and be mature.

Dr Jayadev said...

All most all other accidents other than chemical accidents and nuclear disaster are self limiting. Why is it that the proponents of nuclear power are ignorant about the perpetual nature of the damage which can make generations suffer. It is foolish to compare a nuclear disaster to coal mine accident or plane crash.

Niyas said...

Pls read this article "The nuclear energy debate in India: Response to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam from Dr Surendra Gadekar" @ http://kafila.org/2011/11/10/response-to-dr-apj-abdul-kalam-from-dr-surendra-gadekar/.....Let us have more knowledge on this energy , from the experts in this field, before coming to a conclusion...

Niyas said...

Pls read this article The nuclear energy debate in India: Response to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam from Dr Surendra Gadekar .....Let us have more knowledge on this energy , from the experts in this field, before coming to a conclusion...

Blogger said...

There's a chance you're qualified for a new government solar rebate program.
Click here to discover if you're eligble now!

" This blog is managed by The Sunday Indian. We heartily welcome comments on the articles.. However TSI will delete all those comments which are personal in nature and have the usage of unparliamentary language. "