Do the Kudankulam protesters have it all wrong? – Media disinformation in action at FirstPost

Percentage of time devoted to rural news on TVPercentage of time devoted to rural news on TV. These figures don't show more than 7% of the time for over 2/3 of India's population and YET are deceptive, because this time shown too is rarely about rural issues and more likely to be other selling news from rural locations.

Recently, FirstPost, which is a kind of news media thing published an article titled “Why the Kudankulam protesters have it all wrong” which ought to have been an informative thing triggering thought on happenings in the country, etc EXCEPT that it wasn’t what it seemed.

The only real point it seemed to make is that Tamil Nadu needs electricity. The rest was emotionalism around it, painting the nuclear plant as the savior that would end all problems, mud slinging the activists, and flat out LIES on the harm from nuclear accidents – including claiming numbers that contradict every known credible source on the subject.

The article should not be read for information, as all the information in it is suspect and rather than verifying every detail and reading fifty times the material to know if something said is true or false, it would be easier to discard the article. Here are some examples of unethical journalism from FirstPost from this article. It begins:

Ever since a guy named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi walked on Indian soil, protesting has been the way of life here. While Gandhi protested against the British, we protest against everything.

So right at the beginning, we have this idea that people’s right to protest is something absurd. Nothing illogical, but it is the setting of the stage for mud slinging a certain protest in the article. Well, sucks for FirstPost, but it is a fundamental right and democracies have such things.

Frankly, a newspaper that can’t digest people’s right to protest unconditionally is by in my view not a pro-rights paper. Call me stupid, but I am more along the lines of Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Because I believe that the concerns of everyone are important.

I don’t think there can be a more ridiculous protest than that. Or at least I thought, till the Kudankulam protest came along.

This means absolutely nothing. Freedom of citizens to protest doesn’t require this person’s ability to appreciate human freedoms.

Why protest against a Power Plant, when Tamil Nadu is a woefully power deficient state?

Thanking for the courtesy of understanding that the protest is against a power plant and not getting electricity to the state, I would like to offer here, that people have their own evaluations of what is appropriate. I have been broke for ages, but I do think it is inappropriate to do fraud, prostitution or theft, for example. This logic that if there is a need, then there should be no resistance to the available means of fulfilling it is the product of a mind that doesn’t think the application of ethics as an important evaluation of the means.

This may be the authors choice, but this is not a desirable state for society or government. This is followed by how there is a lack of power in Tamil Nadu. He describes the situation of Tamil Nadu as already power deficit, which was followed by “big ticket industrialization” for which there was no power.

Now, these new TN industries were not your small cute cottage ones, which had miniscule power requirements. They were your big bad-ass ones, like automobiles, electronics, textiles etc– the Hummers of the power consumption world. The ones that consumed 100’s of MWs, just to remain idle.

So let me get this right, there already was no power for the industrialization that happened. It was unplanned for the resources available. And now the people of Koodankulam should make it all right. Demanding more realistic development that is suitable for the region’s capacity to sustain would be illogical, I assume.

And of course, if the protesters are worried that the important assessments to ensure safety are not fulfilled, then they are spoilsports. They shouldn’t block. They have it all wrong. There is a shortage of 3000MW in Tamil Nadu, there is a nuclear plant waiting to go into action. Resistance is stupid. Tamil Nadu has shortage, and superhero Kudankulam will fix it. Bas. Enough said.

And then the bizarre data:

If you did not know, Kudankulam was built with Russian help. And, Russia isn’t exactly known for its subtlety. So, in true, Russian style, they helped us build a reactor complex, which has four reactors. And when commissioned will generate a total of 10,000 MegaWatts of Power. And of the four, two are ready.

I have no clue on Russia’s ability to be subtle, but I do know that these statistics fit no known source of information for me. The impression I get is that each of the power plants will generate 2,500MW and two being ready means people can expect 5,000MW of electricity. This is not explicitly stated, but it seems to be implied from this information, since there is no detail provided.

Actually, they have so far built two reactors and have FOUR MORE planned, not a total of four. A total of six. NONE of the reactors has a capacity of over 1200MW, so I fail to see how even all six being operational will generate 10,000MW as the author claims. The two ready now are VVER-1000s with a capacity of 1000MW each. The remaining four will be 1170MW each. Which brings us to a total production of 6680MW.

These two reactors, if started, will instantaneously transform Tamil Nadu, from a beggar to a millionaire as far as power is concerned. For the common man, this will mean no more load shedding, no more missing afternoon TV.

It will enable students to rediscover the lost tradition of the afternoon nap. The industry will begin to function at peak capacity finally, resulting in the progress and prosperity of Tamil Nadu.

And of course, it will once and for all solve the power crisis in Tamil Nadu.

So, now let us look at the reality. We have two reactors of 1000MW each ready to go into operation. This is not the electricity production of the reactor, but the capability of the reactor. The actual production is lesser because of the reactor not operating at full capacity or outages, etc. It is calculated as something called a capacity factor. India has never gone beyond 80% production in all its nuclear history.

The max so far is 79% – which is better than other kinds of energy, but it means that even assuming that these reactors perform to this standard straight off the bat, they will together produce 1580MW of electricity. Nowhere near this ridiculous claim. AND, on top of that, India’s transmission and distribution losses currently stand at an astounding 34%, which means that out of this 1580MW, about 1000MW or so will actually be “satisfying Tamil Nadu forever after” or some such fuzzy pink bull shit.

On the other hand, instead of these two reactors, if the transmission and distribution losses can be reduced, 34% of 9000MW is more than 3000MW if they can even be cut to half – it will be equal to these two reactors. That is the kind of wastage happening. Then there is more supercilious bull shit:

Just to give you an idea on how long it has been; the initial survey for the Kudankulam plant was not done by Russia but by the Soviet Union, whose Premier was Mikhael Gorbachev. When the site was finally decided, Rajiv Gandhi was still alive. And, Sachin Tendulkar was a talented 17-year-old who was just pitchforked into the Indian team, before he had played a Ranji Trophy match. My question to the protesters is, what were you doing all this while? Waiting for Sachin to score 100 hundreds? Sure, some people will point out that there were protests against the plant, since 1987. But those were your little protests, protests that happen in India everyday. If you happened to read that link, the biggest protest against the plant, had a grand total of 150 people. More people participated, back in my college, in a protest against the mess food.

This is obviously either utter ignorance at work, or deliberate disinformation, because fishermen organized a 10,000 strong protest in May 1989 and got shot at by cops too. To date, cops are avoiding antagonizing the fishermen, and the brave Jayalalitha pretended to support the protest till the elections were over. This doesn’t happen with tiny little people protesting in some corner.

If there hadn’t been strong opposition all through, why were the reactors delayed post 1998, once the new deal with Russia was done? Or did we start needing electricity just now? The history of Kudankulam protests is public. You don’t have to believe me.

Today, after 24 years of continuous construction….

If we need 24 years to *construct* a reactor, how the heck are we going to use them to address needs anyway? This is bull shit. Local protests have repeatedly stalled work here. Which also means, the protesters were not born today.

There is no scientific justification for this protest

This should only be understood to mean that the extremely scientific questions raised went above this person’s head. And then his conditions for who should protest:

The Guy who is leading the protest should be qualified.

With this logic, anti-corruption protests should only be made by economists, investigators or politicians. What do qualifications matter if the points raised are valid?

The arguments that he, which by extension covers the whole protest, is putting forth should be scientifically credible.

Again, same thing.

There are very specific concerns raised about the volcanic activity, nature of ground, underwater topography, etc and clear explanations of how they violate standards or necessitate further investigation. These concerns couldn’t be more detailed or specific or scientific without doing the research themselves. These concerns have been repeatedly raised at various platforms, with various people, in various publications.

The government’s version of science is Kalam declaring it “100% safe”. 100% safe is not a scientific answer. This is what is offered to citizens to keep them happy. But some would like information instead of “main bolta hun na, kuch nahi hoga” If you choose to call everything you don’t understand or don’t want to give importance to as unscientific, then this isn’t something that should be a concern of others.

How can a political scientist present credible theories about the plant to villagers?

In a much better way Jayalalitha and Manmohan Singh gave the green signal to the plant without answering any real concerns, I suppose. He certainly has studied the subject more than both of them put together. And if he is talking about the scientists advising them, there is more evidence based information available on the perils of India’s nuclear programmes than their benefits. By scientists, researchers, doctors and more. Including a DEA study that shows larger likelihood of cancers around nuclear plants, an article based on research in the National Geographic linking the birth of fewer girls with the effects of radiation, problems with our nuclear programme itself, and more. A simple glance by any educated person tells us that nuclear energy, at least in India is more trouble than it is worth. So where are the scientific papers reassuring us of safety?

I tried hard to find one that resembled what I mentioned above. After arduous Googling, this is what I found, a post written by Dr Udayakumar himself, on the perils of Kudankulam. This was, by far, the worst document I have seen in my life, and this includes my own writing. And, that is saying something.

I think by now I can safely say this writer’s estimation of both what constitutes good writing or scientific is fairly unreliable. The article is there – whoever wants can read and decide for themselves.

Then we get into kid horror films.

Point no 1: Even when the KKNPP projects function normally without any incidents and accidents, they would be emitting Iodine 131, 132, 133, Cesium 134, 136, 137 isotopes, strontium, tritium, tellurium and other such radioactive particles into our air, land, crops, cattle, sea, seafood and ground water. Already the southern coastal belt is sinking with very high incidence of cancer, mental retardation, Down syndrome, defective births due to private and government sea-sand mining for rare minerals including thorium. The KKNPP will add many more woes to our already suffering people.

If you didn’t bother to read it, here is the gist. He writes, because of the radioactive materials leaving the plant and mixing with the water and food, something like this is going to happen in Kudankulam, really really soon.

Mr. Know-it-all is skeptical that radioactive contamination is possible. However documented evidence is that there is health damage to populations near Nuclear plants already. And this isn’t activist propaganda, but a study commissioned (and not released) by the DEA – Department of Atomic Energy. It doesn’t get more official than this when it comes to nuclear in India.

Though by far and large, our strategy to prevent radioactive contamination is to not check if there is any.

In the city of Mumbai, there is a nuclear reactor, right in the middle of the city. A city of 30 million people. Last known, they have not transformed into some version of The Incredible Hulk meets the Godzilla. It means that the people of Kudankulam and the nearby villages are safe from the ‘monster’ that is the Kudankulam power plant.

I hate to bring a serious subject in the face of such frivolous thinking, but a terminal cancer patient still doesn’t look like either Incredible Hulk or Godzilla or any variation thereof. People who dropped dead of radiation on the spot didn’t look like that either. This is nothing more than an exhibition of extreme childishness in the face of a serious subject. I suppose since he can’t see air, or see people growing visibly, humans neither breathe nor grow?

Also, it needs to be understood here that there is no research on health impact on citizens of Mumbai from the reactors. An absence of data must not be confused with a lack of risk.

The very serious fact on this is that a nuclear accident involving Mumbai will be a nightmare of proportions beyond imagination. Think Japan having to evacuate Tokyo. It is the subject of models and even a book by scientists, and none of them are funny. At all.

This actually coincides with the great American research “Thinking the Unthinkable” – a USGOV study that evaluates the impact of a nuclear attack on Washington and concludes that it wouldn’t be all that bad.

Thinking about the unthinkable, a U.S. government study analyzed the likely effects from terrorists setting off a 10-kiloton nuclear device a few blocks north of the White House. It predicted terrible devastation for roughly one-half mile in every direction, with buildings reduced to rubble the way that World War II bombing raids destroyed parts of Berlin.

Just like a videogame. Buildings for a half mile radius reduced to RUBBLE. No mention of people… (Notice how there is no mention of Hiroshima or Nagasaki either… )

But outside that blast zone, the study concluded, even such a nuclear explosion would be pretty survivable.

Let me get this right, the only damage would be buildings in a half mile radius and… nothing… or at least pretty survivable? Why is US not dealing with Pakistan more firmly, then? Wouldn’t such pretty survivable damage be worth tackling a festering problem thoroughly? Let’s face it. How many cities does Pakistan have within range that are populated equal or more than Washington? So why the fear mongering when it comes to practice? Is it possible that the study is a tad bit unrealistic in terms of the human impact?

But I digress. Coming back to this article making the same point…

If you think in case of a disaster, the whole area will be wiped out and thousands will die, then well you are wrong.

How many people have to die to qualify as a disaster? Does it justify taking risks when alternatives are avaialble?

The total number of fatalities, directly or indirectly, due to a Nuclear power plant meltdown, from 1960-2011, across the globe, is 47.

Yes 47 in all. This includes Chernobyl and Fukushima.

This is bull shit. Even the ultimate pimp of nuclear power – the IAEA puts the DIRECT losses from Chernobyl alone to be 56 and an estimated 4000 “will die eventually”. On the other hand, other, non nuclear sources are far less kind. to quote from an excellent article about this in the Guardian:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, another UN agency, predicts 16,000 deaths from Chernobyl; an assessment by the Russian academy of sciences says there have been 60,000 deaths so far in Russia and an estimated 140,000 in Ukraine and Belarus.

Meanwhile, the Belarus national academy of sciences estimates 93,000 deaths so far and 270,000 cancers, and the Ukrainian national commission for radiation protection calculates 500,000 deaths so far.

And these are no insignificant organizations giving out these numbers. To claim direct and indirect deaths not being more than 47 is like saying only the people who died on that fateful night in Bhopal are the victims of the Bhopal tragedy. Not the ones who died later, not the ones maimed, deformed, disabled, etc. And then reporting that number to be a hundred as well.

And this crapshoot goes on and on in its juvenile rampage. At some point you have:

The Chinese have been building a power plant with Russian help, equipped with the same VVER-1000 Nuclear reactor.

A short while ago, this very reactor was declared as the safest nuclear reactor in the world. That too not by some literary artists like Dr Udayakumar, but by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

China has never been a big one for giving a damn about its people, and IAEA EXISTS to PROMOTE nuclear power. The IAEA has also “welcomed” the news of the “cold shutdown” at Fukushima, when a year after the disaster no one has still found the approximate location of any of the fuel. I would like better reassurances of safety. A good pointer on the “safety” of VVER-1000 is the promotion for VVER-1200 – which addresses “critical deficiencies in design” like a core catcher among other things – which would be nice, no in case of a meltdown? Therefore to kindly shut up.

Before somebody says, let me admit that I am not a nuclear physicist or a scientist.

Not everyone can be a nuclear physicist or scientist, but when pretending to have an even half way informed opinion, research can be done by any person. There is absolutely no excuse not to and then pretend to know what you are talking about.

There is this comprehensive government report which counters every argument of this man.

This mysterious report needs to see light of day no? Why not provide a link? Better still, ask the government to publish it widely, so that those questions are answered, and the protest stops?

Overall assessment of this article: Juvenile

Author: Malicious and juvenile.

Editor: Incompetent

FirstPost: Pro-nuclear disinformation source

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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