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On the day after ASN (The Nuclear Safety Authority in France) quietly published the findings of a serious fault in the reactor built by Areva at Flamanville, headlines in India proclaimed our Prime Minister Narendra Modi was out "shopping for nuclear power" in France. Incidentally, this is the reactor India plans for Jaitapur. One would imagine that the discovery of a serious flaw would at least postpone negotiations, if not bring a halt to them, but the Indian media and government both simply seem to have ignored the safety concerns, because today, it seems Modi is also "proud" of achieving this deal.

I suppose as a major world power without a serious nuclear disaster, we are lagging behind the world or something.

The flaw had been found in December, though disclosed only now. Murmurings of quality problems with the reactor have been rife with anti-nuclear activists (who are now supposed to be anti-national in a country aspiring to its own nuclear catastrophe) demanding investigations and tests and data to be made public and opposing it in every manner possible. Well, Areva itself has disclosed this flaw and it has been made public on the official site, so unless Areva is its own foreign-sponsored enemy, it is rather difficult to find a conspiracy here.

Contrast this with France, where the reactor already installed with the flaws is now waiting on an investigation as to its fate. It remains to be known whether the flaw can be corrected. Does it not then appear premature and unwise to invest national commitment on a potentially flawed design that may not be possible to improve on? Contrast this with the alert to China over two reactors also manufactured at the Creusot Forge, in Burgundy, France (owned by Areva) that could potentially contain this flaw. Contrast it with Europe, which is looking at nuclear power as an action against climate change, where the discovery of this flaw has led to calls to exercise caution in proceeding with a similar project and the chances are that the fate of the two reactors to be built at Hinkley Point will likely have to wait till the results of this investigation are known.

The scale of the Flamanville reactor - during installation
The scale of the Flamanville reactor - during installation

The 410 ton reactor in Flamanville was already installed in its concrete well when the flaw in the steel was discovered.The carbon content of steel in the pressure vessel cannot exceed 0.22 per cent due to risk of cracking during operations as well as reducing its operational lifetime. The steel in parts of the Flamanville plant was found to contain 0.30% of carbon. It is not going to be easy to move the 410 ton reactor vessel - if at all it is possible - and it is unclear what method could be used for repairs.

Technical clarifications concerning the manufacturing anomalies on the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel

Investigations are on. An unfavorable review could well mean the final nail in the coffin of France's Nuclear Power industry, already plagued with delays and cost escalations. The plant, already 7 years overdue, had more than doubled its original estimated cost as per EDF's recent estimate from an original 3.3 billion Euro to 8 billion Euro. And this is before this flaw was found. Its start date, already pushed to 2017 is looking extremely unlikely at this point.

The release from ASN is explicit.

The nuclear pressure equipment regulation requires that the manufacturer limits the risks of heterogeneity in the materials used for manufacturing the components most important for safety. In order to address this technical requirement, AREVA carried out chemical and mechanical tests on a vessel head similar to that of the Flamanville EPR. The results of these tests, in late 2014, revealed the presence of a zone in which there was a high carbon concentration, leading to lower than expected mechanical toughness1 values. Initial measurements confirmed the presence of this anomaly in the reactor vessel head and reactor vessel bottom head of the Flamanville EPR. ASN received a proposal from AREVA for a further detailed test campaign on a representative vessel head, starting in April 2015, in order to precisely identify the location of the zone concerned and its mechanical properties.

ASN will make a decision on the acceptability of the test programme, check its correct performance and examine the file to be submitted by AREVA to demonstrate the robustness of the Flamanville EPR reactor vessel. It will also call on the services of its technical support organisation, IRSN (Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety), and the Advisory Committee of Experts for Nuclear Pressure Equipment.

"If the weakness of the vessel is confirmed, I wouldn't hold out much hope for EPR's survival," a former nuclear safety official told Le Parisien.

(FILES) - A photo taken on July 16, 2013 in Flamanville, northwestern France, shows the installation of a dome on a reactor's building on the construction site of the third European generation Pressurised Reactor (EPR). A new "anomaly" in the construction of the EPR at Flamanville was detected in the nuclear reactor, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (ASN - Nuclear Safety Authority) announced on April 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAUCHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A photo taken on July 16, 2013 in Flamanville, northwestern France, shows the installation of a dome on a reactor's building on the construction site of the third European generation Pressurised Reactor (EPR). A new "anomaly" in the construction of the EPR at Flamanville was detected in the nuclear reactor, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (ASN - Nuclear Safety Authority) announced on April 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAUCHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

We discovered with the Rafale deal that India will simply succumb to an agreement against our interest if the other side holds out. We now seem to be discovering that India under Modi is so eager to claim credit for opportunities started but left incomplete by the previous regime that it does not even care for practical considerations for cost or safety. All this, of course is apart from the staunch opposition of locals at the site of the proposed plant - which neither government cared or cares much about, though I suppose the new Land Grab Ordinance (also known as the Land Acquisition Ordinance) will leave the locals with little right over their own land to refuse "development".

It is unclear what exactly Modi claims to be proud of in concluding such a deal.

The last post ends with a table of nuclear incidents in India. The thing is that when it comes to radiation, there isn't too much difference between clean and safe. Contamination is unsafe. It is also expensive. So, these posts may take specific perspectives, but they are interlinked.

Radiation is not safe. Experts are increasingly in agreement that while we all get some dose of radiation as a part of normal life, there is no level of radiation that can be declared safe. However, for purposes of this article, that will sound paranoid, so let us look at only the more outstanding examples.

I have absolutely no clue and have not encountered anywhere the parameters that have been used to conclude nuclear power as safe. In a world hyperventilating over nuclear war, we have in any given reactor hundreds of times if not thousands of times the quantity of fuel found in a nuclear bomb. Security can be breached as was spectacularly demonstrated in a recent Greenpeace protest in France, where the activists got into the nuclear plants by stealth to make their point. The last activist took ten hours to be found. The activists were hounded for compromising security, but it could just as easily have been a terrorist.

Humanitarian expectations would be that nuclear facilities are not targetted in times of war. The question here is if things have come to such a breakdown of relations between two entities that they are resorting to killing each other to find a winner, which side would trust the other to not target facilities? Is it a worthy risk to count on non-targeting of facilities by enemies for own civilians to be safe? Sure, the facilities can be defended, but all it would take is to knock a power plant off whack - be it a direct strike or damage to any of many factors keeping the reactor safe. It could be done with operatives. If a Mumbai style assault were made on a nuclear plant, would our security still be able to prevent penetration? What if twice the number of terrorists came? Twenty, even fifty isn't such a large number. One busload.

Like I said, these are dramatic examples, but a security problem can be much smaller, like uh... the dome of a reactor voluntarily collapsing without being attacked. It has happened. Just google Kaiga Dome collapse to see what I mean. This was during construction itself. Expert assesments were clear that if the reactor had been in operation, the dome collapse would have prevented a safe shutdown  very difficult. 130 tons of concrete falling 13 meters to the automatic control rods below would be messy to put it in very polite terms.

In Narora, in 1993, problematic turbine blades recommended replacement by the manufacturers themselves (BHEL) had not been replaced, and resulted in a massive accident where a blade sheared off during operation, cut off other two blades and the resulting disturbance broke pipes carrying hydrogen, which caught fire, which spread and the safety back up wiring being installed along with the regular wiring, got destroyed at the same time, and workers took risks to stabilize the plant, and manually dump liquid boron into the reactor to slow the reactions because the power lost in the accident - both regular power and backup was restored after a blackout of 17 hours. This could have gone very, very wrong and we could have easily had our own dead zone if not for gutsy workers and a heck of a lot of luck.

These are just a few samples. Kaiga First? Kaiga and Other Nuclear Stories by M V Ramana and Ashwin Kumar is a mind boggling read on the state of security of Indian nuclear installations a jaw dropping collection of everything from patterns of minor accidents and fires to missing people and heavy water leaks that can only be blamed on people with security clearance acting in irresponsible ways for whatever reason. No, you will rarely find persistent questioning of these issues - issues with the capacity to turn vast tracts of the country into permanent no-go zones - in the regular media. On the subject of nuclear power, the mainstream media is impeccably coloring within lines drawn by a government determined to pursue nuclear power at all cost without paying it the due respect of safety.

In fact, our determination to ignore risks of nuclear power is so great, that there is a voluntary gag on events unfolding at Fukushima Daichii in Japan. You simply don't hear all this in Indian media. As far as India is concerned, the accident in Japan was a terrible thing, but it is under control, procedures were followed, and lives were saved. A far cry from the reality of devastated livelihoods, crippling economic losses, contamination above safety levels repeatedly raised after the accident even outside the dead zone. India rarely gets to hear of the contaminated buildings, mutated vegetables, radioactive pollen and other excruciatingly sad stories coming out of there.

A nuclear plant that is still spreading contamination, dead workers, children with holes in their hearts, thousands of animals mercilessly killed, abandoned pets starving and freezing to their deaths, a seafood loving cuisine forever blighted by unacceptable contamination, desperate farmers marking their contaminated produce as coming from other places in order to make a living..... the list is endless. The government is not even able to monitor all the things that need monitoring, and where they do monitor, the results have often been so shocking that they have been silenced, only to emerge through independent monitoring or leaks. To put it mildly, this is not safe. Japan is not safe. For that matter, by the time this crisis is over, there is no telling how far this unSafety will have expanded.

In India itself (and other parts of the world) independent studies have established a greater incidence of cancers near nuclear plants that nuclear bodies have consistently dismissed. And here's the deal, after both Chernobyl and Fukushima, the trend is fairly clear that a chunk of radiation related deaths other than the immediate ones from radiation poisoning happen not of cancer, but heart attacks - which is something we aren't even monitoring - or at least nothing has been released to the public.

In still other news, if you read the archives of Tehelka, you will discover the appalling lack of safety in our uranum mines where people working in radioactive dust don't even wear facemasks, and radioactive ore is carried for refining in open trucks covered with tarpaulin sheets that do little to prevent contamination of areas they pass through. Villages often have contaminated objects in them. There have been instances of contamination of local streams through the run off from nuclear plants or breaches in the tailings ponds.

There is a vocal condemnation of anti-nuclear activists as anti-national, criminal, funded by foreign interests and what not, and the usual process of pulling suspects out of hats has happened. However, while the government has been able to fund radio jingles (of all things) to try to make nuclear energy sound attractive to people, it apparently hasn't found the time to answer crucial questions raised by them, or the commitment to safety to address important issues with existing facilities as a token of intent with regard to safety.  For example, there is absolutely nothing unreasonable to want to know evacuation plans in existence. Or to want evidence based reassurances with regards to risk to livelihood (in other words, more than "Don't worry, nothing will happen"). I think it is absolutely vital for local communities to be provided equipment to monitor radiation levels at will and to call for shutdowns or inspections if alarmed - after all, is is their lives, livelihoods, lands and entire ways of life at stake. In fact, it can prove to be an excellent failsafe - except that the government doesn't want to do anything that gives locals any power over what happens in their vicinity. Would you trust our government this blindly?

On the other hand, the sweet talk continues. Articles continue to be written about the foreign funded NGOs that have nothing better to do than to harass governments. Latest advances in nuclear energy are flaunted . You have PR exercises launched to influence public opinion. Massive nuclear reactor clusters are called "nuclear parks" - sounds most health conscious - a place you'd definitely take your kid for a pecni Another article describes a stage in the storage of nuclear fuel as thus: "radioactive waste is first converted into inert and stable materials which are kept inside stainless steel canisters sealed with lead covers." Understand this straight. If radioactive waste were rendered inert and stable, there wouldn't be any need to store it safely, no? But few stop to question. It sounds exceedingly safe with further redundant safeguards and such, but the reality of the matter is that we have had serious security issues that are not being owned, serious information missing that can make all the difference between life and death. For example there is no plan B if something were to happen to a BARC reactor - incidentally a site that also has a lot of used fuel stored. What is a Mumbaikar to do if there is a nuclear alert? Nothing is freely available to the public explaining precautions to be taken, preparedness tips and other information that ought to be freely accessible.

The safety concerns around nuclear reactors are so high that it is impossible to cover them comprehensively here. US has not built  a nuclear reactor in the last three decades. Last month, DAE in India finally admitted to employee deaths to rare bone cancer linked with radiation exposure.

There is no nuclear reactor in the world that is insured by an insurance company. None. Strange, seeing as how nuclear power is promoted as safe. If the probability of an accident was as low as claimed, the high premiums would have insurance companies dancing to the bank and more lining up to get a piece of the action. Instead, you have reactors subsidized by tax payer money, and insured by the government. In other words, if a reactor goes kaput, it is the tax payer bailing out everyone, because the dumb tax payer doesn't stop to ask why should something safe be refused insurance.

There are a lot of fantasies fed to us in the name of nuclear power. How we need it, how it is the only real option for the power we so desperately need, how it isn't all that dangerous and so on. There is no space for an alternative view. The government is clear on what it wants to do, and promotes all opposition to nuclear projects as against the interests of the country. The media carefully walks the same path.

There are three key components to the nuclear power halo, and there will be three posts here looking at these claims. Clean, Safe and Cheap.

This, the first is about the Clean.

Before we get into any worst case scenarios, let us see the normal operations of a nuclear plant. Even a brand new plant vents radioactive gasses, and cycles contaminated water from the reactor to be decontaminated and reused or released into the environment. They have "allowed" levels, since these activities are part of the normal functioning of the plant. Monitoring for radioactive contamination is not possible (or methods available) for the entire known range of contamination that can happen. It is unclear what kind of monitoring is actually carried out in India. This data is not publicly made available at the very least, though it is of significance to the public at large.

As nuclear plants age, the chances of leaks rise significantly. These may be in the form of gasses, or pipes and valves that wear out. In theory, the high risk environment means that monitoring for wear and replacement is high priority. In practice, almost every plant in the world has had leaks - great or small. Many argue that it is a matter of working efficiently. However, that is debatable, considering that a factor like piping alone involves hundreds of kilometers of pipe in a single reactor. The risk of lapse will always be there.

Then you have the actual incidents of contamination. These may be security breaches or equipment or facility failures. Depending on the kind of contamination and the half-lives of the materials released, the severity can be as minor as the radioactivity dying out in a week or so to the area becoming permanently radioactive.

And you have the severe accidents a la Chernobyl or Fukushima, where the reactors are destroyed, massive radiation releases happen, vast areas become permanently out of bounds for humans and incalculable destruction of life, health, property loss, economic loss and loss of resources like food and water happens. It is entirely debatable if such loss can ever be considered a worthy risk no matter how much electricity and profit a reactor makes.

Today, most Indians barely hear anything at all about Fukushima, but almost a year from the incident, the crisis is still unfolding. Contamination is still being called in from new areas. The initial optimism of reclaiming contaminated lands (upto 100mSv within a decade and 200mSv in two decades) has been replaced with a resigned acceptance that areas measuring more than 50mSv will be permanently out of bounds for humans. The losses in livestock, farming produce, fishing, property and health are still unfolding a year from the crisis. It is still not possible to conclude about how much loss has happened.

And it is a long way from over. An entire Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) is on a rickety structure that is one good earthquake away from catastrophic collapse. And any of the reactors or SFPs going critical or even developing a massive leak (very possible) will require evacuations that will set off more. A year from the crisis, we still have no clue where the fuel from the reactors actually is.

The live cameras still show suspicious steam and flashes at the nuclear plant routinely and people working at the plant have died of heart attacks regularly. For that matter, people working on the decontamination outside the evacuation zone have also dropped dead after handling the radioactive sludge and other waste. The last known incident was yesterday, and we'll be lucky to go a week without hearing another.

Indian media has put the trauma of Fukushima firmly behind them and are currently busy describing how anti-nuclear NGOs have suspicious funding. However, while we haven't got a Fukushima or Chernobyl yet, we have had our own history of nuclear accidents that should raise the hair of anyone not obsessed with dismissing them.

Here's the list in Wikipedia, though details of these and more will soon be a section on this site. The summary of "clean" in India. The summary of such "clean" in the world is beyond the scope of this article.

Nuclear power accidents in India
DateLocationDescriptionFatalitiesCost

(in millions

2006 US$)

4 May 1987Kalpakkam, IndiaFast Breeder Test Reactor at Kalpakkam refuelling accident that ruptures the reactor core, resulting in a two-year shutdown0300
10 Sep 1989Tarapur, Maharashtra, IndiaOperators at the Tarapur Atomic Power Station find that the reactor had been leaking radioactive iodine at more than 700 times normal levels. Repairs to the reactor take more than a year078

The on line hours of unit 1&2 in 1990 were 7772 and 7827 hrs (source IAEA PRIS. Repairs lasting more than one year from 10 Sep 1989 can not yield such on line hours.surely something is wrong.

13 May 1992Tarapur, Maharashtra, IndiaA malfunctioning tube causes the Tarapur Atomic Power Station to release 12 curies of radioactivity02
31 Mar 1993Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, IndiaThe Narora Atomic Power Station suffers a fire at two of its steam turbine blades, damaging the heavy water reactor and almost leading to a meltdown0220 The cost data is not on comparable basis. 2400 or so US 2006 dollars for TMI and 220 for NAPS unit 1 is wrong.
2 Feb 1995Kota, Rajasthan, IndiaThe Rajasthan Atomic Power Station leaks radioactive helium and heavy water into the Rana Pratap Sagar River, necessitating a two-year shutdown for repairs280
22 Oct 2002Kalpakkam, IndiaAlmost 100 kg radioactive sodium at a fast breeder reactor leaks into a purification cabin, ruining a number of valves and operating systems030

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As I write and tweet about the ongoing happenings at Fukushima, many take me to be an anti-nuclear activist. With this logic, if I write and tweet about India, I'm probably anti-national too.

The bullshit here is that any questioning is opposition. We have lost touch with a key factor of growth - questioning to refine.

There is a dangerous tendency to obfuscate facts about nuclear power and promote convenient fictions designed to direct minds toward accepting nuclear power. When a country like Japan with its famed efficiency is reeling from the magnitude of cover ups and false approvals, it is natural to be worried about that possibility in India in the middle of a two year scam season. And very rightly, this concerns people.

Many have questioned my approval of the protests against nuclear plants at Koodankulam and Jaitapur. They think that those protests are against national interest and that we need nuclear power and the protests raise the same questions over and over even if they have been answered.

Funny that the problems in two different places are quite similar. Yet, the villagers are wrong and the government is right, because nuclear power is a matter of prestige. And rural people are the very opposite of prestige. Never mind that similar attitudes by the government about issues impacting urban people are soundly condemned.

The way I see it, if I didn't have information I felt reassured about, I wouldn't want a nuclear plant in my backyard either. The question isn't so much about the validity of the questions raised by the protest as it is about the government's inability to be convincing about its attention to the safety of those at potential risk.

The way I see it, these are valid concerns. Up and down the country, there are lives being lost to government disregard for the well being of those without a voice to large industry. Be it children working in coal mines, tribals getting the very earth stolen from under them or people unwittingly exposed to radiation dangers from nuclear reactors. The government has not shown any initiative to prevent harm or fix concerns. Why would people believe that their lives and livelihoods aren't going to be destroyed?

Would you be okay with a new government initiative in your locality that could potentially kill you, but the government tells you it is safe?

It isn't about whether questions have been answered. It is about if the questioners have felt heard. It is about if they feel that there are people monitoring and protecting against risks to their well being. This is not a subject they can defend themselves against on their own initiative, and unless this reassurance happens, how can they trust?

For all the "progressive minds" describe all doubts being cleared, this is a convenient fiction.

Also, it is astonishing how our standards change. People who make strong calls for transparency, accountability and engagement with citizen's concerns are apparently fine with the same violations with someone else's rights when they get in the way of a milestone they would like to see happening.

Manmohan Singh's blunt statement about the investment made in the plant making it impossible to not put the plant to use is a shining example of this callous disregard. Well, these locals protested while the money was being invested too! Who told you to invest without clearing objections? Even if the investment makes it important that the project continue, it is important to see here what is being conveyed to people.

The people are being told that their concerns about their safety and livelihoods are not important and will not make any impact on decisions about what is happening in their neighborhood. These decisions are made and what they say doesn't matter. Attempts to change people's minds are about jingles on radio rather than engagement.

They say no negotiation happens when there is a refusal to listen or revise anything. Be it nuclear reactors or borders with China. The government's highhandedness is disenfranchising the people, and the people who would normally defend such things, couldn't care less when it comes to people they don't feel a connection with about an objective they have decided is a good thing.

What would the same people say if the fish they buy in the market gave them cancer? It isn't like our government does much monitoring, and radiation leaks have happened in India. It is not impossible.

I am not saying that will happen, but these are real fears, whether logical or not. Being straight with facts, educating people on enough basics for them to understand the calculated risk, providing detailed safety and contingency information, providing locals with tools to monitor for themselves and call for inspections, and such initiatives will do more to end or at least minimize resistance than blunt bottom lines dismissing the very people needing convinced.

The same people opposing could be converted into zealous and determined safeguards and first alarms in case of problems if the government chose to engage with them rather than overpower them.

It is missing the point to see the protests as deliberate sabotage of progress. Locals are protesting everything from pipelines to dams; troop postings to censorship and mining to nuclear reactors, because these things threaten their interests, and decision makers don't care.

The problem isn't protests. The problem is a government incapable of listening to citizens without them, and often dismiss even with protests. The problem is a government that doesn't respect citizens.

Contrasting bits of news coming in from Fukushima Daichi in Japan. And I think, as a country with a raging debate about nuclear power, we need to pay more attention to it. We need to evaluate for ourselves the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power and see how we can achieve safe nuclear energy or it doesn't make sense to pursue nuclear power.

The government has invited IAEA to review our nuclear facilities. As a responsible method for assessing safety, it makes sense. But if you see the political scenario, it is very closely linked with our reactor  at Kudankulam and other regions, where anti-nuclear protests threaten the very existence of the nuclear plants. It comes among other initiatives like catchy radio jingles to persuade people to support nuclear power. As always, the feeling is that we have missed the mark completely.

In all seriousness, IAEA shouldn't be invited to have an opinion unless it is established how that opinion matters. What information are we looking for and if we are looking with a view to prove safety, do we see ourselves accepting if it is deemed unsafe? As we see in Japan, when things go to hell in a handbasket, the first thing to suffer is transparency.

As a result, few have an idea of what is really happening.

Consider these facts:

  • TEPCO has released a simulation that shows that the core may have eaten into the concrete, but the primary containment is intact. Now compare this with what we know. If the primary containment were intact, the radiation would be contained and we wouldn't be discussing this at all.
  • The same day as TEPCO released the information about the core eroding the concrete, it spoke about achieving cold shutdown by 16th December based on the information that the temperature of the reactor had dropped to acceptable levels. If you are following news, you can't but help wonder what the reactor temperature being under control means at all, if the core isn't in the reactor anymore.

On the other hand, citizens are stepping up to help clean up the residential areas and make them safer. There is a lot of anger against the government when people should be coming together to maximize resources. There is low trust. This low trust is well earned.

To anyone following the Fukushima nuclear accident, one thing is clear. There is a polarization in the response to the accident.

People all over the world who are interested in preserving nuclear power as a source of energy tend to look at the "bright side" of things. As though there is any bright side to a catastrophe. Those are the ones who will keep talking about how safe nuclear power is, when we have lost one vast area in the Chernobyl disaster and another is in the way with the Fukushima disaster. That is within a realtively short span of time. Many people who aren't too old have lived through both stories. And it will be a long time before they start being habitable. Not in your lifetime or mine. Middle aged people, not like having been alive at the time of the World wars. It is no small deal. At this rate, we won't have enough place on earth to escape radiation in a few generations. There simply aren't enough sweet words to make this sound good. And we aren't even talking about contamination in the world, on the sea floors, where it can't be fixed, cancers, loss of property, money, lives uprooted.

There are other people who look at the worst side of the disaster. They are the ones talking about China Syndrome and hydrothermal explosions and massive nuclear wasteland and so on. There is no specific explanation as to why a core being flooded with water - no matter where it sinks, water sinks too - will be superheated and cause an explosion on contact with underground water. Maybe it can happen, but in any nuclear accident, it hasn't happened so far. There is no explanation for why a molten core will not naturally disperse when it mixes with soil, burns its way through, gets debris mixed in, etc and will remain exactly as pure a ball of burning nuclear material all through to China. That all cooling efforts will comprehensively fail. Sure, nuclear energy is a lot of energy, but if things were that bad, we'd have discovered it right along with the discovery of uranium and experimenting with it. No?

More than who is right and who is wrong, this debate seems to be a metaphorical stand over nuclear energy. Those who dislike it notice the worst side, those who like it see its best. And they refuse to meet about obvious things, because metaphors are not to be debated, they are expressions of stands not directly stated.

This is unhelpful, and it is a lesson for every country in the world to look at the conversations around nuclear power. If people living near a nuclear power plant don't feel heard when they voice concerns, if their concerns are dismissed, they are going to raise their voice and keep raising it - this is about survival for them, not an intellectual debate over safety systems. The more very real bad things happening are ignored, the more opposition for nuclear power will become visible. Similarly, the more extreme the forecasts of doom get, the more they will be dismissed. There needs to be a middle way and the roots will be in transparency.

Honesty is much needed here. It is lack of information, more than anything else that leads to superstition. An example of this lies in the comments of a blog that found the live feed from the nuclear plant showing a fire. Two days since, there is still no explanation. Some smaller update type articles said that hydrogen was being burned without referring to the fire. Now that doesn't explain anything either. There is nitrogen being mixed so that the hydrogen doesn't ignite, so it doesn't make sense that the venting caused it to burn, and if it didn't burn on its own, there is absolutely no reason to do anything further with it once it is out of the reactor. People are concerned. There are numerous theories ranging from some kinds of lights mounted on vehicles in foggy air to nuclear fission chain reaction. But no one has bothered to explain. Not the governement, not TEPCO. Why wouldn't these anxious people never want nuclear power near their homes?

India has a similar mindset. Things simply don't get noticed till there is a scam breaking news. Misinformation, disinformation and refusals to accommodate concerns are routine. This doesn't help build a convincing case for nuclear power. We need knowledge to arrive at informed decisions anywhere in the world, and we are not exempt.

There is a list of recommendations on how we should approach nuclear power in an earlier article about nuclear power in India. Do read, do comment.