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When news like Fukushima hits, people start thinking of nuclear radiation leaks. Then, mistakenly, they imagine that risk from radiation is a very rare thing. While accidents on such a scale are rare, radiation leaks in themselves are not. For one, every running nuclear plant is already venting "acceptable amounts" of radiation into the environment on a daily basis.

Now, there are doctors who swear that there is no way to determine an amount which has no health risks. However, this post is about actual leaks, not releases. News from the last one year from my bookmarks and a few simple searches. Some of the news may be developments on long term contamination on radiation leaks, others may be new radiation leaks.

No particular reason for this beyond some reactions to the leak at RAPS a few days ago, that seemed to see this as a rare and acceptable thing.

  1. Fukushima, of course continues to leak radiation into the environment. The description of this is beyond an entry in a list.
  2. Chernobyl too continues to leak radiation through its crumbling sarcophagus, though on a lesser scale than Fukushima.
  3. Kansas State University - 29th June 2011: Radiation leaked at 149 times the Derived Air Concentration (DAC) limit for Iodine during a trial run of its reactor. Though four different systems caught the excessive radiation levels, operators reported their belief that this was due to the proximity of a radioactive sample near the monitors.  They did not disclose what kind of sample nor why it was near four different monitors, if that’s even possible. Plus, the sample they discuss showed Cesium, not Iodine.
  4. North Carolina State University - 7th July 2011: Officials said Thursday that there is a low-level water leak in the liner that surrounds the campus nuclear reactor, but that it poses no danger to the public.
  5. Submarine, off northeast China - 29th July 2011:  A rumor began spreading on the Chinese Internet sites that there was a radiation leak on a submarine stationed near Dalian in northeast China. As the story went, the accident occurred while technicians were installing new electronic gear on a Type 94 SSBN ( nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine). Not verified, but detailed. China denies, but no one believes denial.
  6. Kakrapar Atomic Power Station, Gujarat - 1st August 2011:  An incident from 30th May 2011 came to light where four temporary workers were exposed to 90mSv from spent fuel due to operator error. Health concerns were dismissed citing absence of immediate symptoms of radiation poisoning (usually with fatal doses). As per AERB, the dose limit for workers at a nuclear plant is 20mSv, which was deliberately ignored by station director P K Dutta when he made the following quote "A radiation of 90 mSv does not cause any harm. If we get our whole body CT scanned, we would be exposed to a nuclear radiation of 60 mSv,'' who also mentioned contract workers demanding regularization because of this incident as "taking advantage of it". Temporary workers being exposed to radiation and abandoned without adequate health support or information is an ongoing problem with nuclear plants.
  7. Dounreay Nuclear Plant, Scotland21st September 2011, Guardian: Scottish nuclear fuel leak 'will never be completely cleaned up' - Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometre radius of the plant since 1997. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has decided to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a "pristine condition". Staff from here has been consulting at Fukushima to share experience.
  8. San Onofre Nuclear plant, California had trouble with premature wear in the cooling tubes leading to leaks of water and gas last summer. First one, then both reactors were shut down for investigation earlier, but this seems to now be a permanent shutdown currently. The exact amount of leakage is unknown, but officials say that it shouldn't be harmful. Only harmful enough to shut down a nuclear plant, I suppose, not health.
  9. Dounreay Nuclear Plant, Scotland - 8th October 2011: Radioactive liquid effluent is understood to have leaked inside a treatment facility. It did not exit the building. Dounreay was constructed in the 1950s as an experimental nuclear power complex, but has not generated electricity since 1994 and is currently being decommissioned by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) who got a top safety award for their work in May 2011.
  10. Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP), Pakistan - 30th October 2011: heavy water leaked from a feeder pipe to the reactor leading to a seven hour emergency till it was contained. The plant was already shut down for maintenance.
  11. Point Lepreau, Canada - second half of November 2011: 23 barrels of water laced with the toxic chemical hydrazine was released into the Bay of Fundy.
  12. Point Lepreau, Canada - December 13th 2011: Almost 6 litres of heavy water splashed to the floor, requiring an immediate evacuation of the building. Point Lepreau had been shutdown for refurbishment since 2008, and the leaks happened during the preparations to restart it. Currently, it is stopped till further investigation.
  13. Orchid Island, Taiwan - 30th December 2011: Tao Aborigines from Orchid Island protested on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, saying radioactive material was leaking from a nuclear waste dump on the island. They demanded that the storage facility be removed. Although residents of Orchid Island have long suspected that a radioactive leak has occurred, it was first officially confirmed when Academia Sinica research fellow Huh Chih-an detected radioactivity on the island after being commissioned by Taipower in November.
  14. Prarie Island Nuclear Power Plant - 5th January 2012: Leak found. Alert declared.
  15. Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Station, Ogle County, about 100 miles west of Chicago, near Rockford - 30th January 2012: The supply of power from off-site (needed to maintain backup for safety systems) went down, forcing Exelon to take Unit No. 2 offline. Steam containing tritium had to be vented from the reactor triggering panic.
  16. North Anna, Virginia, US - 17th February 2012: water taken from an on-site groundwater sampling point contained an unusually high level of tritium — more than twice the EPA's standard for drinking water.
  17. Bruce power, Lake Huron, 240km northwest of Toronto, Canada - 17th March 2012: Leaks were discovered as the reactors were being powered up after an earlier shutdown.
  18. EDF Nuclear Power Plant at Penly, Normandy, France - 5th April 2012:  A faulty joint on a pump leaked lubricant from the pump used to cool the reactor, which caused two small fires and a low level leak inside the reactor building.
  19. Point Lepreau, Canada - 21st May 2012: A third leak. 300 litres of tritiated heavy water spilled on May 21 when a valve opened too soon during pressure testing at the plant. Poor training has been cited as one of the causes for the accident.
  20. Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant (RAPP), Rajasthan, India - some time near 25th May 2012 - 38 workers working on heavy water and tritium supply channels were exposed to tritium leaks (unspecified quantity), 3 of them in doses exceeding allowed dose.
  21. Davis-Besse nuclear station in Ohio - 6th June 2012: Small amount of radioactive water sprayed through a minor leak and no radiation escaped the plant.
  22. Dounreay, Scotland - 7th June2012: A steady decline in urine levels for uranium and plutonium has been reported for workers here.
  23. Prarie Islands Spent Nuclear Fuel pools - 8th June 2012: A U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the NRC violated a federal act by neglecting to run in-depth studies on how storing radioactive waste at nuclear power plants impacts health and the environment. Read document. 1,500 tons of high-level irradiated waste is stored in heavy steel and concrete casks on a tarmac a few hundred feet from the Hudson River. The Westchester-based plant produces about 30 tons of radioactive waste every 18 months, which is then crammed into two overcrowded, 40-foot deep spent fuel pools. Each pool holds about 1,000 tons of radioactive waste and has been leaking into the ground and river for years.
  24. Pallisades Nuclear Plant, Michigan, US  - 12th June 2012: The plant was shut down and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation has been started over a year long leak of approximately 31.8 gallons of borated water per day (not heavily radioactive - used to stop fission) from a cooling tank into the reactor's control room. The operator believes there may be several leaks involved, but the leaks have not been found yet, so repairs are pending. Pallisades had five unplanned shutdowns in 2011. NRC has downgraded the safety rating for the plant.
  25. Susquehanna Nuclear Plant - 20th june 2012: PPL Corp. shut down the Unit 1 reactor at its Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick on Tuesday to investigate what it called a minor water leak inside the container structure surrounding the reactor. Unit 1 had been online only 11 days since a 69-day shutdown starting March 31, during which the company repaired cracks in Unit 1 turbine blades.

And there are more. I have gone through about half the tabs I opened. Bored now. This list is nowhere near comprehensive. An astonishing 75% of all US nuclear reactors were found to be leaking tritium last year.

The simple point I am trying to make is that claims of safety by the pro-nuclear lobby are highly exaggerated.


Is it time for India to Quit Nuclear Power?

Once, US stunned the world with the power of nuclear bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, and a messy war abruptly ended. Then, atomic energy could also be used for peaceful purposes! India was a newborn country with little more than a reputation for crippling poverty and a colonial self-image we were clawing out of. But we had a lot of people, and a lot of smart people too. Pursuit of nuclear power was a goal as important for military might as for a certain technological status. I don't think it was ever about electricity for electricity's sake.

The world has changed. Nuclear energy no longer has the fiction of "near free" attached to it. In fact, it is so expensive, that nuclear energy in any country is not feasible without government subsidies and government responsibility in the event of an accident. For all the claims of "safe" and "cheap" no insurance company insures a nuclear plant. The world at large seems to be moving away from nuclear energy. A quick look at the age of reactors worldwide:

Operational reactors by age - worldwide

A more telling way to look at this is the Nuclear Capacity Installed by year chart - all official IAEA PRIS:

Nuclear Capacity Installed By Year

There have been very few reactors commissioned since Chernobyl which happened in 1986. The chart hits a peak for two years before that. But slowly, in recent years, there were construction charts, which peaked in 2010 and crashed after 2011 - Fukushima.

Construction starts on Nuclear Reactors

An analysis by the WorldWatch Institute mentions still smaller numbers (IAEA has a generous view of nuclear energy - to put it mildly*). It says:

Although construction on 16 new reactors began in 2010—the highest number in over two decades—that number fell to just two in 2011, with India and Pakistan each starting construction on a plant. In addition to this dramatically slowed rate of construction, the first 10 months of 2011 saw the closing of 13 nuclear reactors, reducing the total number of reactors in operation around the world from 441 at the beginning of the year to 433.

India, however is still stubbornly plodding along in its commitment to an obsession for nuclear energy in the face of all logic. Government and media collude to minimize perceptions of costs - financial or human as well as viable alternatives.

In December, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh dismissed the idea of letting the Koodankulam plant stay idle anymore, because 14 thousand crore rupees had been invested in it. Forget junking the plant, it can't even remain idle any further because it is expensive. Not that the people of Koodankulam had asked for a single rupee to be invested there. Nor had anyone asked the construction to proceed without the appropriate assessments made with a genuine interest in safety rather than pushing papers through because the plant had to be made. The investment bulldozered over all resistance and now is the reason to bulldoze over any further resistance. One can understand the point being made by the Prime Minister. That plant costs one million dollars per day to sit idle, according to some.That would be rupees 5 crore, give or take. Per day.

This is the money for Atomic Energy and Renewable energy in the budgets from 1999 to our current one for 2013

[table id=3 /]

Here's an easy graph.

There are other costs involved

India does not have large uranium reserves, and we depend on imports for our fuel. If in the future, India did something that displeased the other nations (or its allies - or US - which is like Godfather), disallowing uranium exports to India would be a massive pressure to bend the country into conformity.

And it is already happening in the form of unnecessary purchases of reactors in order to have access to uranium. A scathing article by A Gopalkrishnan in the DNA outlines many of the opaque and irregular ways of nuclear power in India. I think you will find the foreign hand our Prime Minister was talking about, except that it is not the activists. And why should you pay attention to what this A. Gopalkrishnan says? Because he is a former chairman of the AERB - our supposed watchdog that is firmly caged in by our nuclear mafia. Thus, apart from the cost of importing fuel, there is a hefty political and economic toll we pay. And the threat is not insignificant. Our nuclear power production dropped 12.83% from 2006 to 2008 before we signed all the flurries of agreements and what-nots. More reactors only means greater potential for such drops because more reactors run out of fuel.

We have plenty of Thorium, but our tech for it isn't capable of producing electricity at the moment. Our normal "indigenous" method of importing almost everything that can be imported will not work here, since there are no functioning thorium reactors in the world. This will need more money to develop, and for all thorium's much publicized advantages, a big challenge is fabrication. Thorium fuel is considerably more difficult to fabricate and will also require us to develop the capacity to fabricate it in complete isolation and remote operation - apart from the difficulties of the so far unprecedented technology itself. Do not believe stories about reactors in Kalpakkam running on thorium. They don't. They use a uranium-plutonium mix - easy to verify for yourself. They will *eventually* use thorium, but seeing as how we have achieved about half the nuclear power capability we had predicted for ourselves for 1987, don't hold your breath and wait for the electricity.

Other costs include devastating potential for human damage, environmental contamination, health problems and more. This article is long, so running through this very briefly. The potential for accident is not as small as you imagine. Guardian lists 32 serious nuclear accidents with radioactive releases since 1952. It is now 2012. It works out to slightly more than one accident every two years as a general trend. Considering that there are only 436 reactors in operation, even considering 5 that were decommissioned (though newer ones counted came up after them) we come to 441 - and 32 serious accidents resulting in release of radioactivity in the environment and requiring decontamination. The three biggies - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daichii - required considerably more than that. They have put entire areas of our planet out of bounds for people. And this list does not include serious accidents that did not result in radioactive releases, like the Naroda fire, which was an INES 3 and the plant was closed for over 2 years for repairs.

A superb investigative story by Kunal Majumder in the Tehelka: Accident Sites - radiation, cancer, blindness, tardiness, cover-ups. The lessons from the Kalpakkam nuclear facility. An NGO called ASPIRE was commissioned by the DEA itself to conduct studies on the health consequences on people near nuclear plants. Accordingly, they did a study of 22 villages within 8 km of the plant and three villages at 50km. The report stated a morbidity 2-3 times higher, an activist who examined it closely says it shows a 350% higher morbidity. Read the report, it also mentions earlier research linking nuclear plants with health risks. And then there is DNA Investigations: Deaths Confirm Cancer risks near Nuclear Plants:

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query in October last year, the DAE said nine people, including three employees working at the Kalpakkam atomic reactor, about 70km from Chennai, died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The department had earlier refused to divulge information despite an RTI query in 2010.

There are actually plenty of these and I will do a separate article on health risks. To get buried in an avalanche of very accurate reports from the ground around nuclear plants, mines and other facilities, do a search for "nuclear plant", or "radiation", etc on the Tehelka website. They have been doing an amazing job. Get overwhelmed.

Depending on whether you are concerned about India's horrible sex ratio, or whether you are fine with us having fewer and fewer girls or perhaps would like the reduced chances of girl children without feeling guilty, this news story in National Geographic may hold importance for you. Scientists studied data from 1975 to 2007 and found links between the birth of more boys than girls and events with large releases of radiation. Tellingly, it is titled Millions Fewer Girls Born Due to Nuclear Radiation? Read this. Seriously. Is it possible that India's failure to control its sex ratio may have causes beyond actions of people that should be investigated?

Here is an environmental dose analysis from background radiation in the environmental gamma monitoring stations at Kalpakkam in the Indian Journal of Environmental Protection - it measures radiation from routine 41Ar radioactive releases from the plant - these are deliberate and routine releases and part of how nuclear reactors work, not leaks. The annual dose from the plume for various stations has been tabulated. This kind of material should be public on the sites of DEA, but it isn't. In this opaque landscape of information, Dr. Sangamitra Gadekar is an oasis of numbers. His measurements at our Jadugoda Uranium mine were reported in the Times of India in 2001:

A vent from the underground mines was as high as 5,851.68 millirem a year, which is 58 times more than permitted limit... The radiation is high everywhere. The reading in the mechua village football field where radioactive tailings lie scattered around was 1,296.48 millirem a year. The readings in the area of the first tailing pond were as high as 5,291.04 millirem a year. Readings on the road (constructed by ucil using tailings) were as high as 5,256 millirem a year.

You know the beauty of quoting radiation readings from an article in 2001? They are unlikely to have vanished - naturally, or as a coverup. They can only be more. Radiaoactive contamination is persistent. Just like the governments affidavit admitting radioactive contamination of water and marine life in the Thane Creek by the BARC (yes MUMBAI) can be verified and taken further whenever activists are able to break through the mafia, because it is going nowhere.

The same article quotes prof N K Upadhyay of the centre for applied ecology, Jamshedpur, who conducted a study on the radiation-related problems at jadogoda.

The radiation affects bone marrow cells, intestines, skin, immune responsive cells, entire stem cell population and also the lymphocytes. It wrecks the hormonal system and even causes mutation. But worst of all, it affects the sperm cells, altering the genetic characteristics of their DNA and RNA. The children of these miners are born mentally retarded, and deformed.

And again Dr. Sanghamitra:

Cses of thalasemia, leukemia (blood cancer), severe anemia, physical deformities such as missing limbs, mental retardation, and even cases of external stomachs due to the absence of the abdominal wall are commonly found in the children of the area. In my opinion, this has been caused by the extremely high radiation levels.

The world at large seems to be moving away from nuclear energy, and most developed countries are decommissioning reactors faster than they are building them.

Much of the cost is unclear. To put it in the blunt words of Ramchandra Guha - a historian:

No ordinary citizen can get anywhere near an atomic installation, and even the most well-connected historian cannot get anywhere near the records of the AEC or its associated bodies.

But this is not all, there are no independent investigations of radiation leaked to the environment. There are no police or CBI investigations into reports of criminal scams - like allegations in the 70s-80s of irradiating diamonds in the Apsara reactor at BARC (this link has massive information) to produce fake black diamonds that got sold in the market for a higher price and worn by people and were dangerously radioactive, leading to the DTC to directly ask the government to ask this practice to be stopped. No police or CBI investigation happened. There are reports of laborers exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while working who are simply replaced without any continuing assistance, compensation or even information on risks to their health. Many of these don't even make it to the records as having been employed at all. Let me simply repeat - there is no body that can make our nuclear machinery do anything. AERB reports to and gets funds from the AEC which includes heads of NPCIL and DEA. That is like your employee vouching for your lack of corruption.

While the government was busy reassuring everyone that the Koodankulam plant is safe, CNN IBN released information on 25 intrusions in BARC in 2 years. This is slightly more than one intrusion a month. Intrusion means perimeter breached - as in not detected and stopped at boundary, get it? Last year, two ships grounded at Juhu beach within months of each other. Citizens raised alarm in both cases. Including Amitabh Bachchan getting all excited on Twitter. The Coast Guard then paid attention. Considering how the 26/11 attackers entered India, and how the water near Mumbai is a fairly small area to patrol, this was already incredible.

Turns out BARC got similar intrusions. This is a super high security area in MUMBAI. What kind of security can the plant at Koodankulam expect from such intrusions? Will plant security be able to defend reactors from 26/11 type attacks where elite commandos took three days to control? Does a terrorist need to break reinforced concrete to create a radioactive accident, or will blowing cooling and power systems do the trick? Note that these two reactors are the biggest in India. For that matter, why does an enemy need nuclear missiles, if 100s of times that nuclear material is sitting in reactors? Better targetted missiles should do the trick, no?

Many compare the security risk to a nuclear plant with that for say, a dam or bridge. But beyond the immediate damage, neither the dam nor bridge will cause lasting damage in the future. Do we or do we not have a responsibility to leave our children a healthy world?

Tarapur, for example has a stockpile of 40 years worth spent fuel. We don't yet have long term storage for nuclear waste. Whatever it turns out to be, it will have to be secure from any kind of threat - human or natural - or errors resulting in breaches for thousands of years. Anyone consider the cost of that? The Indian sub-continent is steadily moving up - remember the rising height of the Himalaya? Who knows what the earthquake risks will be for *any* place fifty years in the future? Or do we add costs for more storage construction and then the safe transfer from the highly radioactive environment to another place?

All this is a cost, because these are the undesirable things going hand in hand with our nuclear power.

What are we getting for this cost?

Now here is our power production as a country. The green bit in the lower right is your nuclear energy production. Beats only diesel generators (thin yellow next to it) when it comes to sources - after all this time, money, risks, corruption, suppression of people, international political boot licking, security risk, secrecy and what not.

Breakdown of the electricity production capacity of India by source

Coal (105437.38MW), Gas (18093.85MW), Diesel (1199.75MW) Together as Thermal Energy (124730.98MW) are the largest chunk. Followed by Hydroelectric Energy (38848.40MW), then Renewable Energy (22233.17MW) and finally Nuclear Energy (4780.00MW) = Total 190592.55MW

As you can see, after all this investment, nuclear power does not provide any kind of major source of electricity. Nowhere near the savior it is supposed to be. In half the time invested in atomic energy and 1/7.7th of the budget investment, we are getting 22233MW from renewable energy.

And how good are we at doing this?

Here are figures from the IAEA PRIS for unplanned capability loss for up to 2010 - which is the latest available so far. For your convenience, I have kept this a sortable table. Feel free to click around and compare situations with countries. The only country to have an unplanned capability loss that is worse than ours is Pakistan. But Pakistan has only 2 reactors.

For the record, when it comes to IAEA, "unplanned" is not subject to interpretation. Unplanned Capability Loss is described explicitly as:

Unplanned energy loss is energy that was not produced during the period because of unplanned shutdowns, outage extensions, or unplanned load reductions due to causes under plant management control. Energy loss is considered to be unplanned if it is not scheduled at least four weeks in advance.

[table id=4 /]

A quick look at how our electricity capacity is growing. I have again used an IAEA table, even though it is woefully out of date, because it is official. To expand the data to current statistics yourself, you can find the numbers in the "Annual reports of the CEA" at the Central Electricity Authority Website reports page:

[table id=5 /]


But by now you know the pattern. The pampered kid is usually the laziest, no? Growing at this rate, nuclear power is only going to get more and more irrelevant and cost more and more in investments in reactors, fuel, security and what not.


* About the mention of IAEA as a pro-nuclear entity, the IAEA describes itself as "The IAEA is the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up in 1957 as the world's "Atoms for Peace" organization within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies." It is unknown if the IAEA has actually drawn the line anywhere. Its actions consistently take the most accommodating view of any nuclear situation - be it Chernobyl toll or the dubious Fukushima cold shutdown. The matter of fact is that the world doesn't actually have a safety watch dog for nuclear power or nuclear anything.


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

This kind of takes over the history from the previous post.

The Chernobyl disaster happened on the 26th of April 1986. It took a while for the news to spread, but by May or June, the horrendous extent of the tragedy was clear. There was suddenly tremendous concern about the potential for devastation because of nuclear power. In the meanwhile, our nuclear energy capacity was nowhere near the chest thumping claim of 8,000MW in 1980 (made in the 60′s), but a far more humble 950MW in 1987. Actually, as of February 2012, we still haven’t reached that 8,000MW. Our current capability is 4780MW.

India needed to break through that cage and it needed to find a country that would help it in spite of the sanctions. Enter USSR (it existed then) with its nuclear industry in the proverbial dog house, desperate to revive its credibility and (I suppose) do business too. On November 20, 1988 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed an inter-government agreement to construct two reactors and the Conquest of Kudankulam was started.

For the locals, it was a No Shit Sherlock moment, considering how the world was still grappling to understand the magnitude of the Chernobyl disaster in terms of lasting damage. There were 13 European countries with Cesium 137 contamination from that one accident – 100,000km2 of land contaminated with the fallout. To invite that kind of potential for devastation into your own backyard was a no brainer. NO!

A quick note: It was also a measure of the utter blindness of the government to the human side of matters that this apprehension was not considered and the reactor deal pushed to a time when the threat would seem less terrifying, but then our government has consistently acted in a way that contrasts with people’s interest. The blatant use of power for dismissal/overpowering of people’s apprehension or suffering is fast becoming an identifying factor of government action.

A massive rally was organized at Tirunelveli within a month of the announcement. Another rally by the National Fish Workers Union at Kanyakumari in May 1989 attracted 10,000 protesters. The police opened fire on the crowd. The government had set its sights on Koodankulam, and it would not rest until the conquest of Koodankulam was complete. All bets were off.

Unfortunately for the government, and fortunately for the locals, the USSR collapsed. The Chernobyl accident was a large factor in the glasnost and a contributor to the collapse. Yet, our government has a way of not seeing what doesn’t suit it. Its plan for Conquering various areas of the country for nuclear projects continues. Koodankulam is by no means the only one where the people don’t want the reactor the government wants. There are similar echoes in India, with the RTI movement calling for transparency and the government being in an increasingly shaky situation, but no one seems to be making the connection between the wishes of people being arbitrarily overruled and interests harmed and dislike for the government. But I digress.

Coming back to Kudankulam, the reprieve lasted for almost a decade till the government renewed the deal with Russia, again without consulting the people or making any accommodation for the interest of even the less radical ones, who merely want reliable assurances of safety that go beyond bombastic and unscientific and unrealistic declarations by politicians and scientists. What does one say when an ex-president and nuclear scientist like Kalam is also one to declare that he had reviewed the plans and that they were 100% safe. What is 100% safe? How can it be calculated? And if it were 100% safe, then why isn’t data that proves it being released?

In the meanwhile, a lazy media bloated on money and self-importance either does nothing to antagonize the government and investigate other sides of the story, or is actively complicit in promoting the semi-fiction of the nuclear achievements of India and total fiction of the necessity of nuclear power for their personal interests and orientations.

For example, when Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared that the project could not be allowed to remain “idle” when the nation has sunk an amount of Rs 14,000 crore on the project and that the agitation against the Russian-aided project has been “overdone”, the media was happy to ignore the fact that the locals had been protesting all through the project, and if the government had listened, it could have avoided sinking unrecoverable money. There is blatant disregard of the fact that all the money has been invested by overruling stiff and growing resistance and is now being used as an excuse to overrule the resistance. This is like me staying in your home by force for more than a decade, and then saying that because I had stayed so long, you cannot kick me out.

For someone known for not speaking, our PM sure is devastatingly destructive when he does. In a haunting echo of calling Maoists the “number one security threat” leading to an out and out dirty war for tribal land, he recently accused the local NGOs opposing the government of being funded by foreign interests. Within weeks, on the heels of getting election mania out of the way, Jayalalitha approved of resuming work at the Koodankulam plant, Russia declared its scientists would start work within days after that, and an army of police swarmed the entire area to squash any protest with such aggression that locals fear for their safety. A new era in the Conquest of Koodankulam has started.

As we speak, there are over 10,000 cops at the plant site and the three villages near it. Quoting a crucial update by Kractivist:

Electricity, Water and Food Supply stopped in Idinthakarai
All roads and sea routes to reach Idinthakarai are blocked. Police personnel forcibly took away mobiles phones and water supply equipments.

School run by Dr. S P Udayakumar damaged badly last night. School bus is also damaged.

There are 8000 children among the 20,000 protesting people in Idinthakarai. Milk supply to the village is also prevented and its affecting the children badly.

Media entry to Idinthakarai is also prevented.

Karuna John of Tehelka is live tweeting any news from reporters on location. 5000 people are guarding the people fasting in protest at St. Loudres Church. Police are issuing ultimatums. Activists are refusing to budge. Some 20,000 protesters are said to have surrounded the plant.

Tehelka seems to be the only news media interested in the people’s side of the story, so far.

To make a long story short, the people of Koodankulam never wanted a reactor. They have always resisted it. To quote a beyond excellent article in the Tehelka by Nityanand Jayaraman:

If operationalised, the six proposed nuclear power plants will discharge 42 billion litres (sufficient to meet all water needs of 21 crore people) of hot water into the sea every day. The agitating fisherfolk may not speak Queen’s English, but they are not bereft of common sense. They are concerned about the sub-lethal effects on marine flora and fauna caused by the release of such large quantities of hot water. Dr Mark Chernaik, scientific adviser to Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide-US, a global network of environmental lawyers and activists, reviewed Koodankulam’s Environmental Impact Assessment report and the response of the government’s Expert Group. According to him, “Neither contains an adequate assessment of the impacts to marine life of cooling water (thermal) discharges.”

There are serious concerns about studies of the damage to health from nuclear reactors – even perfectly working ones. There are concerns for the quality of water for both drinking and agriculture. concerns about routine releases of radiation from venting. Concerns about the unique marine live of an extremely rich marine region. There are concerns about environmental research, safety measures, evacuation plans. There are requests for surveys and evaluations that have been ignored. None of these have been addressed by the government in ways that reassure on the dangerous questions raised. How can this be an acceptable risk? How can the country expect citizens to blindly trust their well being on an entity that has consistently acted against their interest, refuses to be transparent and negotiate to accommodate any local concern?

To quote an article by Manju Menon and M V Ramana:

To fulfil a mandatory step in the official environmental clearance process, on 2 June the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board conducted a public hearing. From the outset, the distinct impression at the meeting was that the state administration was hoping merely to be done with an undesirable formality. What is more, they allowed NPCIL to use the hearing as a platform from which to promote the project and to make unsubstantiated claims about the reactors’ safety. But things did not go according to the official script. Locals of the area had been fed pro-nuclear rhetoric for years, and nearly 7000 people gathered to take advantage of the first official opportunity to put their own views on nuclear-energy production into the public record. Almost to an individual, they said that they were opposed to the project. As participant after participant spoke against the Koodankulam plan, the official in charge abruptly announced that NPCIL had clarified all the people’s doubts, and declared the meeting closed. Contrary to the requirements of the law, the minutes of the meeting – what would enter the official record as the public’s views – were not read out.

And my own conditions for supporting nuclear power, without which I am a firm non-supporter can be read here:

My stand on Nuclear Power in India

How long will we allow political terrorists to destroy citizens in the name of democracy?

Will Democracy Defeat People?

Please note: I am neither a historian, nor a nuclear scientist, and like you, I get my information from the news, or I hunt it down. Any inaccuracies are mine.

s I was going through the flood of news on Fukushima, there was a conspiracy theory that the mysterious and highly radioactive black substance being found in many places was actually a decontamination experiment. It was a wild theory, but it caught people’s imagination, because of the discovery of radiotropic fungi at Chernobyl being discussed earlier. These fungi have been found to use melanin to absorb radiation and use it for energy! So in an experiment, when they upped the radiation to 500 times normal, they thrived! Not much is known about their mechanisms, but it is indeed a discovery that is memorable for being astonishing.

Then Fukushima Diary reported that the black substance (likely Cyanophyceae according to them) got generated on a road after rain and noted that its earlier manifestation had happened after snow. So one of the people had posted that this black stuff might be Cyanophyceae and might be an experiment to collect metals for easier disposal (or washing away with rain – as another commenter suggested). The commenter quoted the project description:

“Development of high affinity biosorbents by surface display of metal binding proteins”

“The project is to develop profit oriented economically feasible to implement by all metal handling industries including DAE establishments for the treatment of low and medium level metal containing effluents and nuclear wastes using enhanced whole-cell biosorption technology. It is aimed at to proceed from the proof-of concept to “field testing stage.” The development of such an efficient and affordable technology for nuclear waste treatment is essential. In this project we will develop a technology for the display of metal binding proteins at the cell surface of “cyanobacteria.” The strains will be tested for immobilization for the development of bioreactor to remove the radioactive and non-radioactive metal from industrial effluents. The process parameters will be optimized for scaling up. The proposed project may provide a cost effective, quick and more metal binding capacity and it will find an essential alternative method for online treatment in DAE and metal handling industries for safe discharge of wastewater.”


Cyanobacteria; This is Blue/Green Algae. Also Known As The Black Stuff.

Curious, I clicked on the link to arrive at the website of BITS Pilani!

The above information was in the sixth or so title (can’t link individually – they expand), but the very first one said:

Low and medium level waste generated by the nuclear industry contain large number of radioactive isotopes of different metals. The volume of this waste coupled with surfactants and interfering radicals creates problem for conventional cleanup operations using synthetic resins. In our recently concluded project funded by Department of Atomic Energy, Govt of India, we have demonstrated that a non-conventional Biosorption Techniques could be employed for the effective removal of radioisotope from nuclear waste even in the presence of EDTA or nitrate. This technique require the generation/ selection of suitable biomass using molecular biology techniques which may be packed in glass or ss column for continuous operation.

No mention of the Cynobacteria in this one, but very, very intriguing.

The astonishing part is that this hasn’t hit news AT ALL. It is not a state secret. It has been announced openly on their website as research. In the context of world events, and concerns over nuclear and other metal contamination (think Punjab), etc I would think this would be a good idea to appreciate very useful research like this, no?

I think it is sad that we appreciate and share research news from the US but not India. In India, it has to either involve someone/thing famous/flashy “Kalam and kid designed anti-molestation device” or robotics and other gadgetry (like UAV projects), or has to be patronizingly surprising of the “illiterate villager designs electric pump” or “man designs cheap sanitary napkins” type. It is rare to be excited about research by Indians – as in, extending the boundaries of knowledge, even though there is no shiny object yet. Sad. We need to appreciate knowledge more without needing dazzle attached to it. Actually, now that I think of it, do we have a “science beat” at all in a country hoping for better literacy, industry, professionals and employment?