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Here are a list of ideas I can think of to make India more self-reliant even in today's world of mega imports and consumer mentality. India may not have a lot of money (at least among the masses) or enough jobs for all to earn, but one huge resource India has that we don't use is manpower. With a population of 1.2 billion people, we have a lot of people who can invest effort to make their own lives better.

Decentralize power

This one is the biggest. Lack of electricity is a multi-faceted problem. It isn't that India isn't adding capacity, it is also that use of electricity is increasing recklessly. I think offering an amount of electricity completely for free per month combined with enabling people to produce their own electricity which they can use for free will help improve availability of electricity for all. I am basically talking of turning the National grid from the main source of power to a back up source of power for as many people in the country as possible, while the main source becomes electricity they produce and use for near free using whatever means are suitable for their home.

Some ideas:

  • Rooftop water heating. This water can be used not only for bathing, but speeding up cooking. Rooftop water heaters can be made at home for very cheap and purcased ones are also available.
  • Solar cooking - for people with rooftops, gardens or sunlit balconies, solar cooking can offer healthier food along with fuel savings if fuel is only used when solar cooking is not possible.
  • Alternative power production. Many homes can produce power from solar panels, small windmills, local streams, sea power, biogas or other means, drawing power from providers only if/when they fall short.. If the main source of power can be shifted to self-produced renewables, you will not only reduce dependence on National grid, many people will be able to completely eliminate one expense from their life - not a minor achievement for a country with many people fighting for affordable living. Obviously not all will be able to do it, but it is a big enough incentive for homes to start being designed to be energy efficient and energy producing. Not to mention those who cannot will have better electricity available if those who can adopt these methods (and profit from savings too - not "sacrifice in larger interest" type exploitation)
  • Outdoor installations using electricity - like hoardings, street lights, traffic signals and so on, can easily be producing their own electricity.
  • Innovative cooperative power production should be encouraged - for example, villagers contributing manure to a biogas plant to fuel biogas vehicles and sharing profits according to their contributions (and getting the discards as fertilizer).

This is a general idea. Obviously far more specific ideas are possible, like societies using solar power to light all common areas or NGOs that help more and more people be self-reliant on electricity, or people selling surplus electricity to the state (or "banking" it for use when they fall short).

Fuel self-reliance

AAP should study the Cuban Special Period for the drastic reforms they brought about that ended up creating a healthier country that worked on 10% of the fuel it used to use.

"The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" is a must watch film.

But more can be done. For example, stress on making roads bicycle safe and requiring parking lots to have bicycle stands (so you can lock your bicycle to it, and it can't simply be carried away and stolen) will automatically increase the people who can use bicycles for transportation without any fuel costs and minimal maintenance costs (in the whole of last year, I have spent Rs.330 on my bicycle - more than half of it on a seat I didn't "need", but liked).

Food self-reliance

Shifting to organic farming is among their biggest revolutionary moves that not just reduced costs related with fertilizers and pollution, Cuba saw drops in heart attacks and diabetes and such statistics as well. From Wikipedia:

Manuel Franco describes the Special Period as "the first, and probably the only, natural experiment, born of unfortunate circumstances, where large effects on diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality have been related to sustained population-wide weight loss as a result of increased physical activity and reduced caloric intake".

A paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology, says that "during 1997-2002, there were declines in deaths attributed to diabetes (51%), coronary heart disease (35%), stroke (20%), and all causes (18%).

Home food growing, urban gardening, encouraging use of all available land to produce food, reclaiming damaged soil with natural manures, advice for home farmers, local farmer markets and more are among many things Cuba did out of necessity and now embrace as normal life. 80% of food in Cuba is organically grown.

Encouraging local economies, investing and purchasing locally will bring resilience to rural economies, as well as keep money in the area instead of draining it into cities. Communities should be encouraged to produce what they need to buy from a distance.

Decentralization of education

Diversity in education needs to be developed to address practical use. Apprenticeships, vocational education needs to be developed for specializations for practical jobs that are in demand - think "night school certificate in business management, law and strategies for running a street stall". Advanced education should be subsidized only on the condition of mandatory service in government projects/initiatives/organizations - and I'm not talking of token years, I'm talking of govt institutions being used to fulfill urgent national needs.  Ten years minimum, till a point where country stops needing advanced professionals this badly, and years can be reduced. It does not make sense to provide cheap education for those who will go on to earn many times the unsubsidized amount privately, while the country continues to suffer for lack services it is subsidizing heavily, but still not utilizing. It will also encourage private organizations to develop quality education in critical areas like medicine if they can be assured of students who do not wish to do mandatory service and are willing to pay well for a career that in turn will pay them well. Right now, a private college cannot compete with drastically and artificially reduced government college fees - particularly in areas like medicine. So you simply don't have very many of them.

Healthcare

New qualification for a kind of doctor should be created who are trained to deal with the bulk of usual needs - cough, cold, fever, small wounds, etc and refer to larger hospitals for anything beyond that. Such "doctors" should be available in every village and training courses should be short duration. Priority must be given for applicants from an area without access to medical care rather than marks and such.

Midwives should be trained professionally at government expense and midwivery should be encouraged in areas where hospitals with maternity wards are not available - considerable research shows that hospitals can be a source of INFECTIONS for newborns. Natural birthing techniques have also proved to be considerably more stress free and birthing facilities should be encouraged to research and provide more caring environments. Ideally, maternity hospitals/wards should be increased.

Government healthcare should offer ALL procedures commonly used in diagnosis and treatment. For example, try asking for a government MRI scan facility in Mumbai - a fairly common procedure. And this is Mumbai we are talking about. Not some village in the back of beyond.

Schools

Asking children to take notes from their teacher to their parents should be banned. Teachers should contact parents independently and children must not be forced to carry humiliating words about themselves between adults and be on hand to face any ensuing anger.

Schools should have independent child welfare worker (paid by government) desks freely available to all children to contact and discuss their problems or needs or complain of abuse. These child welfare worker must be routinely reposted between schools to prevent collusion.

Revision of Intellectual Property laws

Any government funded research - however minimally - must mandatorily be open content and available for citizens to learn from and use.

Recovering research and investment from research must be encouraged to seek alternative means other than "passive income" that restricts use, prevents challenges to cost effectiveness or peer review for effectiveness or peer improvements. It is difficult to believe that a company that makes a drug and knows it inside out cannot produce it cheaper than a "copycat" who must reverse engineer and learn it before producing. Or that it has no means of earning from it other than making everyone who wants to use it PAY. Clearly this is an exploitative model aimed at making the government uphold private property. Knowledge doesn't end with production. Exceptional cases should have to apply for an exception to be made in a court of law - that establishes how it is in the country's interest to protect that monopoly.

Also, the current propaganda would have you believe that generics go to the neighborhood zerox machine instead of having proper labs, which is bull shit. They still have to make their product - which may be a copy - test it, produce it, quality control it, and so on.

Music, for example. A day spent on making a sound track can pay you for years. But if I have purchased a copy, is that copy mine, or not? I didn't purchase the sound track, I purchased copy, but I should be able to do what I want with MY COPY. Why cannot I use it as I wish including making copies of the copy or sharing? The idea of "stealing" is nonsense. I am copying what I purchased, not what is sitting in the composer's home. We have created these "passive income" ideas, that result in those with the means to own such ideas to earn infinitely from them. The corollary is that if you cannot own such property, you will forever be at a disadvantage. Inequality will keep you there. The chap making chairs will forever be poorer because he can sell that chair only once. Thus perpetually keeping those who create tangible products poorer than those who can create easily duplicated ones, but charge for each duplication (which requires no effort/investment on their part)

For a farmer to create a pump that uses three of the best innovations will not be possible. Not because he can't, but because he can't afford the "permission". Why shouldn't he have access to all twenty designs, use, mix, make them all, test, choose the best, and make a hundred of it for all farmers of his area and profit? If they are really good and competitive, he will make one for himself, but won't be able to produce to sell at a cost lower than the available invention. Anyone say free market?

Strangely, those arguing for free markets are the biggest advocates of government protected monopolies - only in areas other than the current ones.

Investment risks are a fact of all business, not only innovation. Investing all your money into a shop won't give you the right to prevent someone from copying your design and USP if it becomes popular (check out the proliferation of coffee bars and number of "outlets" selling vada paav variants). Is the loss of monopoly by the shop any less a risk? Or are the investments of some more valuable than others?

An innovator unwilling to take the risk will not take it, someone else will. Just like everyone else. Human innovation is hardly going to stop because you can't turn it into a passive cash cow.

Opening knowledge and its free use to all citizens will go a long long way toward allowing access to new knowledge for all in a country where some people have incomes larger than many countries and the vast majority have to do creative maths from month to month just to afford normal living.

Not just exposing and punishing, but FIXING damage from corruption

My favorite example here is the Irrigation scam, but really, every scam. If people are found to be seriously deprived of their rights and particularly if there are serious consequences, apart from exposing scams and punishing the accountable, it should be the government's responsibility to treat the damage from the scam on the scale of a national crisis and make immediate provisions to provide relief. The black paper and white paper business apart, what was done to restore or provide immediate relief for 10 years of missing irrigation and the resulting problems for the farmers? These actions should happen from regular funds for dealing with crisis situations like earthquakes - for example. When the legal process of the scam is complete, including punishments, these costs must be recovered from the assets of the accused. But the relief to those harmed by the scam must be immediate - as soon as the denial of necessity is confirmed.

Food quality control

There needs to be clear information provided for people who may need to complain about quality of food sold - either as product or restaurants or stalls, with clear procedure for investigation and punishment, including banning product or business if problem is serious enough. I suppose the same should handle things like MidDay meals or quality of govt rations related complaints. These facilities should include labs for testing and teams to conduct sting operations.

Reduce taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, introduce quality control and 50% of tax collected must go to associated healthcare

Every budget sees a rise in taxes on "addictions", which rarely are questioned, because no one wants to "defend a wrong" it is also usually peddled as a deterrent to improve health, but in reality is a cash cow for a government perpetually overspending and planning badly. Rising prices of cigarettes and alcohol rarely cause addicts to quit. Instead, those who cannot afford, switch to poorer quality products and ADD risk to their health. Furthermore, the government that apparently cares so much for the health of smokers/drinkers is not visible doing anything in particular to help those they claim to care about while milking money.

There is a need for quality control. Who do people approach when your cigarette has twigs, or smells more like dry leaves burning than tobacco? Who should people approach if some country liquor tastes "off"? This is important. These are huge industries with equally huge potential for corruption and little oversight, because of the "shame" factor. Why do smoking "lounges" have to be humiliating? Are those who use them criminals? Poorly ventilated rooms full of acrid smoke that are worse than smoking and used pretty much like one uses a public urinal. Go in, smoke, come out, back into civilized society. Is this deliberate marginalization of smokers at the cost of their health fair? All because open areas - where no harm from passive smoking has ever been proved - must be kept sanitized for the "real" citizens?

For that matter, there is nothing inherently wrong with country liquor if quality can be ensured. The main fear about it is risks related with dangerous substances being mixed or byproducts of risky ingredients. This should not be so difficult to govern. Yet we have so many deaths related with country liquor.

But most importantly, 50% of taxes collected from cigarettes and alcohol should be spent on research and free healthcare and deaddiction support. Tuberculosis is a menace in India. While it isn't solely caused by cigarettes, why can't the funds from taxing cigarettes fund research and better treatments (or increased reach) for attacking this mega killer that is growing resistant to treatment? Why can't more treatment centers be made for alcoholics with 50% of funds from taxing alcohol? Treatment for liver failure, counselling? Humanitarian aid to abused families in many instances? Why is there no connection between what the country earns from and what it spends on, even where desperate needs are visible?

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And more. This page will keep getting updated. Drop back later to see what's new.

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.

4

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.

6

There is a prevailing fiction actively promoted by the government that Nuclear Energy is the only way out of the energy crisis for India. Every time I write about issues with nuclear energy, there are people making comments like stay in the dark ages, etc. So let us look at some facts around this scenario.

To begin with, before getting into serious data, let me state the overwhelmingly obvious. There are many ways to boil water – which is what a nuclear reactor does and still more ways to produce electricity – which is the purpose of building a nuclear reactor. The rest of the process is no different from any other boiling water driving turbines like a coal or diesel plant or other force driving turbines – like a windmill or water falling from a height from a dam. Nuclear Energy just happens to be one with an incomprehensibly destructive potential, however small the chance of occurrence may be.

Here is a table with data of money invested in Atomic Energy and Renewable Energy Sources from Official budget figures.

[table id=3 /]

Or, in other words,

 

Comparitive chart for budget expenditures for nuclear energy and renewable energy in India. AE = Atomic Energy; RE = Renewable Energy

As you see, the money invested in renewable energy sources is a fraction of that invested in nuclear energy. However, when you look at the energy being produced in the country, it is clear that Renewable Energy contributes far more than Atomic Energy.

To use statistics from the monthly executive report provided by the Central Electrical Authority in February 2012, out of 190592.55MW, 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).

Breakdown of the electricity production capacity of India by source

Compare that with the money being poured in, the risks inherent in nuclear energy, the known risks and emerging data on previously unknown risks, conflict and trauma to local populations with agitations and suppression, and the longterm responsibility of managing safe processing and storage of radioactive waste. Then the costs of the construction, maintenance and shutdowns (India has had at least three accidents that put plants out of action for over two years), local community welfare expenses and the potential for incalculable costs in damage to land, livelihoods, health and environment in the event of an accident. The US has long given up the initial belief of nuclear power being so cheap as to provide virtually free energy. Currently, the costs are estimated to be only slightly lower than other forms of energy. Japan has actually reevaluated to put the costs of nuclear energy as on par with other energy resources. It is quite puzzling to perceive a need for nuclear power specifically when it offers little advantage and considerable disadvantages.

We have been pursuing nuclear power almost since the creation of our country. The Department of Atomic Energy was established on 3rd August 1948 – just short of completing a year of independence. Our estimations of nuclear energy production in the 1960s was for 8000MW by the year 1987. It is now 2012 and we have just over half of that capacity (incidentally from little resisted plants compared with what lies in our future). However, our optimistic projections continue unabated, and these are at the root of a lot of propaganda related with the “necessity” of nuclear energy. The projections of 20,000MW by 2020 and 207,000MW to 275,000MV by 2052 are extremely unlikely to be achieved considering our track record so far, and the growing resistance to nuclear energy. The kicker here is that even if by some remote chance we did manage to pull this one off, it would constitute 8-10% of projected electricity capacity in 2020 and about 20% in 2052 – not even remotely the energy savior of the country it is projected as.

In comparison, while the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy (CASE) was created in 1981 and the Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (DNES) was established in 1982, the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) itself was formed in 1992 and it was renamed as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in 2006. We are in 2012 and enjoying 4.65 times the energy production of nuclear energy for a 1/7.7th of the budget investment with New and Renewable Energy.

Renewable energy is considerably healthier for the planet than say your garden variety coal plant or nuclear plant. It is also more likely to be cheaper once the initial investment is done. To quote from the MNRE’s excellent book on Solar Radiant Energy over India that publishes detailed information on solar radiance all over the country:

The solar energy received by the earth is more than 15,000 times the world’s commercial energy consumption and over 100 times the world’s known coal, gas and oil reserves. And this energy is readily available during the day for anyone to tap and that too free and without any constraint.

This is no quantity of energy to sneeze at. India has excellent natural sunlight. The Direct Natural Irradiance maps provided by the Ministry of New and Renewable Sources of Energy shows that most of India gets excellent sunlight and areas like Rajasthan, for example getting very strong sunlight. Solar Energy is very viable in India. It is almost free to use once the initial installation is done and has the added suitability of being able to be deployed to remote regions with no access to an electrical grid.

Direct Natural Irradiance - Annual averages map data from the Ministry for New and Renewable Sources of Energy

While building solar plants will be more suitable in Rajasthan and other areas with strong sunlight, there are many other uses that can be started all over the country. We spend energy on heating water and cooking. Solar energy is very useful for this, and it does not require the strong sunlight that is needed for optimal performance from photovoltaic cells. Solar electricity generation for distribution will be better in areas with strong sunlight, but solar electricity for home use can be generated from rooftop panel installations almost all over the country.

As the cost of grid power rises, and that of photo-voltaic panels from China and US drops, it makes increasing sense to shift funds to this area, where there is massive potential for expansion and quick and dramatic transformation in this much neglected area. Currently, only 1% of our energy needs come from solar power, and funding will help this area grow much faster, as the main prohibitive factor for solar energy is its initial investment. This potential for near free energy is a treasure mine in energy in a country where abject poverty is common. In addition, the tentative forays into public lighting, traffic signals and so on can be expanded to become more and more autonomous. This has the obvious advantage of not requiring electrical connections to the grid, not having bills to pay and functioning reliably.

Other forms of energy like wind and tidal enegy can be used to generate electric power. Although a relative newcomer to the wind industry compared with Denmark or the United States, India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world. In 2009-10 India’s growth rate was highest among the other top four countries. As of 31 March 2011 the installed capacity of wind power in India was 14550MW.

Another vast treasure potential in energy is bio-fuels. 80% of our population being rural and agriculture and livestock being widespread, biofuels help generate gas for cooking or lighting. The waste from the bio-gas plant serves as cheap and excellent manure, which in turn will help heal our lands destroyed by rampant use of chemical fertilizers and boost the increasing movement toward organic farming and the production of healthier food.

The potential is endless, and the results from this area have so far been gratifyingly efficient. The amount of money invested in the pursuit of nuclear energy being available to this would likely wean us off the coal plants and get started on the large and harmful dams in the kind of time nuclear energy has taken to get here.

I cannot fathom the logic behind calling nuclear energy “necessary”.

Note: I am no expert on any subject related with economics or energy generation or nuclear energy. However, all data is from government sources and seems fairly straightforward.

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.