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Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board cautions, based on the sparse specifics available in the public domain and comments by authority figures that the government may be concealing information about the magnitude of the accident at KAPS (Kakrapar Atomic Power Station) Unit 1

 

The Kakrapar Unit-1 PHWR Primary System Leakage Incident on March 11, 2016

The Kakrapar Unit-I nuclear reactor in Gujarat is undergoing a moderately large leakage of heavy water from its Primary Heat Transport (PHT) system since 9.00 AM on March 11,2016. From the very limited information released by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the government , as well as from the conversations I had with press people who have been in touch with nuclear officials, few inferences can be drawn.

Till 7.00 PM on March 12,2016 , the DAE officials have no clue as to where exactly the PHT leak is located and how big is the rate of irradiated heavy water that is leaking into the reactor containment . However, some reports indicate that the containment has been vented to the atmosphere at least once , if not more times , which I suspect indicates a tendency for pressure build up in that closed space due to release of hot heavy water and steam into the containment housing . If this is true, the leak is not small , but moderately large , and still continuing. No one confirms that any one has entered the containment (in protective clothing) for a quick physical assessment of the situation , perhaps it is not safe to do so because of the high radiationfields inside . When NPCIL officials state that the reactor cooling is maintained , I believe what they may be doing is to allow the heavy water or light water stored in the emergency cooling tanks to run once-through the system and continue to pour through the leak into the containment floor through the break .

All this points to the likelihood that what Kakrapar Unit-1 is undergoing is a small Loss-of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) in progress. It is most likely that one or more pressure tubes (PT) in the reactor (which contain the fuel bundles) have cracked open , leaking hot primary system heavy-water coolant into the containment housing . The reactor cooling is said to be maintained which , in view of the PT breach , can only be by supply of heavy water or light water from the storage tanks of the emergency cooling systems . While it may perhaps ensure bulk coolant temperatures in the PHT system to be well under control , it could still mean fuel centreline temperatures in the channel which may have a breach could be quite high . The seriousness of the accident and the potential high risks to the plant and personnel in the near vicinity are yet to be assessed , because NPCIL and AERB do not yet know where the location of the leak is or how to initiate actions to stop it. They were waiting for a team of AERB Specialists to reach Kakrapar in the afternoon of March 12 th. (today) to jointly decide between AERB & NPCIL how to proceed from here on. This is therefore a potentially serious accident in progress , and the DAE, NPCIL and AERB appear to be clearly saying at the moment that they know very little of what is happening. I was just told that a senior team from AERB has reached Kakrapar this evening and now the serious accident investigations will hopefully begin and decisions initiated .

In August 1983 , the Pickering Heavy Water Reactor in Canada had a serious Small LOCA , due to a sudden two-meter long rupture of a pressure tube (PT). Upon later analysis , the cause was found to be the mislocation of annulus gas spacer springs which allowed the pressure tube to sag and contact the calandria tube , leading to hydrogen enrichment of the cooler areas of the PT. This made the tube more brittle in such cooler locations and it ruptured due to the internal fluid pressure. In 1983 , when this accident in Canada occurred , India was under international nuclear sanctions following the Pokhran-1 test and it took some time before root causes of this accident were understood by our Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) institutions. But , the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) did commendable work immediately in analysing the phenomenon of hydriding of PTs in a PHWR , and carried out experiments, developed computer programs and the appropriate PT Integrity Inspection Equipment within the next decade. Based on all this work , a Pressure Tube Aging & Integrity Management Program was develop jointly by BARC & NPCIL , for strict adherence to and use by NPCIL in all their PHWRs. Besides , it was found essential that the PT material has to be changed to Niobium-stabilized Zircalloy , and accordingly all previous Indian PHWRs including Kakrapar Unit-1 were re-tubed with the new alloy tubes in subsequent years . But , this re-tubing did not preclude the need for strictly following of the PT Aging Management Program and the periodic checking of the garter spring position between the PT and the Calandria tube to minimize the PT sagging within the calandria tube. It may be possible that , having built more than 20 PHWRs , NPCIL and AERB in recent years have become overconfident and relaxed their strict adherence to this Aging Management Program , which might have been the reason for the current accident.

Let me caution the reader that the above conjecture is based on bits and pieces of reliable and not so reliable information gathered from different people close to the accident details and in positions of authority. Future detailed evaluation may or may not prove my entire set of conclusions or part of them to be not well-founded. But , technical experts are compelled to put out such conjectures because of the total lack of transparency of the Indian cilvilian nuclear power sector and the atomic energy commission (AEC) , the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) , the NPCIL and the AERB . Public have a need to know and , therefore , the AEC and its sub-ordinate organizations need to promptly release status reports on the progressing safety incident which could affect their lives , to alleviate their concerns and anxieties . It is a series of such lapses in communication over the years which has built up the ever-increasing trust deficit in the DAE system among the general public. All future plans for expanding the civilian nuclear power sector should be put on hold until a truly independent nuclear safety regulator is put in place , who is not controlled by the AEC or the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) , who will then be answerable to openly communicating with the public on all civilian nuclear power matters.

(Dr. Gopalakrishnan is a Former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board , Government of India. He can be reached at agk37@hotmail.com )

This article was originally published on the Dianuke website.

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.

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.

12

"Uraniam found in 241 water samples" the headline could have screamed, but it didn't. It made modest appearance and slid into obscurity, unheralded on the news site's social networks. This was Times of India reporting on drinking water samples from Punjab as reported by chief engineer, department of water supply and sanitation in the High Court in response to a PIL in front of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Mahesh Grover.

It says "The petitioner, Mohali-resident Brijender Singh Loomba, had sought directions for adequate relief to affected people and kids due to discharge of uranium in water and soil of Bathinda, Faridkot and Ludhiana districts of Punjab. The petition had also sought directions for investigation to find out sources of leakage of radioactive material and uranium in drinking water and steps required to check its spread." among other things.

It said nothing that the people of Malda district didn't know already since investigative tests on the hair of about 88% of their higher numbers of disabled children didn't turn up stuff like arsenic as anticipated, but URANIUM in 2009.There have been vague reports on and off in local (read non-corporate) media about Uranium contamination in Punjab since 1995, which is inexplicable since there is no source of Uranium nearby.

But understand this. If there is radioactive contamination in the soil, NOTHING except not eating food grown in it at all will prevent you ingesting it. Cleaning the drinking water will not prevent radioactive isotopes from grain, for example from entering your body. That's right. "Granary of India" has areas with radioactive contamination in an era of increasing inflation and food insecurity.

Indian Express did cover it, but it covered it up as a story on the allegations of discrimination in the installing of the ROS - Reverse Osmosis plants that BARC recommended to clean the water. Adding as an afterthought "The affidavit states that the failed samples from the 49 villages include Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Barnala and Fatehgarh Sahib. The state has submitted that ROS plants are being installed in 118 villages, of which 74 villages fall in Barnala."

Anyway, the whole High Court and PIL and shocking testimony at least got it to mainstream newspapers, if not to fame and glory.

In other news - I really mean - In other news.... DNA published an investigative report about increased incidences of cancer among the employees and their families at the nuclear reactor at Kalpakkam. No! Wasn't this supposed to be crap raised by activists to prevent India's progress? Apparently not, because the report uses data from an RTI filed for the second time (The first time, the information was not provided).

The DNA claims that it is in possession of a DAE funded study by Dr. Manjula Dutta and the report categorically confirms increased cancer risk near reactors "The report states that cancer cases in villages close to Kalpakkam are seven times higher (210 per 1 lakh people) compared to just (30 per 1 lakh people) in distant villages. Morbidity levels in areas near the nuclear reactor are 2-3 times higher than normal. The study covered 22 proximate villages (within 8km radius) and three distant villages (50km from the reactor site)."

However, let it not be said that mainstream media never reports nuclear news. It does report extensively about the NPCIL's efforts to allay fears about radiation safety and there is warm and fuzzy reassurances by the BARC that it is all safe and nuclear power is our future. But then, both earlier stories also contain reassurances by BARC that the levels of radiation are safe and that the illnesses are no more than among the normal population.

BARC is like the Japanese government in India. No matter what the radiation levels, they will be declared safe. No problemo. But BARC is boosting its monitoring capacities on an urgent basis. To prove safety, I suppose. It was a Parliamentary committee that looked into the radiation monitoring of Punjab, West Bengal is examining and checking use of radioactive materials, and it is BARC declaring safe everything I have mentioned or linked here.

These are stories breaking in a country where more nuclear plants are planned amid massive controversy. Where the idea of a "nuclear park" is not some haunting nightmare scene from a Chernobyl film, but an unbelievable concept of a cluster of nuclear reactors made to sound like a health spa.

I have been following events unfolding at Fukushima closely. There is incredible amount of information from local media and bloggers in particular. While some of it is alarmist and unsubstantiated, there is enough carefully documented, including citizen volunteers monitoring data, photographs and footage of details of damage and work, information released from scientific studies, information on spread of radiation, environmental impact, inexplicable heart attacks (which I think are linked to what I mention in Radioactive People), status of reactors and more.

Fukushima is one big reason to re-evaluate the feasibility of having too many reactors too close - at this point, if one of them goes out of control, the area will have to be evacuated, and we will have six of them out of control. Does a thought like this have any implications to the idea of a nuclear park?

Yet there is silence in our media. Corporation owned media worldwide is largely silent, but they do report significant concerns raised, at least. Our news media doesn't seem to see this as an ongoing crisis at all. There is little interest on either a political front or in the media. Two headlines about America's low rating for safety of nuclear materials in India - "India scores low on nuclear security: US Study" and "India rejects nuclear safety rating by American think-tank"

It is a game of table tennis. Rather than see the security implications, we choose to fixate on the political maneuvering and preempt it - which is such a problem, that we can't accept any feedback ever - check news. This of course is about our super-size ego and Australian Uranium we import which could be influenced. There is little introspection, evaluation or consideration of risks. NO changes will happen, because accepting them will mean that we weren't safe and that will not do. How long will it be before we start paying an even greater price?

We don't hear, think or question these things, because our media carefully filters triggers to such debates. From being the first country in the world to set up a Ministry for renewable energy to being one that doesn't question harmful ways energy is procured - be it fly ash from thermal power, radioactive contamination from nuclear power, or exploitation of Kashmiris for power - it has been a long way. There is pathetic little interest in sustainable energy or the environment in our media.

We want nuclear reactors and are following the ideals of a country that has paid a monumental price for its nuclear ambitions and yet has not built a single new reactor in decades. The great fantasy of clean, safe, cheap.

We dismiss reports of workers at Fukushima dying of heart failure after handling radioactive debris. We ignore that heart failure is the most common way for those exposed to radiation to die and call it an "existing condition". We ignore reports of milk in San Francisco having levels of cesium beyond allowed standards. We don't question dubious "cold shutdowns" that have nothing to do with stopping reactors and everything to do with shrugging responsibility for liquidating the damage. We ignore radioactive landfulls and almost a year of daily and massive contamination of the oceans. We turn a blind eye to reports of increasing cancers in the West Coast of USA.

It isn't so much about what we believe. We are smart people. We arrive at conclusions based on information available to us. Which is why it becomes a serious question about intent and freedom of information that the Indian masses are not informed by their media on such things. If the information available can be rigged to make certain conclusions seem reasonable, then they are "the choice of the masses".

This has become so ridiculously extreme, that when people look at archives to find Indian reporting of the largest nuclear disaster in the history of man (hopefully it will still be the largest then), they are going to find a big, fat zero - like Pakistan's text books on Indian history and common roots.

This is also where the usual arguments like "metro media" not having access or wanting to go to far flung areas falls flat. There is an abundance of news to be found without leaving the desk - the largest nuclear or industrial disaster in the world. This leaves me with only one explanation of this radioactive silence. They don't want to.

It isn't like they went to the Andaman to cover the recent shocking news of the treatment of the Jarawa women at the hands of the police. They picked it up from the Guardian and ran with it.

So what is the difference in these fleeting news that seem to catch their eyes and an almost year long crisis involving millions of people, multiple crises with four reactors, unmeasurable environmental damage and abundant news items available freely that slides through every hole in attention and invents a few too?

Why this voluntary censorship?

I suspect the answer is less about the news than the subject of the news and the influence it may have on their interests. I suspect the answer may involve things like corporate owned priorities and investment opportunities.