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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then the bizarre data:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, after 24 years of continuous construction....

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

There is no scientific justification for this protest

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

The Guy who is leading the protest should be qualified.

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

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

Again, same thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we get into kid horror films.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes 47 in all. This includes Chernobyl and Fukushima.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall assessment of this article: Juvenile

Author: Malicious and juvenile.

Editor: Incompetent

FirstPost: Pro-nuclear disinformation source

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.