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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

5

A collection of interesting quotes by various people and from a wide range of sources ranging from books to speeches and even Twitter on occasion.
misty idyll forest ukraine
misty forest in Ukraine. Image: Balkhovitin

More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. — Francois Gautier, French writer and journalist

So, my position is just that it would be immoral of me to preach violence to anybody unless I’m prepared to pick up arms myself. But I think it is equally immoral for me to preach nonviolence when I’m not bearing the brunt of the attack. — Arundhati RoyFebruary 2011 interview with Guernica

This cocktail of religious fundamentalism and a crazed, irresponsible, unaccountable media is becoming a very serious problem, in India as well as Pakistan. I don’t know what the solution is. Certainly not censorship! — Arundhati RoyFebruary 2011 interview with Guernica

Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. — Prof. Randy Pausch,Last lecture: Achieving your childhood dreams

What other people think of you is none of your business

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. — Martin Luther King Jr

You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea. — Benazir Bhutto

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty! — Che

You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem — Albert Einstein

Well, I would like to tell you the rat race is over. The rats have won. — P. SainathLecture: The Importance of Citizen Journalism

Growing insensitivity is often the baggage of deepening inequality. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

If we draw a baseline in the last Ice Age, everyone’s conditions have improved. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

Read the press on rural India. You’ll be struck by the fact that—in the press—the rural poor almost never speak. They invariably ‘lament’ or ‘plead’ or ‘cry’ or ‘beg’ for attention. Sometimes, they even ‘wail’ or ‘weep’. They rarely just ‘say’ things the way the rest of us do. Because we have decided that that is the way they are. — P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

How agonized we are over how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. — P. Sainath,Globalizing Inequality

As famous last words, those rank along side the Tarzan’s “Who greased the grapevine?” — P. Sainath,Globalizing Inequality

Then there are the ideologically insane. The members of the sect have no interest in either farmers or agriculture. Only in upholding their Gospel.For them, farmers are dying because they have not been reached by free market reforms. If more of them keep dying after they are reached, it’s because the “reforms have not gone far enough.” It hangs a halo of righteousness around wanton ignorance. — P. Sainath

Always speak, write, live your highest truth. That is how you grow. And if you get lynched for it, at least you have that glow. — Vidyut

None of us can do curing. We are not medical people, we don’t deal with curing. And by the way, they can’t cure either. — Moshe Feldenkrais

No matter how ruthlessly you curb free expression, truth survives breathing in between those bruised lines. — A S Raghunath @asraghunath

The death of our civilization is no longer a theory or an academic possibility; it is the road we’re on — Peter Goldmar

i like my people like i like my coffee ~ rare beans in broken cups — Angad Chowdhry @angadc

MEDIA is a crime scene – ALWAYS take screenshots — @barbarindian

Individual victims get vilified and denied justice in a macabre tug-of-war when elephants fight comprehensive battles in the courtyards of puny mortals. — Vidyut

The opposite of consumption is not frugality, it’s generosity. — Raj Patel

When the man moves on, the woman is the slut. — Vidyut

“media objectivity” seems like a fictional concept, like the Yeti. — Srikanth R,https://twitter.com/_R_Srikanth/status/156806745061203968

Democracy runs on public debate — Subramanian Swamy

With a sudden gush of mist winter arrives, streetlights ogle with sodium eyes — Madhavan Narayanan

In a democracy if two people agree on everything then one of them is redundant. So we have to learn to agree to disagree. — Subramanian Swamy@Swamy39

You see her body. I see her courage. You see her morality. I see her priorities. — Madhavan Narayanan,@madversity https://twitter.com/madversity/statuses/138134884668542976

Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires. — Re

Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires. — Rene GirardViolent Origins

My soul would have no rainbow, if my eyes had no tears — Aisha ChaudharyThe INK Conference

My suspicion is that we as a society didn’t want any change, and didn’t have the guts to refuse to change. So we put in systems that wouldn’t work. — Vidyut

Violence in the home normalizes violence in the street and in foreign policy. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

It’s been said that the woman a man most fears is the woman within himself. Men are punished by being cut off from human qualities denied to them as “feminine.” — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

Because we genderize the study of childrearing as “feminine” and the study of conflict and foreign policy as “masculine,” we rarely see that the first causes the second. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

No society is beyond reproach or beyond repair. — Gloria SteinemGloria Steinem on Rape in War, Its Causes, and How to Stop It

We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will. — Whitney Houston

There are always alternatives. We like to pretend there are none, so that we can blame someone for our inaction. — Vidyut

Nations are composed of societies. Societies are made up of families. Families consist of people. The human being thus becomes the determining unit of life. — Vijay SimhaA Nation without mentorshttp://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws060711VSinsideout.asp

The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were. — David Brinkley

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it — Bertrand Russell

If you can conceive of morality without god, why can you not conceive of society without government? — Peter Saint-André

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. — Albert Einstein

Man is certainly stark mad: he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen. — Michel de Montaigne

Civil disobedience, that’s not our problem. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem. — Howard Zinn

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. — Anatole France

When you philosophically oppose an entire power elite, you cannot help but sound like a conspiracy theorist. Social power is by nature a conspiracy. — Tom N

Our world is faced with a crisis that has never before been envisaged in its whole existence… The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe. — Albert EinsteinBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May, 1946

To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift. — Franklin D Roosevelt

The job of the editorial writer is to go down into the valley after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.— Murray KemptonNew Republic

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence. — Francis Jeffrey

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. — Isaac AsimovSalvor Hardin in “Foundation”

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. — John F. KennedyIn a speech at the White House, 1962

There are always survivors at a massacre. Among the victors, if nowhere else. — Lois McMaster Bujold,Ethan of Athos, 1986

A “reality” that is unjust needs to be changed, not accepted. It should be no one’s fate to be taking abuse and giving care. — Vidyut

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. — John Lennon

Everybody pities the weak. Jealousy you have to earn. — Arnold Schwarznegger

I have been in a heterosexual world all my life and I have not been influenced by heterosexuality, how do heterosexuals get influenced by my sexuality so easily? — Harish Iyer

Never mind that the British decriminalised homosexuality 46 years ago, we’ve still stuck with their ancient law with the dogged enthusiasm of an engineer on his fourteenth IIT attempt. On the bright side, the corollary to that is that it must also mean that it’s still okay to call Mumbai Bombay. — Rohan Joshi,http://www.mid-day.com/columnists/2013/dec/141213-idiot-penal-code.htm

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of freedom which women have achieved. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it. — Babasaheb Ambedkar

 

On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality.

In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value.

In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.

How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?

How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?

If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.

— Babasaheb Ambedkar 

I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language.
I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.
 — Babasaheb Ambedkar

 

In the Hindu religion, one can[not] have freedom of speech. A Hindu must surrender his freedom of speech. He must act according to the Vedas. If the Vedas do not support the actions, instructions must be sought from the Smritis, and if the Smritis fail to provide any such instructions, he must follow in the footsteps of the great men.
He is not supposed to reason. Hence, so long as you are in the Hindu religion, you cannot expect to have freedom of thought.

— Babasaheb Ambedkar 

Lost rights are never regained by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers,
but by relentless struggle…. Goats are used for sacrificial offerings and not lions.
 — Babasaheb Ambedkar

Free speech includes freedom to talk randomly and sound knowledgeable while being clueless. There’s a whole tribe that specialises in this. — Madhavan Narayanan

2

Whither Nuclear Power is an important question doing the rounds around the world, and more importantly for us, in India. Nuclear Power in India has been a matter of great pride. A milestone in our growth as a country, a symbol of power. A monument to the scientific potential of our country. It is no small matter to say that the nuclear capabilities of India - power generation as well as bombs have changed perceptions about our country on a national and international scale.

Events unfolding in Japan however are a big, big matter of concern. Japan is a country known for its technological prowress, efficiency and disaster-readiness. While admittedly the tsunami and earthquake were extraordinary threats to the nuclear facilities, even the threat of a nuclear disaster has made the catastrophic news of thousands dead pale. Quite obviously, technology can fail in an advanced nation like Japan. What hope does India have?

I see a couple of trains of thought to this:

  • Reactors 3 and 4 at FukushimaNeed for power: India needs power. Increasing amounts. We aren't able to provide electricity to the entire country yet, let alone move demand from some non-renewable sources to renewable electricity. It is beyond euphemistic to say India needs power desperately for progress or even basic development. AND industry is growing.
  • Threat to environment: If things go as advertised, nuclear power barely makes any imprint on the environment. On the other hand, fuel sources from coal to petroleum all have one distinct disadvantage - pollution. Options like dams are destroying many livelihoods and lives.
  • How much will be enough? On the other hand, its not like having a certain amount of electricity generation capacity is going to be enough. We are going to expand exponentially before we can afford to stop for a bit and say, okay, thats quite a bit done.
  • Myth of renewable sources. While solar or wind energy is an option, it doesn't have the capacity to meet our needs. We may, one day get there, but its unlikely that its going to happen any time in the immediate future. Till then, my advice would be to write and read such information in the absence of electricity to get an understanding of its implications.
  • Comparative dangers: Here is an article about waste from coal run thermal power plants being more radioactive from that from a nuclear plant. People's livelihoods are being destroyed in dams and oil refineries have their own set of hazards like fires, slicks, etc. This is the reality of the energy alternatives to nuclear power.  On the other hand, nuclear power has delivered well in India with few accidents.
  • There are many massive threats to life, including things like the Bhopal tragedy. Massive destruction, or utter unusability of land is not an exclusive feature of nuclear power.
  • On the other hand, beginning repairs of any other disaster can begin immediately, unlike a nuclear disaster. Nuclear disasters are likely to outlive us all as a species. Forget individuals, groups, or even countries. That puts a very high price on disaster, because it literally results in the planet becoming smaller and smaller for human use.
  • To be fair, the likelihood of such massive threat to the integrity of a plant is very small. Now that we know it is possible, it can still be planned for. There is already newer technology in use that was not present in these plants that provides even more foolproof cooling. Risks can be minimized through learning from these mistakes.
  • India in general seems to have far less quakes and stuff. It could be possible to choose sites that hold relatively less inherent risk.
  • Indian reactors have functioned without incident through a few natural threats. Notably the earthquake in Gujarat when the reactor functioned efficiently and was a vital source of much needed power in the aftermath. On the other hand, we do have minor accidents which can only be attributed to negligence, which has led to unhealthy risks for employees and immediate vicinities, even though the power plants themselves cannot be faulted. Human error will always be a factor to be working on, and in a country where a "chalta hai" attitude is very common, this cannot be excluded as a significant risk to the world itself, rather than localized as it would be with other methods of power generation.
  • Not having nuclear power is not necessarily safer. To be fair, as long as countries pursue nuclear power, it doesn't matter which country the reactor is based in. Radiation doesn't stand in visa queues. We could give up on nuclear power in the name of safety and find ourself irradiated because of a failed part in another country.
  • The key thing to remember here is standards. It isn't so much about countries pursuing nuclear power, but about the risk of nuclear catastrophe worldwide coming down. I think toward this end, it can be useful to put aside this debate and first reassess all known reactors in the WORLD for security. This process could give us the confidence we need to have a first hand informed knowledge that can guide our choices on the fate of nuclear power itself in our world.
  • I think the private sector should be banned from this market. More than public or private, transparency should be scrupulous.  Really impeccable transparency that empowers further wise choice.
  • Location and scope: A country not using nuclear power is no guarantee that it will not suffer nuclear hazards. An accident in a neighbouring country can be as bad or worse. Ask Belorussia, who suffered as much, if not more, the consequences of Chernobyl in Ukraine.

The IAEA needs to lead worldwide debate around this.

However, this is a decision that can never be weighed adequately. The extent of the factors, both for and against is pretty much beyond our ability to compute and at the end of the day, it is going to come down to the desire of the people and the risks they consider acceptable as a price of convenience and development or comfort or luxury.

As this debate grows, there seem to be the two predictable camps forming. I see this as the easy take. Yes, no. Rigid. Neither works. You can't have nuclear power plants mushrooming with the state of things as it is. You can't afford to not have them. Yet, there are very few engagements about the nuances, implications to the country's ambitions, needs....

I think the more valuable trend of thought is where we figure out how to make it possible in an acceptable manner. While a Chernobyl (and I do hope that Fukushima doesn't replace that metaphor) is not what we want, there is little acknowledgment that a Chernobyl is not what the pro-nuclear energy camp wants either. It would be far more relevant to our country's reality to engage in a dialogue around what possibilities exist - alternative, safety, etc. How can we as a country make a choice that we can "afford".

For example, it is no longer accurate to even judge this situation and base our futures on the results of a reactor that is already outdated. Technology has improved, as have the experiences of others to learn from. If we must judge fairly, it is our duty to apprise ourselves of all the human knowledge available.