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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals

India is betting heavily on nuclear power to meet its surging energy needs. While India currently has six nuclear power plants (NPPs) with 20 reactors generating 4,780 megawatts, seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 megawatts.

This current rate of nuclear power generation pales into insignificance with New Delhi’s future plans, as on 22 February Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told a seminar at the India International Nuclear Symposium, "India plans to have a total installed nuclear capacity of 63,000 megawatts by the year 2032, using both indigenous technology and imported reactors. Nuclear technology has several distinct advantages - it is compact and highly manageable in terms of handling, transportation and storage of the fuel. Thermal technologies have the problems of greenhouse gas emissions, fly-ash and handling, transportation, storage problems of large quantities of fuel as well as availability of coal."

As for worries about the hazards of nuclear power generation, earlier this month Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering at the Department of Atomic Energy’s Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology in Indore, "All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes."

But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.

After being in denial for years, last month the selfsame Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of its employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.

Not that the DAE willingly divulged the information – it came to light in response to a Right to Information (RTI) inquiry from October 2011, with the DAE acknowledging that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam, 44 miles from Chennai, died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.

The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE, which sends out high-ranking officials with bland assurances for the public about the nation’s NPPs while privately compiling reports about their health effects, concerns that can only grow as New Delhi presses forward with its nuclear program. Furthermore, the statements that Indian NPPs can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, made in a country vulnerable to both, smacks of more than a little hubris, as Tokyo Electric and Power Co. made similar pronouncements before the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex.

But rising to the occasion, on 6 January the project director of the Kalpakkam Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research, Prabhat Kumar, asserted that the recent "Thane" storm proved without doubt the “foolproof safety, safe technology and design, concrete stability, and enviable worth of all nuclear power plants.”

But as for the Japanese following nuclear events in India, what can they conclude if “totally secured as per international standards” NPPs nevertheless caused cancer deaths from radiation? Given the immense releases of nuclear material from Fukushima, what will the country’s health profile look like decades from now?

Opposition to India’s nuclear power program is growing, most notably at Kudankulam. Accordingly, given the projected scope of India’s proposed nuclear future, the country may well prove to be either the salvation or graveyard of nuclear power worldwide.

And one can only wonder what other reports the DAE is sitting on. While no doubt all Indians without electricity would like a light bulb, is appeal is considerably diminished if its hanging over one’s hospital bed years from now as one slowly expires from radiation-induced cancer.

Accordingly, the fishermen protesting the Kudankulam NPP could be doing their fellow countrymen a greater service than they currently realize.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • nuclear power proponent on February 27 2012 said:
    Fukushima didn't have to happen. Proof of this is that there was another nuclear power plant only 20 km away subject to the same earthquake and tsumani which made it. Why? Because it had a sea wall high enough to keep the tusami out and one power line survived to provide the electricity to shut this other fukushima power plant down. Had this other fukushima nuclear power plant been equipped with emergency diesels they could have used them instead of being lucky and having power available. I suspect that had there been a sea wall big enough plus enough earthquake engineering modifications that the meltdown would not have happened. Because fukushima (as in the one that melted down) would have survived the earthquake plus the diesels and the cooling systems would have worked. Also let us not forget 3 Mile Island. That power plant melted down and didn't produce any sort of disaster remotely like fukushima.
    Why is everybody so afraid of and against nuclear power? I just don't get it. Proof from real power plants in the real work the exists that this fukushima diaster didn't have to happen and doesn't have to happen in the future.
  • Mazo on February 28 2012 said:
    What the DAE report doesn’t mention in India is the “kind” of work these people were doing. The Nuclear power plant at Kalpakkam is also a storage facility for nuclear waste, a reprocessing facility and fuel fabrication facility apart from serving as a testing facility for India’s light-PHW reactor that are installed in Indian nuclear submarines. In short, the Madras Atomic Power Station is a vast facility with things going on. The two CANDU Type reactors installed there have a proven and robust track record internationally for safety, including natural calamities like the Tsunami of 2004.
  • Atomikrabbit on August 18 2013 said:
    Millions die yearly of cancer, some with rare forms. If the three employees bodies contained enormously high, fatal burdens of certain radionuclides, it would be the easiest thing in the world to give them a Whole Body Count, which is a mandatory surveillance given periodically to workers in every nuclear installation I know of.

    Without this evidence the article doesn't even rise to the level of junk science. But perhaps if there are fewer facilities providing nuclear energy, there will be more sales of inefficient and polluting biofuels? Did this occur to you Mr. Daly?
  • K.Periasamy on September 20 2013 said:
    The author says 9 people, out of which 3 were employees of the nuclear plant, have died of cancer. Yes, it is true.
    He wants DAE to trumpet this to every one to hear. Why ?

    Is he aware of the fact that the Indian average death rate due to cancer is 95 per 100000 and the average among the employees of nuclear power is only 54 ?
    Since the media does not even talk of these information, DAE has no reason to publicize the death of 9 people over a decade among the population of about 20000.

    Regarding the Fukushima accident, how many have died of this accident ?

    NONE !

    Why don`t you rumor mongers share this information with the public ?

    I have worked in Kalpakkam as a scientist. We have almost every other nuclear cycle activity going on there and everything is going smooth. There are absolutely no safety issues or any health hazards to anyone there.

    The author says,
    "Accordingly, the fishermen protesting the Kudankulam NPP could be doing their fellow countrymen a greater service than they currently realize."

    So, he thinks the fishermen are protesting to save the world and the scientists are working in the nuclear plants along with their families to destroy the world.

    What a wild imagination !

Leave a comment

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