To people living in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, what matters is scientifically substantiated logic
Former bureaucrats and activists have expressed their bewilderment at former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s controversial defence of nuclear power plants. Dr Kalam’s article in The Hindu has been followed by a string of letters and comments from sector experts, who have pointed out the loopholes in his reasoning.
Former finance and power secretary, EAS Sarma, in a letter to Dr Kalam asks, “When you brushed aside the safety concerns about nuclear technology as mere conjectures, did you make an effort to ask the nuclear establishment whether Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NCPIL) had ever carried out a reliable engineering study of each existing nuclear power plant to estimate the compound probability of an accident taking place as a result of a mechanical failure arising from the failure of individual components? If this has not done, can you jump to the conclusion that the probability of an accident is negligible, merely on the basis of your own appreciation of the number of accidents that have taken place during the last few decades?”
Mr Sarma, a resident of Vishakhapatnam, heads an environmentalists’ group called ‘Forum for Better Vishakha’. He has expressed his apprehensions about the upcoming Kovvada nuclear power plant near Srikakulam, which is his native place. He pointed out that though NCPIL has adopted a zoning system around nuclear power plants; and have earmarked a monitoring zone of 16km around the power plants, the residents of that area have not been told about this.
Terming Dr Kalam’s article as biased, Mr Sarma has alleged that the former president has underplayed the negative aspects of nuclear power, and has not mentioned the long-term impact of radioactivity on health. Mr Sarma also said that Dr Kalam has not considered the costs of decommissioning nuclear plants or managing toxic wastes. He further asks, “Are you aware that these costs are difficult to quantify? The cost of decommissioning Chernobyl will never be known, as it can never be decommissioned. With foreign financial help, Russians are building a sarcophagus around the contaminated Chernobyl reactors! Till date, the cost of Fukushima is not known.”
His thoughts have been echoed by a former general manager of railways at Indian Railway Service of Engineers, who says, “The public at large and the educated intelligentsia have all grave doubts about the safety of our country depending on nuclear power. After the recent disaster in Japan at Fukushima, Germany has already decided to phase out existing N-plants and stop the construction of new ones.” He has requested Dr Kalam to write another article and address the questions Mr Sarma has raised.
Former IAS officer MG Devasahayam said, “I wonder as to why the venerable Dr Kalam is on an emotional overdrive preaching for nuclear power. He compares nuclear disasters with air-crash and missile-launching snags, calls the protesters ignorant cowards and goes to Kudunkulam to proclaim that the nuclear plant is a boon to the locals.”
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