‘No’ to Nuclear Power

Anti-‘Jaitapur’ in France
Sankar Ray

Twenty-seven major French anti-nuclear groups' demand to the UPA II government en masse that the 9900 megawatt nuclear power project (6 x 1650 mw) at Jaitapur be scrapped is an encouragement to the protest movement against the bonhomie between the Indian government and the French company, marketing nuclear power equipment worldwide. "We, French men and women, protest vigorously against this injustice by the unique interests of Areva and the Indian government. We denounce : deprivation of property of farmers and fishermen on the site of the future Jaitapur NPP, arrest of 22 people for the only fault of having used the inalienable right to protest, prohibition on gathering more than five people in the region", they bluntly stated.

Uploaded in an internationally well-known website, the 370 word (in French) indictment also exposes the Maharashtra state government for repression of peaceful protest in which women also took part. In particular, the ban on the entry of the leading activist Vaishali Patil into the Ratnagiri district under which is the site of Jaitapur project is condemned categorically.

Almost synergistically, two developments about nuclear power projects and plants have put the federal government on pins and needles. First, the Ministry of Environment & Forests admitted in a sworn affidavit filed in the Madras High Court that the Koodankulam Nuclear power Plant is being commissioned without any legal Environmental Impact Assessment, thus brazenly violating the EIA Notification under Environmental Protection Act. This is significant as the International Atomic Energy Agency, of which India is an active member-state, too is very rigid in the compliance of environmental clearance. Second, Dr EAS Sharma, ex-IAS and former Union power secretary, drew attention of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing the department of atomic energy and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to non-disclosure about leakage of tritium at Rajasthan Atomic Power project in the last week of June. A nuclear scientist, Dr Sharma who opposed the Enron power project reminded Dr Singh under whom are the DAE and NPCIL of his assurance of public disclosure after the Fukushima catastrophe. "Your Ministry cannot and should not operate in such an opaque manner, especially after the country has witnessed the full magnitude of the Fukushima disaster", he stated ingenuously.

The cautionary observation from 27 French organisations have slapped a discernible disrepute on India's democratic polity. The conscientious civil society gets a fillip out of it. Among the 27 are eseau "Sortir du Nucleaire" (Network "Exit from Nuclear Power") which is the apex of 940 anti-nuclear associations with 57,238 individuals, Stop Nucleaire Besancon (Stop Nuclear Besancon), Les Amis de la Terre France (Friends of the Earth France), Association Camin Ferrat (Association Carmin Ferrat which fights for the preservation of the Country of Viganais and keeps abreast of goings-around in the global environmental issues applications and Collectif des Irradies (Collective of Irradiated that engages itself in resistance against the political and industrial lobby of nuclear power, civil or military).

The additional importance of protest from the French civil society is the critiquing of the foreign collaborator Areva SA, headquartered in France . The dressing-down of the host Indian government for exempting the Areva from nuclear liability in the event of any accident in anyone of six European Pressurised reactors of 1650 MWs each is humiliating for the PM. "The Fukushima accident has shown that building multiple reactors at one site is even more dangerous. Emergency at any one reactor leads to disruption-of safety and restoration work at other reactors as well. The EPR is being opposed in Flamanville in France, it has run into more than double time and cost over-runs in Finland and the European safety agencies have raised serious objections regarding its design. Even the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has delayed safety certification to the EPR. In these circumstances, constructing 6 EPRs in Jaitapur would be tantamount to an inhuman experiment using poor people of India as guinea pigs", the NGOs warned New Delhi.

However, despite the public condemnation of the 'attitude of Areva' for keeping corporate interests above 'the fundamental and inalienable rights of Indian people', it will be naive to anticipate that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or the federal government would give second thoughts to the matter. The nuclear establishment, backed by as a powerful and dominant section of nuclear scientists and experts, prevails over the PMO. And interests of these foot soldiers are globally taken care of Little wonder, for examoke, Dr Shreyans Kumar Jain, ex-chairman and managing director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited has recently become the chairman, World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Tokyo centre. He played a crucial role in setting up the India's first pressurized heavy water plant at Rajasthan, where the tritium leak causing radiation sickness in 38 workers took place.

Predictably, Mr Clean, India's economist PM, is more committed to alien interests than to the well-being of subalterns who are living under a protracted nightmare in and around Jaitapur.

Vol. 45, No. 3, July 29-August 4, 2012