‘There should be moratorium on further nuclear activity pending review'

Even as there seemed to be no signs of the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant coming to an end, a group of more than 50 eminent persons from different walks of life here have called for a total review of the Centre's nuclear policy.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the concerned citizens said, “India must have a radical review of the nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, costs and public acceptance.”

They also urged for an independent, transparent safety audit of all nuclear facilities in the country, with the involvement of civil society organisations and experts outside of the Department of Atomic Energy. “Pending the review, there should be a moratorium on all further nuclear activity and revocation of recent clearances for nuclear projects,” they said.

Describing the crisis in Japan as a “wake-up call” for India, the signatories criticised the Government for having adopted a “cavalier” attitude.

Noting that the country had embarked on a major nuclear expansion programme, they rued that “instead of acknowledging the gravity of the crisis, our Department of Atomic Energy has cavalierly minimised it, described it as a purely chemical reaction and declared that Indian reactors cannot undergo serious accidents.” The crisis showed, the said, that even in an industrially advanced country, nuclear reactors were vulnerable to catastrophes, in spite of precautions and safety measures. Recalling the sequence of events that led to the crisis at the Fukushima plant, they said it only showed that small incidents in nuclear plants could spiral into serious mishaps: “The earthquake cut off the primary power supply to the reactors. The backup power failed with the tsunami. Loss of cooling water precipitated the crisis.”

The signatories include former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chief of Naval Staff L. Ramdas, scientists P.M. Bhargava, M.K. Pal, Meher Engineer, Sanjay K. Biswas, M.V. Ramana, and Satyajit Rath, former Planning Commission member S.P. Shukla, former Power Secretary, E.A.S. Sharma, former Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University Deepak Nayyar, former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nirupam Sen, historians Romila Thapar, K.N. Panikkar, Sumit Sarkar, Mushirul Hasan and Ramachandra Guha, economists Amit Bhaduri and Jean Drèze, social critic Ashis Nandy, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, writers Arundhati Roy and Nayantara Sahgal, painters Krishen Khanna, Gulam Shaikh, S.G. Vasudev and Vivan Sundaram, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, and many other social scientists, scholars and activists, including Aruna Roy.

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