Describing the nuclear crisis in Japan as a wake-up call to India, which has launched a huge expansion programme based on the deal with the United States and other countries, the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) has called for a transparent public safety audit of all nuclear facilities, involving not only government personnel but also members of civil society and independent experts.
India must radically review its nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, cost and public acceptance, based on a holistic view of the country's energy needs and best ways of sustainably meeting them. There should be a moratorium on further civilian nuclear activity. The Ministry of Environment and Forests must revoke all conditional clearances granted for nuclear projects, including Jaitapur and other reactors, says a CNDP statement issued here on Monday.
In Japan, three Fukushima Daiichi reactors have suffered a loss-of-coolant accident and may yet undergo a partial or complete core meltdown with catastrophic consequences. There have been radioactive releases of unspecified quantities from the reactors. Radioactivity from Fukushima has been detected 100 km away, says the CNDP.
There is clinching evidence of reactor core/fuel damage in Reactor 1, which suffered two explosions, while Reactor 3 suffered one explosion. The situation is not yet under control despite desperate measures like pumping seawater into the reactors. There are fears that spent fuel rods stored in the Reactor 1 building, in keeping with the General Electric design, may pose a grave hazard because of the flooding of the site following the March 11 quake-tsunami. These rods contain large quantities of high level radioactive waste, according to the statement.
Small individual incidents at nuclear plants can combine to cause a serious accident. In Fukushima, the earthquake cut off primary power supply to the reactors. The reactors had backup power supply, but this too was damaged. The loss of cooling power led to the explosions.
Japan is a technologically advanced country and its reactors are designed to withstand quakes and tsunamis. But the Fukushima crisis shows that all nuclear reactors are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents irrespective of safety measures, says the CNDP.
India is planning the world's largest nuclear complex on the Konkan coast in Jaitapur and several other “nuclear power parks” along the coast and inland. However, the country does not even have an independent regulatory authority that can evaluate and certify reactor designs and set its own safety regulations and standards. Under the circumstances, further nuclear expansion is highly irrational, says the CNDP.