Opinion » Lead

Updated: September 19, 2012 14:14 IST

Where the mind is full of fear

    Suvrat Raju
    M. V. Ramana
Comment (84)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Villagers living around Kudankulam are justifiably scared as empirical data suggest a far higher probability of accidents than claimed by the nuclear establishment

Contempt for democracy is as old as democracy itself. The British liberal, John Locke, wrote in 1695 that for “day-labourers and tradesmen, the spinsters and dairy-maids ... hearing plain commands, is the sure and only course to bring them to obedience and practice. The greatest part cannot know, and therefore they must believe.” The Indian ruling classes have evidently taken these medieval ideas to heart. They are simply unable to acknowledge, anywhere in India, that farmers and working-class people may have a valid and independent perspective on infrastructural projects that must be respected.

The strife in Kudankulam illustrates this attitude. When peaceful rallies against the plant started in 1988, immediately after the project was mooted, the police responded with live ammunition. At the public hearing for the environmental impact assessment of the proposed units 3 to 6, the project met with overwhelming opposition; the government simply ignored this. Last year, when the commissioning of the first reactor became imminent, a large body of people shifted from sporadic expressions of opposition to active but non-violent resistance. The Jayalalithaa government stalled for a while but soon — possibly after striking a political deal with the Manmohan Singh government — rolled ahead with the project. The recent incidents of state repression — in which one person was killed in police firing and paramilitary forces were seen literally driving villagers into the sea — form the latest addition to this pattern.

‘Foreign hand’

Government officials apparently subscribe to the axiom that they understand the interests of the local people better than the people themselves. This is why they tie themselves into bizarre knots, when faced with genuine dissent. For example, earlier this year, the Prime Minister’s Office started insisting that a “foreign hand” was guiding the protests. In an incident straight out of an Orwell novel, the police captured and deported a cash-strapped German backpacker who had almost no relation to the movement. Since the removal of this “mastermind” from the scene has regrettably not had the desired effects, the Home Minister has again started to see visions of “foreign nationals” near the Kudankulam plant.

Lower-level officials seem to be no different. As the Superintendent of Police, Tirunelveli, said succinctly: “the villagers are good. They are being instigated.” This point of view is echoed by pundits who are concerned that the “educated” leadership might get the presumably “uneducated” villagers to act against their “own best interests.” What the Union Ministers, the police and the pundits have in common is a profound contempt for the rights and abilities of ordinary people to control their lives, combined with an ignorance of the actual dynamics of the movement.

All available information suggests that the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) largely comprises the local villagers and fisherfolk. If these people had been as “gullible” as the government claims, its large-scale propaganda campaign emphasising the benign nature of the plant would have succeeded.

The locals are not being irrational. To the contrary, it is the top echelons of our technocracy which have persisted in making scientifically untenable statements. For example, the previous Chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission stated that the chance of a nuclear accident in India was “one in infinity”! It is easy for people, even without specialised knowledge, to weigh this against the patent evidence from Fukushima offered by TV screens around the world — that nuclear reactors can and do explode on occasion — and decide not to trust the assertions of “experts”.

More quantitative comparisons do not change the broad picture. By means of a process known as probabilistic risk assessment, the nuclear industry routinely trots out precise-looking figures, claiming that the probability of a severe accident is very low. However, empirical data from the past decades of nuclear plant operation sharply contradict these claims and suggest a far higher probability of accidents. This obvious dichotomy has engendered public distrust, and nuclear technocrats have only themselves to blame for this.

It is unclear whether the industry itself believes its safety claims. The manufacturer of the Kudankulam plant, Atomstroyexport, is protected by an intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia, which completely absolves it of any responsibility in the event of a disaster. This agreement is probably inconsistent with India’s domestic laws and judgments of the Supreme Court.

The government has refused to release the text of the agreement despite a Right to Information request, a court petition, and even a parliamentary question, leading to the suspicion that it contains clauses that are even more egregious than commonly suspected.

The government points out that India has never suffered a catastrophic accident. However, India’s total operating experience of about 350 reactor years — a tiny fraction of the world total of about 15,000 reactor years — is too low to allow a valid extrapolation into the future.

If anything, the risk of a nuclear accident in India is likely to be higher than elsewhere because of weaknesses in the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). As the Comptroller and Auditor General pointed out in its recent scathing report, the AERB remains “subordinate to the Central Government,” which also operates all nuclear plants in India. The CAG report also stated that the AERB had failed to develop a mechanism to ensure regulatory compliance or oversee the procedures for radiological emergencies.

On Kudankulam, the AERB is unwilling to take its own reports seriously. After Fukushima, an AERB committee recommended that reactors must have sufficient power back-up and freshwater supply for emergency cooling of the reactor and spent fuel pools; the use of seawater for this purpose can corrode a reactor. Instead of ensuring this, the AERB has simply accepted the government’s promise that it will construct a water tank, and provide a mobile diesel generator sometime in the future. The locals have no way of holding the government to account on this assurance.

The fisherfolk near Kudankulam are also worried that the routine operation of the nuclear plant will adversely affect their livelihood. Rather than engaging with these concerns constructively, which it could easily have done, the government has simply dismissed them with more expert opinions.

Impact on health

There have been a few independent epidemiological studies of the health of people living in the vicinity of nuclear facilities. One study compared the health status of the inhabitants of five villages within 10 km of the Rajasthan atomic power station and four other villages more than 50 km away. It observed statistically significant increases in several indices including the rates of congenital deformities, spontaneous abortions, still births, and solid tumours in the villages closer to the reactor.

This survey does not reveal the precise cause of these differences but, in the absence of any other plausible factor, indicates that it is the nuclear plant that is responsible in some way.

The Kudankulam-1 plant will augment Tamil Nadu’s total installed capacity by about 5 per cent. The question is whether this benefit justifies the risks and costs associated with the plant. For an individual or corporation based in Chennai, the risks may be small enough to be outweighed even by marginal benefits. But the people who are being asked to bear the brunt of the risk and the inconvenience caused by the plant — the locals near Kudankulam — will benefit only minimally.

The government could determine how the locals balance these factors through a meaningful dialogue with the PMANE or direct public consultations. Instead it wants to force them to trust the decisions of its officials and experts. This brings us to the central issue at stake in Kudankulam: is the course of development in India to be charted only by technocrats guided by corporate and upper-class priorities or will India move towards a true democracy where people have control of their own resources and environment?

(The authors are physicists with the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (Bangalore) and Princeton University respectively. Ramana is also the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, forthcoming from Penguin India. The views expressed are personal.)

More In: Lead | Opinion

The opinion piece of the scientists Raju and Ramana are not based on any verifiable
scientific facts. It is unfortunate that the two scientists are peddling untruths about nuclear
energy. They should note that no one person is killed in Fukushima accident. In the last 30+
years, no nuclear accident happened in India. Compare this to the fact that at least 50
people are killed and 500 are injured on average every year in India in train accidents alone.
Do these scientists also advocate stopping of Indian Railways?

from:  Govind
Posted on: Sep 21, 2012 at 17:27 IST

Some food for thought:
1)It’s wrong to insinuate that the people of Kudankulam are brainwashed by a few individuals funded by foreign organizations. No one has offered a shred of proof, and this kind of innuendo amounts to tarnishing the public image of individuals working for a cause.
2)Official statement on Fukushima mentions that two workers died on the spot. But reports from hospitals indicated more casualties of civilians, 14 in one case and 45 in another.
3)After Fukushima the global trend is against nuclear power. Ms Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany declared, "We have seen the risks in a highly developed industrial country, risks which we considered impossible. It convinced me that we had to speed up the nuclear phase out."
4)Several other countries such as Australia, Spain and Switzerland remain opposed to nuclear power.
5) In France recent opinion polls have gone against the use of atomic energy for its power needs.
6)The future lies in renewable sources of energy.

from:  N.S.Havanur
Posted on: Sep 21, 2012 at 09:33 IST

Anil Kumar, for your information, , radiation is a slow killer

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Sep 21, 2012 at 03:02 IST


Abdul Kalam may have many skills, but he certainly is not a " nuclear scientist of international fame". His only qualification is - DMIT in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.

from:  raghu
Posted on: Sep 21, 2012 at 01:13 IST

Instead of relying on literary rhetoric, the authors should give a
point by point rebuttal.
And please, saying that "The authors are physicists" with whatever
institute is not enough. Are they nuclear physicists ? Mr Suvrat Raju
is definitely not. He is a string theorist (as far away from the
regime of nuclear physics as you could possibly imagine).
Mr Ramana does have nuclear physics experience, but I really doubt if
he has enough field experience as the physicists of BARC and DAE who
have given their lives to research in nuclear energy.

from:  K Kumar
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 21:39 IST

This article hardly brings into light the real reason of concern,which is the adherence to the safety precautions prescribed by the IAEA.Nuclear energy is by far the most safest and sustainable source for power generation,which is required to meet the growing need of our country,considering that other means to do so can't be sustained for long.The incidents and facts mentioned by the author fail to support his arguments.Yes,Russia has not accepted the liability of any unfortunate incident happening in future,but isn't that happens all the time when you go for a medical treatment,doctors too do the same thing,but that doosn't stop us from getting the treatment.

Nothing can stand against the fury of mother nature,only thing we can do is to prepare ourself, so as to minimise the impact.Even after what happened at fukushima,the safety precautions in place were being able to check the impact...!!

from:  Avinash Rai
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 21:14 IST

Excellent article.

If the reactors are as safe as the Government claims it to be, then why not have a reactor next to the Parliament or in cities, like Chennai?

from:  Shahid Khan
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 20:01 IST

If you are afraid of nuclear power plant then stop using even the flights, trains, buses and everything as even these have caused the human deaths, pollutions and harms at many levels. Else, rather than opposing the power plant, go for a constructive agitation i.e. rehabilitate, if you are afraid of it and in parallel demand for the cost incurred in rehabilitation.

from:  Sourabh
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 19:23 IST

while quoting examples form france and japan, don't these people realise that those are developed countries with systems in place. whereas in india, if something happens, the first ones to run are the babus with their fat bellies. pls don't compare india with france/japan. think of bhopal for once!

from:  sajinder
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 18:30 IST

@Vishnu, for your kind information, not a singe person was killed in
FUKUSHIMA incident.

from:  Anil kumar
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 16:52 IST

At the heart of the debate is the argument that some pigs are more
equal than others.
Why did an educated discussion take place by including the locals when
the plan for the power plant was first put up? Probably because the
villagers are poor and illiterate and they wouldn't understand the
complexities of energy demand and nuclear power anyway. Discussion is
only necessary when the affected are well connected and educated right?
I do not disagree that India needs more power, but the government needs
to treat people, even villagers, as human beings with lives and
families. With 1,20,000 people dying on Indian roads, up from 40,000 in
1999, please don't make the argument that we are a safety conscious
society and the government knows what its doing.

from:  Rahul Garg
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 15:46 IST

What a preposterous and gross misquotation of John Locke ! John Locke is
considered to be an enlightenment scholar and the architect of modern
democracy. The authors misquoute him and portray him as an medieval
thinker, what an insult to a man who influenced American and French
revolutions. And people here claim this to be an excellent article.

from:  ArunKumar
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 13:40 IST

Extremely well written. Being a scientist myself, I know of the immense possibilities and benefits India can avail from other 'alternative'
energy sources. The Government's persistence with this project in spite
of prolonged protests makes it clear that vested interests are many!!

from:  Mahesh
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 13:39 IST

Going nuclear is a bullet that people have to bite,although there are very less instance of mishap in nuclear power generation,yet for the betterment of people,nuclear energy is must.

from:  Sourabh Neema
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 12:52 IST

Good to see Physics scholars expressing humane views.
I request Hindu to publish articles on Nuclear liability act and also the agreements of India with Russia on nuclear reactors ( not sure if the second part is public ) . This will increase the awareness about the safety issues associated with Nuclear energy and people will get the right perspective.

from:  Rajlakshmi
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 11:56 IST

Can the author give a single example where nuclear reactor exploded. In Fukushima, the explosions were because of hydrogen. The author is trying to equate it with the explosions of a nuclear weapon which is nothing but ignorance in his part. As regards to safety, all the data suggests that coal based plants causes more deaths (both direct and indirect) than nuclear plants. As regards to the right of an independent perspective to the masses, author must remember that ignorance and lack of education coupled with the lies being circulated by green-peace makes their perspective irrational and respecting them will cause more harm to them and society.

from:  Susanskrit
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 11:44 IST

@Mukundagiri Sadagopan, I'd like to correct your above comment, Please note Mr.
Kalam is an aeronautical engineer who passed out of an technical school in Chennai
(then Madras) in aeronautical engineering. He then applied for study in the Indian
Institute of Sciences for Study but was refused admission as he did not have the
basic science requirements to do so. He then opted for missile building which is also
about take off and landing and worked on some missiles, many of which did not
amount to much. Now to portray an aeronautical engineer and brainwash the citizens
countrywide by saying, he, Kalam is India's top nuclear scientist shows how the rest
of your comment is based on NOTHING ELSE BUT LIES. If you continue portraying
Kalam as a top nuclear scientist you and the nuclear industry will be liable for a
Court case for duping the public with your irresponsible attitude towards an
outdated, unwanted, economy debilitating nuclear power when far better systems are
now available

from:  angela alvares
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 11:37 IST

Does that mean all nuclear plants be shut down.. we all kno the importance of nuclear power/energy.... this issue is getting too much footage only coz Tamils are involved who think they are special , special enough to disowe the national language...

from:  Pras
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 11:08 IST

It seems the author is trying to mislead the people living around KKNPP by providing facts based on theories. Why was this stance of a mute spectator for all these years and suddenly this speculation? When India has nuclear war heads and by recently a submarine of its own expertise, is the author trying to back vested interests, who are anti national?

Does the author has any alternative sources or proved methods to replace the nuclear power generation. The KKNPP has took nearly two decades to become a operational one. The safety standards announced by AERB will take another 6-12 months at KKNPP to be in place. The example India has is Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Plant for 4 decades now. Author should stop spreading paranoia among people. Udayakumar is misleading the community which is a majority of the population in coastal villages around KKNPP. The church seems to be actively supporting this treachery against India. What a shame.

from:  Syed Kabeer Ahmed
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 09:47 IST

What the authors of the article mean by " the villagers are scared"? What these people were doing all these years? It is really strange that media both print and electronic are not properly projecting the truth about the Nuclear Plant. In Japan there was no loss of life due the nuclear reactor effect. It was due the after effects of earthquake which even in Japanese standard was very high magnitude. It is quiet unfortunate that people of all strata are competing with each other to take the country BACKWARD!!!!!!!!!

from:  G.V.Venugopal
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 07:18 IST

There is always another point of view on every issue and sometimes not reconciliable. On nuclear energy, unfortunately, there is no global consensus. Countries like France depend on nuclear energy to a great extent.
However, the question I would like to ask of myself is "would I be willing to live in the vicinity of a nuclear plant?" or is this a question that villagers are not expected to ask? All those in favour should seek a true answer to this question.

from:  varadarajan raman
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 07:17 IST

"For an individual or corporation based in Chennai, the risks may be
small enough to be outweighed even by marginal benefits.." Really !
are these guys from India? Do they have any idea of the goegraphy of
India? Where on earth do they think Kalpakkam is ? in Moon? Sad? The
issue is not nuke plants. It is about making money by the NGOs; give
a Plant or two to US / Germany and one will find the fdi flows into
NGOS stop.

from:  RGKrishnan
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 07:08 IST

Thanks to writer, well written & reflecting truths well, we should utilize & expertise our facilities and encourage it, unnecessary begging again & again foreign for fuels & collapsing day by day our nation.
why we need this white elephant nuclear technology, where can give only 3% need for around 30 years with 1/2 to 3/4 of total productivity. it leads into severe hazardous to the people & earth that are for thousands of years.
why our government always trying to open the technologies where all countries are closing from their bad experiences. why dont we boost the renewable energies by non-conventional basis can save T&D loss.
Germany producing energy from renewable among 50%from solar. where Germany comes in Zone II, but india under Zone IV(Climate). moreover the intense light in zone IV is surplus.. 1week of light in an asian country is equal to total light in a year in a country in Europe.
think about it. India have huge free fuel from nature which is reliable & renewable.

from:  T.Rajasekaran
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 07:00 IST

A balanced editorial. I would like to add one point that even in scientific community there is a strong debate about pros and cons about nuclear power. The planned elimination of nuclear power in Germany, Italy and Japan are not just people driven - a lot of professors, scientists have been instrumental in creating awareness among people about various downsides of nuclear power.

from:  Amit Thakur
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 06:47 IST

Finally, The Hindu has decided to speak the Truth. Govt of India has to step up, take the villagers into confidence and isntall all the saftey features and work with villagers in rehabilitaing them. It should be a win win for all and the country rather than inciting fear among the villagers.

from:  Tony
Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 00:50 IST

Why are we belittling the scientific and technocrat community of India, built painstakingly
over the decades by eminent pioneers like Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and succeeding
crop of qualified specialists of international repute who also have the nation's interests at
heart? It is agreed that the bureaucrats and their political bosses have vitiated the
independence and academic freedom that these experts need to pursue their dreams,
through their ham handed interference and this needs to be addressed. Instead the authors
seem to trash the hard work and expertise that went into the construction and operation of
the reactors functioning today. No one can convince the locals about the safety aspects
when their leaders refuse to let them be educated but persist in their scaremongering
through anecdotes rather than facts. I am saddened that the eminent authors also fall into
this extreme position instead of a balanced view and suggesting concrete steps to enhance

Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 at 00:15 IST

Indeed the article is thoughtful from the perspective of the people who are going to living in the vicinity of the plant. Couple of days ago I read one article in The Hindu itself about the need of the KudanKulam plant and the need of atomic energy in India. That article pretty much articulated the need of the power as a country and why is it the best solution available in India now, in the times of power-crisis. This article open up the eyes but doesn't give proper justification to the engendered opinion of the villagers. People might be misguided by some elite people but surety should be made that each and every fine details of the security of plant. The villagers seem to have taken the threat factor above their conscience. The ways should be explored to convince the local bodies not by force but through their conscience.

from:  Dev
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 22:06 IST

Yes , it is the complete responsibility of the government to allay the
fears of the nearby villages regarding the establishment of the nuclear
plant by educating the need of energy plant , explaining how it will or
willn't effect their health , livehood and local life cycle and by
making the safety standards agreed and will be taken ratified in
agreement available to public . Till that time every citizen has right
to oppose the plant.

from:  chaitanya
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:59 IST

Fukushima did not survive the earthquake. There was a meltdown at the reactor and people have died. Japan recently decided to do away with nuclear reactors in their country within the next 40 years. The common man's fears are justifiable, with India experiencing numerous earthquakes in the last ten years (major one in Gujarat). But, no one will deny that we need nuclear power to meet our energy demands. We need a transparent government who is not afraid to engage in dialogue to allay the fears of the skeptics, not one that resorts to bullying and subjugation (which seems to be the norm nowadays). Treating people like mindless drones will not help take this country forward.
It was an excellent article informing us about the facts in the case against government transparency. At the same time the authors do not dismiss the importance of nuclear power but rather conclude on the necessity of meaningful dialogue and public consultations-something that is non-existent in this country.

from:  Vishnu
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:44 IST

It is not that the plant will be remote controlled from some ac office
in Chennai or Delhi. All the operating staff and the supporting
personnel will be living in quarters closeby to the plant. Perhaps, the
anti-plant experts will say that the staff have bartered their lives for
a few thousand rupees.

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:38 IST

The article points out that Author doesn't have much knowledge about
the safety aspects of KKNPP as well as what happened at Fukushima. And
more over Indian nuclear reactors are very safe and most of the
nuclear reactors in India uses Canadian Pressurized Heavy Water
Reactor Technology, which is doubly safe. I can challenge the Author
to prove the comparative risks associated with CANDU reactor unlike
other reactors which are Boiloing Water Reactors or Pressurized Water
Reactors. Hence Atomic Energy Commission is very much justified in
making such as statement. And as far as Liability is considered, when
India [N.P.C.I.L] has the brunt of responsibility to operate its
Nuclear Power Plants for strategic reasons and proliferation risks,
how can someone else be held responsible for manual errors, which
itself is the rarest possibility, that could be committed by a
N.P.C.I.L officer? Can anyone counter my point?........Yes I am
working with Atomic Energy Department.

from:  Sriram Padmanabhan
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:29 IST

view expressed here seems biased and reflect narrow mindedness. writer rightly said that india only 350 reacter years of experience compared to 15000 of world total. Bur writer here forgot to quote that there is World Association of Nuclear Operator(WANO) , a stage where operators share there operating experiance and hence reduces any risks(if there is any)
Writer here quoted that there is increased incidents of health problems but himself concluded that there is no any evidence to blame nuclear power plant. here he forgot to quote that people near plant have better infrastructure like hospital schools and employability.

reacters of india have five layers of radiation containment that eliminates the risks of radiation leakage even in case of severest accident
People near plant will get one percent of plant profit in the form of many welfare works that is not minimal


from:  abhay kant
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:25 IST

Action and Reactions are Equal and opposite this is third law and logic too. Here "conversion of nuclear energy into electrical energy" is the action and reaction nobody knows the ways of nature eventhough safety is the prime factor assured in all angles and the law also holds good science brings enjoyment for a long time but there is a subtle difference between science and silence and it is time we have to think of uncertainity principle here too.The author has detailed the facts and fiction is only a fraction.

from:  Rajasekaran.S
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 21:17 IST

There have been numerous assurances, communications press conferences, communiqués, scientific and engineering presentations, and conferences at various levels, explaining the safety aspects of the plant. These have come from not just from the power plant, but also from the state and central government authorities and independent experts and respected public figures. Even the ex-President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam, who is a nuclear scientist of international fame, has opined that the plant is and will be safe. It appears the Government has done its part, albeit not with complete success, in providing the information to the public. If every community resists putting up a power plant, a chemical factory, a blast furnace or a slaughter house in its vicinity, how is the Nation to get its increasing needs met? Yes, I want the power, but make it at someone else’s back yard and deliver it to me on a platter– that attitude does not help.

Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 20:05 IST

May I agree with the article? Probably not. The writer has given some hypothetical idea abou what may happen. Taking the example of nuclear power plant of Rajasthan he is not confirmed with the survey and auther fails to show any data regarding hazardness of nuclear power plants. Even France with its almost 70% of total electrical energy from the nuclear power plants does not seem on the risk. If there are accidents you may not take them as what is going to be happen with everyone.
Finally if anyone have better idea to tackle the requirement of energy need one must come with the idea not with the problems that are already making trouble to the country.

Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 19:57 IST

The most worrying part of the whole episode is that the elected
representatives of the people, right from the MLAs and MPs of the region
and their leaders, namely, the CM of the state and the Prime Minister of
the country have not bothered to engage the local people in any
dialogue.They do not seem to care about them. After all, they may not
meet them till the next elections. That is the sorry state of our so
called democracy.

from:  Iyaswamy
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 19:25 IST

Good. Let us live in dark, than opting for nuclear energy. It does
not matter to our lives, whether power is there or not. Humans
lived without power for centuries. Let us live again like that.
None of the power options are costlier than, having no power at all
and living without power.

from:  Prabhakar Gundlapalli
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 18:55 IST

Findling an amicable solution could be of great help for the people of Kudankulam and the Government.

What if the Government considers to relocate all these people of Kudamkulam to a far distant place, allocating land for them to construct houses and permenant public transport for taking them to see for their livlihood of fishing? The land where these people live can be purchased by Govt and utilized for other related activities or another extention of the same plant.

This may add additional cost to the project but the Govt would be in a jusifyable position since the project in the completion stage.

I expect the Govt to initiate action in this way rather maintain this issue as a burning one for now and the decades to come.

from:  Clement Stephen
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 18:43 IST

Simple solution. Get all the experts, politicians and leaders who are supporting nuclear power plants to live in the nearby village and earn their living from fishing. Permanently. If the chance of a disaster is one in an infinity, then these eminences should have no problem in living under the shadow.

from:  P. Datta
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 18:23 IST

Of course PMANE is largely comprised of local folks. That is how you organize a protest, by inciting fear, regionalism, communalism etc. But the question is who is inciting this? Why is providing the funds for such large protests, making the T-Shirts,providing food, printing the posters? That is where the foreign hand comes into picture.

The Church (I am not referring to Christians in general) has a history of collusion with foreign forces and they don't hesitate to work against Indian interests. They are proving it again by getting funds and inciting this needless protests. People have been living near Kalpakkam and other reactors for decades. They are all going about their daily life.

Kalpakkam withstood the Tsunami, even though it was built well over 3 decades back. No one talks about it because it is inconvenient for them. PMANE is funded by foreign forces who doesn't want India to grow. We have to defeat them soundly and throw them out of the country! Jai Hind!

from:  srini
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 18:10 IST

Firstly, protests should be made to file your opposition to any policy
of the government, which is democratically elected. This episode of
Kudankulam is a perfect example of a situation wherein a minority
holds the majority for ransom and restricts its development. Having
said that, rights of minority are very important and keeping them
abreast about the advantages and disadvantages of any project
involving them is the democratically most prudent function of a
government. In this case, the government has failed to disseminate the
"Right" information and develop a consensus. The lack of transparency
with respect to RTI, court petition et al. is highly censurable. Yet,
I would like to pose a question to the leaders of "People's" protests
"If government has fumbled with its decision making in the past and
there is distrust among the people, how will this trust deficit be

from:  Harhvardhan Hemant Samvatsar
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 17:39 IST

This country needs basic tools of democracy like Referendum, Initiative
etc. or so called Junta will keep on dancing on instructions of
government, no matter, which party rules.

from:  dalchand agrawal
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 17:03 IST

As a reader we deserve more articles from both sides unlike other tabloid papers in the country. India can grow and sustain only with inclusive growth. We cannot raise high-rise buildings and sit on A/C room and leave the poor villagers to handle and face the brunt of the hazardous wastes.

from:  JoeG
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 17:02 IST

The authors are Physicists and hence expected to counter the views of technocrats and officials, if they desire so, through facts and figures and not merely by generic statements. If their view that figures in Probabilistic risk assessment is distorted from empirical data is to be accepted then it should be adequately supported with statistical details and numbers. To reject the plant based on comparison with other nuclear plants and accidents is easy but the tough task is to sail it thro and ensure its safety. Infosys Chairman Narayanamurthy's saying "Plausible impossibility is better than a convincing Possibility" is very much relevant and can swing the plants commissioning and operation.

from:  S Raghavan
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 16:12 IST

Very good article. Transparency and Govt trust deficit is the reason for
everything happening in India. Govt still not answering who will be
liable in case any accident. how much compensation will be given. No one
is ready to believe govt after what happen in Bhopal gas tragedy, after
15 to 20 years they got 10 L compensation. what they can do with 10 L
after 15 to 20 Yrs. Poor people cannot be taken for granted.

from:  Hariharan
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 14:32 IST

In a democracy, the people's voice must be heard,and must provide a feasible solution to their concerns.
Concerns relating to safety is of prime concern, it must provide agency certifications regarding safety standards that have been followed on the plant, and take the people into confidence.
Nuclear power is of utmost importance for future of our country , so it can't be rejected in one go.
The Author should have given a perspective regarding what approach could be taken to pacify the people's agitation, rather than going all out against the Nuclear Plant.

from:  TIJO
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 14:14 IST

Since 1988, the area around Kundakulam has been 'strife ridden' though started as a silent protest to its present chaos. The concern is whether the Nuclear power Plant is beneficial for locals, when critics say it adds 5% to the state installed capacity. The issue is not for capacity addition but a bigger one whether we should Go! Nuclear! or not. The global climate change on one hand directs towards clean source of energy but on the other land safety issues towards going nuclear. The deadlock is unsolved in present scenario when burgeoning energy needs contradict the facet Not to be nuclear. At global scale the story is something different examples are Germany, France and Japan itself, towards denuclearization . The issues of people at Kunkakulam through PMANE is reasonable but the goverment means and modes to tackle situation and infuse confidence is not up to the mark.

from:  Rishi Tandon
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 14:03 IST

A well written article which only measures the risk qualitatively. A little more insight into the actual numbers than qualitative analysis would make the authors point much more appealing. If kudamkulam people believe that the plant is not safe and don't want them. They have every right to protest against them. It's the government's responsiblity to make the people understand how safe the plant is. Instead of doing it, the government seems to be handling the issue with tyrant attitude. I'm no nuclear expert, but from what little i know, i'm sure that in india, safety and human life is not valued and least of the concern.which i don't need to explain why(pretty much everybody know that). That too, when it comes to poor people's life, nobody gives a damn. If the government wants to convince me that safety is their primary concern and they do care about poor people's life. Let them present the clear data on safety measures and the indo-russiam agreement to the indian people.

from:  sundar
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:58 IST

Can the authors cite statistics of health related issues suffer by people living near nuclear
plants? And compare them against coal mines, thermal power, or steel plants or copper
smelters. The engineering controls and redundancies built around nuclear make it one of the

Fukushima was a unique combination of one the severest earthquakes ever - note Japan
has multiple earthquakes a year - the worst tsunami ever - Japan is tsunami country - and an
engineering folly of keeping back up generator and pumping systems at the basement just
waiting to be flooded out. Yet the accident was handled and managed, it was a contained
failure. These contingencies have been thought through in kudankulam and across
installations in the world. kalpakkam included.

The problem is that we are talking from entrenched positions. And we will keep arguing but
I hope data will speak for itself.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:53 IST

Will the protesters of Kudankulam project deny the electricity produced from there once the plant is operational?

from:  santhsoh
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:47 IST

Author may also have to accept that "excessive democracy" is the rootcause for all the sufferings and state of affairs in India.
Both Public accountability and self discipline/ethics/humanitarianism celebrated centenary celebrations in rem long back and hence the results we see. Even the supreme courts act as mere observation making bodies on follies which is evidenced even by the reaction of AERB. The courts should move beyond and look to penalising government / its agencies stripping them naked, so that fear of consequences remain in erring minds

from:  Krish
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:40 IST

To comments above that Fukushima reactors are still standing, please, those
reactors are today a MANGLED MESS OF RADIO ACTIVE STEEL that all the Kings
Horses and all the King's men will NEVER be able to put back together again. Please
be serious. Nuclear reactors are not toys, they can destroy a whole country's
economy as they did Japan's. Let's deal with specifics. Even if there is back up water
supply and the Tsunami does not reach Japan Tsunami levels and even if the diesel
generators were up in the sky, it does not solve the problem. In Fukushima the water
pumps, which have to be placed by the waterside near the ocean to pump the water
WERE DAMAGED by the Tsunami, and this has been clearly stated by Arnie
Gundersen in his video "Fukushima Consider ThIs! Arnie Gundersen." When the
pumps are damaged the diesel generators cannot pump the water and this causes
the loss of the Ultimate Heat Sink which leads to the inevitable meltdown. One does
not need much science to understand this!

from:  angela alvares
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:25 IST

75 percentage of power is generated in France through nuclear. The newly elected President Hollande has promised to reduce it to 50% in the coming years. But still he doesnt want to rule out nuclear power production as the gap between energy demand and supply cannot be bridged without significant damage to economy and development.
I hope we havent forgotten the recent black out in Delhi and surrounding areas because states were drawing more power from the Grids. The present government went ahead the plan for nuclear power production as we have resource constraints in India to generate electricity. When there is a demand for essential services like water, electricity etc the Government is normally responsible to provide it. Therefore I do not see this nuclear plant as an elistist approach to development. Those who say so are distancing themselves from reality.
Now that the plant is ready, every delay to start it is millions of rupees lost.

from:  Thomas Varghese
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 13:20 IST

To say the least, the authors highlight the woeful handling of public
relations by the Indian government. What we do not understand as of
yet is that the government is there to make policy decisions and
supervise the bureaucracy which are the executive officers. Here the
government and bureaucracy step over each others toes. Expert opinions
cannot be ignored, but shady deals cannot be tolerated. After the
Bhopal gas tragedy, giving a clean chit to a manufacturer of such a
critical piece of equipment is unforgivable.

Fukushima survived, yes, but it shook the very faith that humanity
placed in nuclear installations. European nations have taken this
seriously, and as we speak, legislation is being implemented to shut
down some plants and a stricter safety noose is laid around those left

How much of this is provided for in India? How independent are the
independent advisory and control committees? How much effort is being
spent in looking for less dangerous energy sources?

from:  Chinmay
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 12:56 IST

A very apt article. The govt. of the day have forced many decision in matters relating to nuclear energy and nuclear deal at large. No arguing that with growing demand India needs to have a wide mix of all sources of generation. But Govt. or rather, as pointed out correctly, the upper class and bureaucrats deciding on the basis of questionable and manipulated "opinions of experts" is criminal violation of democratic principles. The govt. should first free AERB from its grips, fulfill the necessary safeguards and then only push ahead.

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 12:56 IST

It is good to see a scientific article on the current nuclear debate
in the country published in the edit page of Hindu. Thanks for the
same. It is high time that consumers ( public) start discussing about
the nuclear issue as well as the issue of energy crisis. How much
energy do we need and how it can be produced. Once we become clear
about it through public participation, then solutions will emerge. In
any discussion about development, policy makers always tell that
population is growing and we have to produce more. But they never
tell you about reducing consumption so that materials can be shared
equally between people in a sustainable manner without harming the
environment. We must understand that we have only one earth. Not
development , but our survival is at stake.

from:  Usha Soolapani
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 12:48 IST

Excellent article..!!

from:  vijay
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 12:44 IST

Many such experts should come out and write the adversly effect in case of an accident in any Nucler facility. Let them educate these corrupted Nethas. Let them save India.

Experts in nucler field like Ramana should come out and speak. So that we can avoid a Bhopal like incidents.

Hope India is a Democratic country.


from:  Sreedharan
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 11:54 IST

despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's clear disclosure that American
NGO's are behind Russia aided nuclear plant the protesters are getting
wide favourable coverage in Indian media. The Union Home Minister Shinde
has also repeated the PM's disclosure. This looks very surprising.

from:  R. Pandya
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 11:31 IST

This appears an article more by a socialist (socialist is one who wants the society to be perennially backward so that the jholawalas and the netas can milk the aam admi for ever). If the issues of safety are not to be decided by the experts, does the author suggest that they be decided by PMANE? That would be stupid.

In a democracy, the public such as PMANE should have a chance to express their opinions/apprehensions. The Government must study them properly and arrive at decisions in the interest of the society. The public cannot demand that the experts give an opinion according to their whims. That is undemocratic.

from:  Arun Murthy
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 11:25 IST

The author is wrong to assert that the campaign by the government would have succeeded. The campaign against the power plant is headed by the church. The locals have a lot of belief in the church hierarchy. It is very difficult for an outsider to convince them otherwise. A kid will believe its mother and not some random stranger no matter how accurate the stranger is. Is it difficult for the author to understand this simple cause?

The bias in the Hindu is increasing by the day. You can have your biases. But be factual.

from:  Siva Bhaskaran
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 11:23 IST

Agreed that nuclear power plant has its advantages as well as disadvantages, but the
fact remains as to what are the other alternatives. We need to give equal respect to
the people of the region where the power plant is constructed and to the power
needs of corporations who are driving the economy. None can be allowed to flourish
at the peril of other. If safety requirements are met, what's the harm in constructing
a reliable source of energy ? After all, france gets 90% of its enery from Nuclear

from:  Suyash Kumar Tiwari
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 11:20 IST

People in the village Ghivli are living less than 2 KM from Tarapore Nuclear Power Plant's reactors since the 1960s. None live so close at Idithakarai. Let's be less emotional and biased and be more rational.

from:  Jacob
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 10:54 IST

Unless any agitation by people turns violent it fails to capture the due attention of government. There are many such social groups seething with discontent today, but they government is completely deaf to their demands just because they have been non violent and descent.
e.g i)The Anti Reservation movement,
ii) The Save Ganga campaign,
iii) Anti Cow Slaughter movement,
1v) and even the Lokpal movement of late.

We are sitting on bombs to explode. With government not taking any action or not even showing any attention, such social groups would feel alienated and may recourse to sporadic violene in future.

The colonial hangover must end. People have the rights to decide their lives. If their concerns arent noticed while they are peaceful, they would left with no option but to be disruptive of government's actions.

from:  Prashant Kaushik
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 10:47 IST

Risk of any activity is assessed by Severity factor & likelihood of events; Severity & likelihood is given equal importance. Severity of Nuclear Accidents were well understood by Humanity..Three Miles, Chernobil & Fukushimo (of course Hiroshima & Nagasaaki.) How Probabilistic figure one in Million Chance will be a balanced mind will accept? keeping away the Severity..which is unacceptable limit by all means.
Whether cost of the risk is included in the feasibilty study? Here Poor's Human value is nil to the power..This is the core issue.

from:  Sivakumar
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 10:35 IST

Brilliantly written. India is becoming an increasingly undemocratic
country. We want a life of comfort, but we don't want to pay the price
or take the responsibility. Why don't they set up a nuclear reactor near
Chennai? There is enough land. I wonder how the Chennai people with
their humongous electricity bills will like that.

from:  Arindom
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 10:19 IST

I would like to hear from experts like Mr. Ramana, how countries like France have a huge
portion of their energy needs being met by nuclear power. Is the concern that in a weakly
regulated country, nuclear reactors are risky business or is this the universal truth that
nuclear reactors are inheritently risky and France is living on the edge, waiting for the big
one? I understand it is unfair to expect the people of Kudangulam to take this risk for the
benefit of the high raise dwellers of Chennai. But seems to me mega watts of power is
waiting to be harnessed inside those atoms that are the easy solutions for India's energy
problems? I wish Mr. Ramana proposed a middle ground.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:59 IST

If people won't trust experts in the field, how exactly is the Govt.
supposed to convince them? This article is more about scaremongering
(dark hints about mysterious classes in Indo-Russian deal,
unsubstantiated inferences from unquoted surveys, imagined variations
from domestic law..). While I agree that people need to be told, I don't
see how they can be told more clearly than they are now.

from:  Gayathri
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:54 IST

Well! Democracy means decent dissent and not disoriented demonstration
derived by diabolical discourses. To say that all threats and fear
however remote should be discussed and efforts to allay the worries of
locals be made are fine to the point that locals are also ready to
listen to heed at all what the experts have to say. To outright reject
and denounce whatever experts opine on the the safety and security
measures at Kudankumlam sounds a bit immature. Can anybody-however
skilled and technically sound-claim hundred percent threat resistance
at any such plant? One would agree that government should not have
deliberately kept the details of the deals between Russian Company and
India a secret but at the same time one would also like to see the
protesters adopt some moderate measures. After all the future energy
demands could not be met with if we don't switch over to nuclear

from:  Ajeet Tiwari
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:49 IST

A very good article.
The author as beautifully highlighted the colonial hangover of so called elite class of India. Also, the inability of Indian politicians and top technocrats is quite visible in this article. Due to this political inability and colonial hangover ,India is lagging behind in every sphere. Whether it is sports, bureaucracy ,counter-terrorism or providing basic needs to its own people, forget about the self-respect. In Kudankulam, the foreign pressure is quite visible ,but not on local people but on the Indian government. How long we can survive like this, are we waiting for another Bhopal tragedy? I expect that , more eminent people will come up against this. To avoid another big accident and prevent the India being a "Dustbin" of technology.

from:  Narsingh
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:47 IST

Your points on the KNPP appears to forget one key fact. How many people
have died in Fukushima? - None The magnitude of the earthquake is
something which is not imaginable. If a reactor can survive that, then I
am sure Nuclear Energy is the way forward.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:12 IST

Since the authors are scientists, it would be proper if they give the references to the work that shows "statistically significant increases in several indices" and also comment on whether that research is believed and well-cited in the scientific community and if it appeared in a reputed journal.

The authors state that the villagers are "justifiably scared" based on "the patent evidence from Fukushima offered by TV screens around the world". Fukushima had to endure an earthquake of magnitude 8.3 and a horrific tsunami together. Can the villagers understand that it is amazing a man-made structure could remain standing after such a natural disaster?

The authors should probably offer the Government a solution or two instead of just raising rhetoric. What argument will convince villagers brainwashed by a few (partially funded or not funded by foreign organizations) carrying images of Fukushima? Which scientific evidence can stand against TV images?

from:  Swapna
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 09:04 IST

Bravo, Hindu, for opening up your oped page to views and commentaries from a wider section of analytical Indians. For years, it appeared that these pages were limited to a select few. By picking up many contemporary issues pertaining to a majority of Indians, that too poor Indians whose lives and livelihoods are at stake within these issues, you are making yourself relevant to the nation very firmly! thanks for the wider and deeper debates you are facilitating, Siddharth Varadarajan.....

from:  Kalpana
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 08:47 IST

We need more and more educated elite of the country who have a soul to speak up. The so-called experts who have been fattened on govt. (read public) funds and privileges do not have the credibility to command any respect in common man's thoughts. So they choose to thrust upon the people, using the govt. machinery, their pet projects. Fundamentally, the people of Kundankulam and all those who are against the project in the country, have a right to oppose this project. Govt. which we now strongly suspect has anti-national elements within them and corportate mercenaries taking decisions, cannot dictate to the people what is good or bad for them. If the plant is so safe and required why not set one up near Parliament House in Delhi and let them share the risk taken by the people.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 08:31 IST

I wonder:
1) If the common folk around the reactor can judge the risks or are gullible to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), which is a tactic used by NGOs, businesses and of course political parties.
2) If it is not cheaper (and sensible) to have a fresh water tank and power backup than allowing that to be a another nail with which activists hammer the Kundamkulam reactor coffin?
3) Why we do not have an independent AERB?

Finally, I do not see any article which is unbiased, offering detailed statistics so that the reader can themselves draw conclusions.

Best Regards

from:  Manoj
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 07:52 IST

The article by py pure scientitists smack knowledge on nuclear power production. It compares the Indian nuclear power plant operating experience to that in the world. Was there any accident anywhere in the world from operation of nuclear plants that claimed human lives. The survey on effects due to nearness are not reliable as comparissons are to be made between AREAS OF SIMILAR LIVING CONDITIONS AND LIVING HBABITS. In Chavara, Kerala people cried of genetic disorders due to the radiation from Monazite. When the right survey under the guidelines of WHO was conducted the rumours were proved false.Talking of rusting etc. in this modern world that provide materials than can resist it is only to add to the fear.Millions are killed in automobile accidents. Shall we ban all automobiles and start walking ?

from:  psnair
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 07:17 IST

I am a retired petty clerk and suffer for want of electricity nearly six
to seven hours in a day. The scientists who are pro and con to any
subject on this world and make our life more miserable. The KKNNP was
invested with several crores before so many years ago and at the time of
generation of electricity the protesters throng the plant which we
suspect is the handiwork of vested interests and absolutely not for the
villagers safety.

from:  chandrasekaran
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 07:13 IST

You are missing the point , revered author. Nobody thinks kudankulam's poor are stupid
and naive. Infact, it's just the opposite. Indian poor are very sensible and are always ready
to discuss and debate.

But strangely in this case their stubborn refusal to talk, participate and listen clearly shows
the hands of educated but ideologically inclined instigators creating a fear psychosis in their

from:  Swarna
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 06:52 IST

Safety as a concept is not in the genes of an Indian. Though most Indians know that, they
may not admit it. Look at the casual way the media sings the tunes of the government on
nuclear safety. Actually one cannot think of a more devastating accident than one which may
happen in an atomic reactor. One would have the media take at least a neutral stand on
nuclear safety rather than advocate the governments point of view. Let the experts debate
the issue.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 06:07 IST

Safety as a concept is not in the genes of an Indian. Though most Indians know that, they
may not admit it. Look at the casual way the media sings the tunes of the government on
nuclear safety. Actually one cannot think of a more devastating accident than one which may
happen in an atomic reactor. One would have the media take at least a neutral stand on
nuclear safety rather than advocate the governments point of view. Let the experts debate
the issue.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 06:07 IST

Governments and judicial systems must to accept the reality that nuclear energy has different meaning to local people. The KNPP has troubled past and if one digs deep, the permit from the Tamil Nadu government is for two 500 MW pressurized heavy water reactors. Governments and NPCIL lack openness and dismiss people as illiterates who failed to understand the economic growth of the country. Local people’s legitimate concerns are answered by 4,000 plus security personnel, sedition charges and 500 crore development activities. Will these services available always?

from:  Michael Titus
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 05:43 IST

India has been operating nuclear reactors for last 50 odd years. There has been no incidence in any of the reactors. I dont understand why the same cannot be true for this reactor. Going by the risk factor. Every industry is prone to have risks. Each Pharma company we have a inherent risk of poisioning, same with other industry. Just only considering the risk for stopping a development project is banal. Just couple of months back India was blacked out. If we keep procastrinating all the development projects , soon we will loose the initiative on economic development.

from:  Sai Vemu
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 05:10 IST

The author had forgotten the comment made by the minister of the state that he could
not understand why the people are protesting when the Govt. has given them
medicines, schools, etc!!!

Second, AIADMK is banking on the selfishness of he people. If the local of KNPP, her
party is to lose only a few hundred votes, but the power crisis could cost her more...

from:  Bharat
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 03:15 IST

Nice reflection.True that today Indian resources are thrown into the hands of multinationals who to get their ends done,give a Nelson's eye to the burning problems of the people.The voice of the poor and the downtrodden,instead of being heard in the annals of the parliament,is being suppressed by force and ignored by expert opinions.The political parties who pretend to hear these simple people during elections,conveniently forget them when a crucial issue in which they are thrown in.At least, the so called expert could have had the patience and good-will to hear what these uneducated people had to say.These people who knows the directions of the wind,who predict a torrent rain, who calculate time with the passage of stars and who are expert to know the conduit of fish are not fools in front of the so-called experts who earned title from bookish knowledge.For them, experience is the best teacher.And their fear to risk their life has reason which should not be repressed by expert opinion

from:  William
Posted on: Sep 19, 2012 at 03:04 IST
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