Say experts on the 25 {+t} {+h} anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster

The Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters and the effect they have had on vast numbers should be enough to sound a note of caution against use of nuclear energy in India, said members of a coalition for nuclear disarmament on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 25 {+t} {+h} anniversary of the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine, members of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) were vehement in their opposition to the Government's policy of touting nuclear energy as “clean, cheap and safe”.

They expressed concern over the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park and how it is a potential threat in an extremely rich biodiversity area.

“Since 1970s on an average, accidents, which affected the core of the nuclear reactors, have occurred once every eight years. Despite accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima, the Indian Government countered the threat posed by nuclear reactors by claiming that Indian reactors will not come up in seismic zones and there are no dangers like tsunamis,” said Prof. Achin Vanaik, Professor of International Relations and Global Politics in the Delhi University.

He blamed the government for failing to separate the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) despite repeated requests to do so. “Big nuclear markets are all in Asia and these include India, Indonesia, South Korea, China and Taiwan. And we have at least six major reasons to move away from it…” he said.

Citing his concerns he said it is a “myth” that nuclear energy is safe, clean and economic. He said it is also not true that nuclear energy will help promote energy development. “It is too late, it is not the way forward, and it is too secretive and too centralised. The energy is much more expensive than what is generated from renewables, and most importantly what about the costs that will come in case of possible accidents.”

Pointing out that nuclear energy is “too dangerous”, Prof. Vanaik said there are no provisions for dealing with the nuclear waste and the threat to the nuclear establishments from state as well as non-state actors.

Senior journalist Praful Bidwai drew attention to the fatalities that the Chernobyl accident resulted in and the wide ranging after effects of the radiations that people continue to face. “Conservative estimates put the number of people affected by cancer between 34,000 to 1,40,000 and the fatalities between 16,000 and 73,000. Even on the low estimate, Chernobyl is easily the world's worst-ever industrial accident. And what Chernobyl showed was that all types of reactors are vulnerable to loss of coolant accidents. Can the world afford to have two Chernobyls and two Fukushimas once every seven years?” he questioned.

“Nuclear industries have always hidden the truth and told lies. In Fukushima the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) suppressed news of radioactive leaks, the doctored videos and showed minimum damage. And in India IAEA acts as a lobbyist for the global industry,” Mr. Bidwai said.

He also expressed concern about the proposed reactors being built by AREVA, a French company. “There are serious and genuine concerns about the safety of Areva's European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) design. Nowhere in the world has an EPR been fully built or commissioned so far. Two EPRs are already beset by serious safety and financial problems and delays.”

Rohan Dsouza from Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU, questioned the country's disaster preparedness and the rights of the citizens in deciding whether they should be forced to stay close to a nuclear reactor.

“In the event of the unthinkable, do we have a disaster preparedness plan? Is there is method of evaluating how thousands of people will be moved to a safe distance in short time. In Fukushima the TEPCO and Japanese Government did not know what the safe limit was,” he said.

  • ‘Jaitapur project is a threat to rich biodiversity'
  • ‘No provisions for dealing with nuclear waste'