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Lead me, kindly light, to Kudankulam!

What comes to mind are the immortal lines of Y.B.Yeats from his famous poem The Second Coming, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” India’s political elites are reinforcing their rhetoric favoring nuclear energy whilst far more advanced countries with far greater awareness and skills and expertise are admitting their own flawed faith in the past and are brusquely turning away. 

By any reckoning, the stunning decision by Japan to turn away conclusively and for ever from nuclear power ought to come as an eye-opener for India’s political class. Japan’s decision is an admission of defeat in mastering the formidable skills needed to unleash the demonic nuclear energy while ensuring the safety of human lives. With all its mastery of physics, japan is confessing that it lacks confidence it knows sufficiently enough science. 
This will send tsunami waves into the realm of energy security. Japan is an advanced country, which contributed significantly to the development of advanced technology to harness nuclear power. It would no more have the impetus for undertaking such R&D. ( The same is going to be the case with Germany and France as well.) Far more important, the global energy scene is no more going to be the same. The future emphasis is doubtless going to be on renewable energy. 
The good, old study by the UN’s climate change science body on renewable energy is going to be dusted up and made the Bible for crafting the energy policies of the advanced countries. It is time for India’s energy security czars to be in sync with the emergent realities of energy security when powerful economies like Germany, Japan, Italy and France have reset their compass of energy security. 
A bouquet of red roses to the veteran communist leader V S Achuthandandan! He should undertake an early visit to Kudankulam. We desperately need fresh thinking. Political “realism” cannot be the yard stick when it comes to the security of human lives. VS is an immensely experienced leader and is hugely charismatic to lead the poor fishing communities
The chilling reality is that this is a turf where we know so little, which is why the best are increasingly lacking conviction. Read this spine-chilling account of how the Chernobyl region looked 25 years after the disaster in 1986. It should be made compulsory reading for India’s political class. 

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4 Responses

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  1. Sunil says

    To tick and others here – Tamil Nadu pioneered Wind energy harnessing in India and today has 40% of all windmills in India. TN electricity board says in its website “As on 31.07.2012, Tamil Nadu contributing to 40% of India’s total capacity of 17389.31 MW” i.e. 7084 MW. Its all great news you will say, but I say not ALWAYS. Wind energy generation this month in the state is 110 MW (Yes One hundred and ten) instead of the normal 3000 MW expected for this time of year (i.e. for Aug-Sep period) and that has sent the state back to power cuts. Now 3000 MW is 20% of the state’s peak electricity demand and how do you suggest we make up for this? The answer you might give is hydroelectric. Tamil Nadu has been and has done it. A 21% of all electricity generated in the state is hydro, but once again this is not reliable as it is completely dependent on the monsoon and rain and upstream states (Kerala, Karnataka and AP) letting enough water into our rivers (Politics). Clearly, having 50% (~30% wind and ~20 % hydro) of energy needs generated by renewable sources is not working and we have several hours of power cuts every day today.

    Nuclear is clearly my last choice given the risks involved (however small the probability of an accident is, it can be catastrophic). BUT please note that everything in life has a risk. The probability of dying in a car/train/air accident is 1000 times greater than the chance of a reactor accident happening. NDTV interviewed a lady protesting in Kudankulam who has shifted her work / livelihood to the protest site. Guess what her daily work involves: rolling bidis (country cigarettes). This poor ignorant lady does not understand the harmful health risks of bidis, but seems to know every single harm that can come out of a nuclear reactor. I reckon she has been brainwashed by some elements with vested interest.

    It is my humble belief that renewable energy is a step in right direction for India. Tamil Nadu has enough RENEWABLE energy generation capacity installed, but the need of the hour is RELIABLE energy generation. So until a RELIABLE RENEWABLE source is invented or discovered or solar is made cheaper (and remember solar panels are not exactly eco-friendly) please take your protest to other states that are yet to invest in renewables. Let Tamil Nadu diversify its sources of power generation and make the lives and livelihoods of its people better.

  2. Namakkal Raghavendran says

    Why do people keep on misinforming the public about Japan turning away from nuclear energy? Though initially, with much bravado they announced and did shut down all their nuclear plants, but when faced with the reality of desperate shortage of power they have reopened at least 3 of them. Of course people are protesting against the move, but the same people cannot do without one light or fan in their homes!
    You can list out all the nuclear accidents to sound impressive, but should we also list out all the air, sea, train and other disasters which have claimed ten of thousands of lives? In fact people who are living near the KNPP and being egged on to protest that their lives are in danger, must be made aware that there is 1000 times greater probability of their dying in a train, than their losing their lives in a nuclear accident.
    I am sick of hearing of Fukushima! In all recorded history has there been a 9-Richter scale earthquake and that too in any non-earthquake prone area?

  3. nitmohan says

    Worldwide there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants. Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and 57% (56 out of 99) of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the USA. Serious nuclear power plant accidents include the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), Chernobyl disaster (1986), Three Mile Island accident (1979), and the SL-1 accident (1961).

    Stuart Arm states, “apart from Chernobyl, no nuclear workers or members of the public have ever died as a result of exposure to radiation due to a commercial nuclear reactor incident.”

    Nuclear-powered submarine mishaps include the K-19 reactor accident (1961),
    the K-27 reactor accident (1968),
    and the K-431 reactor accident (1985).
    Serious radiation accidents include the Kyshtym disaster,
    Windscale fire, radiotherapy accident in Costa Rica,
    radiotherapy accident in Zaragoza,
    radiation accident in Morocco, Goiania accident,
    radiation accident in Mexico City,
    radiotherapy unit accident in Thailand,
    and the Mayapuri radiological accident in India.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a website reporting recent accidents

  4. tick says

    The recent advances in wind power generation, with 5MW windmills has made wind energy viable. Solar power generation is also fast catching up and is likely to mushroom as a major source of power in coming decades. Smart grids which can regulate the uneven energy inflows and consumption and also make pricing flexible is also in the horizon. All these prospects have made nuclear energy relatively unimportant as the source of electrical power.

    However, nuclear energy remains a source of stable, viable and proven technology even in terms of safety. The example given here, of Chernobyl, it must be noted was not generating electricity when accident struck. Power generation was shut down and it was converted to a test bed by scientists, and their experiment was not whetted by the engineers. An authoritative book on the disaster by Grigori Medvedev blames the culture of political interference in appointment of incompetent technical personnel, pervasive in Soviet era then, as the causal factor which led to the accident and also aggravated its impact. The design of the plant itself was not considered as defective.

    Like in France and Germany, nuclear power generation remains a major component of its energy security needs for decades to come.

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