US Supreme Court judges Douglas and Black described Nuclear power as “a most deadly, a most dangerous process that man has ever conceived”.
In fact the radioactive pollutants are a million to billion times more toxic than many chemical poisons. Many experts emphasize that nuclear power proliferation is a serious threat to mankind meriting comparison with nuclear war. But some people believe that it holds the key to national energy and defence problems and is clean, safe and cheap.
However, the former of U.S. Nuclear establishment David Lilienthal belatedly admitted in 1981 that “nuclear technology is not really so advanced; it is not dependable enough; it is not safe enough”. The Russian expert Legasov posed the questions: “Is not the development of nuclear energy on an industrial scale premature? Will it not be fatal to our civilization, to the eco-system of our planet?
We must work for the creation of anti-accident centers and centers devoting themselves to compensating for the losses to the environment.
The upgrading of the industrial level of safety and the solution of the problem of the relations between man and machine would be a lot more natural thing to do than concentrating the efforts on only one element of the energy structure in the world. This would benefit the whole of humanity”.
The Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima Disasters actually proved that even highly disciplined developed nations like Russia and Japan could destroy their own human and natural resources and those of other neighbouring nations without a war just by accidental mismanagement of the so called peaceful uses of the atom.
Questioning the safety of nuclear reactors Dr.Hannes Alfven, a Nobel Laureate said “although the nuclear experts devote more effort to safety problems than others, the real question is whether their blue-prints will work as expected by them in the real world and not only in their technological paradise” The growing number of nuclear incidents show that it is impossible to ensure complete safety even in the most modern reactors. Decay heat needs pumped cooling water for an year to prevent over heating .Nuclear plants are some of the most sophisticated and complex energy systems and no matter how weill they are designed and engineered, they cannot be deemed fail-proof .
Reactors are highly complex machines with an incalculable things including inter connected linkages that could go wrong. In the Three Mile Island Reactor accident one malfunction led to another malfunction and then to a series of others until the core itself began to melt and even the best experts did not know how to respond. A combination of electrical, mechanical and human failures can disable the reactor itself.
How the harmless Uranium ore materials in nature are converted into destructive and killer materials by man can be understood by the following simple example. For instance king cobras live in nature in anthills in forests and lead their normal life peacefully by catching their prey for food during nights But greedy people go and poke their iron rods into their abodes and disturb the Cobras to catch them. Then they become angry and bite the trespassers to inflict death over them by their poisons. Similarly, the selfish people are mining the natural Uranium ore and converting it into harmful Enriched Uranium and then using it to produce electricity by means of the Nuclear plants and in the process they are producing Radioactive pollutants that poison man and nature slowly due to routine releases of radioactivity into the environment .
In course of time if an accident occurs in the Nuclear plant due to several reasons like in Fukushima or Chernobyl, the poisonous pollutants are thrown into the atmosphere and they kill thousands of people slowly and inflict cancer to millions of people living downstream upto hundreds of Kilometers as in case of Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents.
The Nuclear plant operators are misleading the public by stating that Nuclear power is safe and cheap just like the medical representatives of various pharmaceutical companies praise before the doctors about the virtues of their medical tablets and tonics as part of their sale promotion activity the nuclear authorities are praising the nuclear plants as safe and cheap energy producers which is wrong.
This misinformation is dangerous to public health and welfare because in European states almost all people agree that safety of Nuclear power is a Myth as accepted by Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. She had consulted the genuine experts on nuclear plants and realized that nuclear safety is a myth and ordered for gradual closure of all the nuclear plants in Germany.
If Indian Prime Minister and Union Cabinet Ministers including the Chief Ministers of the states want to know the truth about the safety of the nuclear power plants they must go and visit advanced countries like Germany and Japan and discuss the issue with foreign experts so that they can refrain from promoting nuclear plants as is done by the peoples leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal.
Environmental Impact Analysis reports are fabricated by consultants according to the national Green Tribunal and also according to the Chief Justice of India, S.H.Kapadia who said “If you leave report preparation to the project proponent, I am sorry to say the person who pays will get the answers he asks for” and hence he called for a change in the system of preparation of EIA reports for the development projects. (See website) . Nuclear plants are constructed based upon such false environmental Impact Analysis report and hence they are bound to fail one day or the other and cause economic losses making the country bankrupt.
FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT CONFIRMS THAT NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE BOUND TO EXPLODE:
For a basic understanding as to how human errors result in nuclear reactor accidents like the ones at Three Mile Island in USA, Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan it is necessary to study some examples of reactor failures and Fukushima case is presented here.
For building a nuclear power plant 3 agencies are involved. Firstly the Tokyo Electrical Power Corporation (TEPCO) industry intends to build the nuclear plant to produce electricity at a cheaper cost and sell it to the people and Government at a higher cost and thereby make profits. When the industry applies for a license to the Government the Government provides the contractor with all the guidelines and specifications for construction of the plant through its secretariat and its subservient Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
ROLE OF CONSULTANT TO PRODUCE DESIGNS TO PROTECT PUBLIC INTERESTS:
The contractor engages a consultant for designing the project and the consultant designs the project based upon the contractors instructions on the budget for the plan and the profits he expects according to a time schedule. It is the duty of the Engineer to design the plant that works by ensuring safety and not a design that merely meets the requirements of the Government regulations. Since the Engineer has to design according to the client’s budget and deadlines it is impossible to design a plant that can account for all possible events.
Perhaps the engineer need to build reactors to survive the possible direct strike of a mile-wide meteor as well. But an engineer designs for probable events based upon Government specifications and if the Government experts failed to visualize the magnitude of rare events like earthquakes, tsunamis, bombing, sabotage and terrorist attacks that cause accidents the reactor is bound to explode and cause devastating damage to man and nature.
In the case of Fukushima plant the explosion is caused only because of improper designs based upon lack of communication between the different agencies like the designer, the plant operator, the supervisory Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the higher level bureaucracy in the government and the politicians.
It is also true that even if the engineer were to use the current safer designs one might realize that such safer designs have glaring flaws that one could not visualize beforehand because one just does not know about the fault until it happens resulting in an unpredictable accident.
MANMADE FAULTS THAT CAUSED FUKUSHIMA EXPLOSION:
But in the case of the nuclear reactor there are two major faults in the design and other negligent acts in the construction and operation of the plant.
Faults in ensuring safe design to withstand maximum credible earthquakes:
The first negligence pertains to determination of the seismic potential of the area and its impact on the safety of the reactor. Since the Fukushima area is virtually on the devastating earthquake zone on the circum pacific belt any man with commonsense can expect an earthquake of about 9.0 magnitude and its damaging impact on the reactors.
But the Japanese Government experts told the TEPCO that since there was no chance of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake the plant may be designed for an 8.0 magnitude earthquake which was likely to occur and hence the plant was built for the Government specified standards. But the Government standards proved to be wrong and the plant was under-designed.
Design faults in estimating magnitude of Tsunami and its devastating impacts:
Secondly the estimation regarding the tsunami flood wave height was again faulty and the authorities cannot say that such a mass scale tsunami is unforeseen. Infact a tsunami with a height of 25m hit Japan in 1896 when the plant was designed. The experts had to visualize as to what were the odds that the probable tsunami would be larger than the 6 meter wall of water, the nuclear plant had been designed to withstand but on 11-3-2011 the tsunami that crashed through the plant was 14m high. The experts predicted the risk of a wave of 6m or more at 10% over a 50 year time span in 2007 and they did not take action to revise the design made in 1960s and should have modify their equipment accordingly. Hence failure to design the wall to withstand the anticipated tsunami impacts amounts to negligence and actually the tsunami wave was 14m high.
Failure to make the generators water-proof:
Moreover the generators of the defence in depth system and the fuel tanks should have been sealed to withstand submersion because they could have learnt from the experiences of diesel powered ships which have been working for decades and whose engines continued to run satisfactorily even if the ship is temporarily submerged by the waves. Hence the plant operators were just negligent and it is not as if these problems faced by Fukushima are insurmountable. Perhaps the plant operators skipped on flood proofing the backup generators to avoid more expenditure for ensuring safety but in the end the company had to pay a far higher cost for their negligence.
Faults in avoiding safety measures as suggested by expert committee report:
Infact a nuclear safety report prepared in 2006 affirmed that Fukushima reactors cannot withstand a powerful earthquake or a major tsunami and recommendations were made for water proofing the backup generators. But since the implementation of these recommendations involves more expenditure than what the Japanese mandated requirements specified, the nuclear safety recommendations were not complied with.
Hence the Fukushima nuclear plant operators only have to take the blame and instead of spending millions of dollars for improving safety 5 years ago they are now going to face serious economic losses amounting to billions of dollars and still poison the environmental resources and lakhs of people of several countries in the process.
Manmade failure in venting out the vapours in time from the reactors:
When the loss of coolant occurred heat was built up and the water began to vaporize and hydrogen was produced and was gradually building up and some people were reported to have suggested for venting out the vapors. But it could not have been done due to absence of instructions from the plant owners whose orders are followed by the workers even while ignoring the pleadings of a Prime Minister. Consequently the impact of damage got magnified and eventually the fuel rods melted. The venting and pumping in water would have prevented a serious melt down in the reactor.
Even the back up generators from the nearby reactors were not damaged by the tsunami wave and they were not used by the plant management to mitigate the damage and that amounts to a multiple failure by the management. The plant management perhaps skipped on flood proofing the backup generators for reasons of additional costs involved and in the end they paid a far greater cost for their negligence.
KUDANKULAM NUCLEAR PLANT MUST BE CANCELED:
Last week Japanese Prime Minister frankly admitted at a Press Conference that nuclear safety is a myth, confirming a similar statement made by the former Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the wake of Fukushima explosion in March,2011. The German Chancellor Ms.Angela Merkel also discussed with the experts and concluded that nuclear safety is a myth and in public interest she ordered for the closure of all the reactors in Germany in a phased manner. (See here, here and here)
Non-Governmental organizations agitating against several nuclear plants:
Today out of 52 reactors in Japan only 2 are working while the rest remain closed due to public agitations against nuclear power which is considered inherently unsafe in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Experts are asserting that a nuclear accident in one country is a nuclear accident in any other country because the most poisonous radioactive pollutants are disbursed through the air, the water resources like rivers and the sea and the soil resources that get radioactivity deposited from air and water.
Non-feasibility of implementing emergency evacuation has stopped a nuclear reactor in USA:
Today the agitations by several NGO’s in New York state with the help of the Government have stopped the licensing the nuclear reactor at the Indiana point on Hudson river because the plant owners are not able to establish the feasibility of implementing the Emergency response Action plans in case of an anticipated explosion of the reactor as required under the Law.
In the case of Kudankulam Nuclear plant similar comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports along with risk analysis, reactor explosion scenario, emergency preparedness plans and Disaster management reports have not been scientifically prepared and placed before the people for public hearing as per the regulations under the Environmental Protection Act. Lakhs of people who will be victims of a potential reactor accident have not been involved in the mock drills required to be conducted to demonstrate the feasibility of implementation of Disaster Management plans.
Without the consent of the concerned people the state and central Governments cannot start the Kudankulam reactors by violating the laws of the land. In a social welfare democracy the Government cannot take a one sided view for the sake of the vested interests as it amounts to an undeclared nuclear war against millions of people of Southern Tamilnadu.
Prime Minister is holding Tamilnadu responsible for safety of people in case of a nuclear accident:
Moreover the Union Government is playing a double game in protecting the lives of people within the Emergency zone of 16km all round the plant for on-site disaster management while it deliberately avoids taking similar action in the case of millions of people to be covered under the off-site disaster management plans. Instead the Tamilnadu state Government is made responsible to handle off-site disaster management plans to evacuate the victims beyond 16 km upto 80km from the plant as per American Standards.
The Emergency planning zones extend from the reactor upto 16km in India, 30km in Japan, 80km in United States and 100 Km in Finland and for longer distances as per International Atomic Energy Authority guidelines. In the absence of convincing proofs by the Tamilnadu and Central Government that their Emergency Evacuation plans are feasible for implementation, the Kudankulam reactors should not be permitted to operate as in the case of the Indiana point nuclear reactor near New York.
Prime Minister is blindly propagating nuclear power in preference to safer alternate sources:
The Prime Minister is making misleading statements that nuclear power is not only safe but also an important contributor for energy needs of India and that the non-Governmental organisations are not appreciating it. Infact out of the total electricity produced in India 64% is from fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal, 23% from hydro-power, 10% from non-renewables and only a meager 3% from nuclear plants.
If only we increase the production of electricity by 3% from the thermal plants we do not require the nuclear power plants which are nothing but silent killers of mankind and nature all over the world. Chief Minister of Tamilnadu even in her dreams should not adopt Kudankulam nuclear plant, the devilish child of the Prime Minister, as it amounts to unknowingly planning for destructing of the lives and culture of millions of Tamilians.
(The writer is the director of Centre for Environmental studies, GITAM university, Visakhapatnam)