Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue III

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue III

This issue of IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue III examines the relevance of Nuclear Power Project in view of the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Project and other issues. This newsletter is available online. To view and to post your comments check at: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-3-issue-iii

Nuclear Power: Stop this Madness!

“I have never come across an elephant that was really mad and I do not think the term should be applied to animals, even in the case of a musth elephant, as the various forms of true insanity are confined to Homo sapiens.” P D Stracey in Elephant Gold.

These lines written by a man who had caught numerous elephants in the Kheda operations in Assam during the British raj, is true even though we are now in the twenty first century. On 11th of March, Japan was hit by a huge earthquake of the magnitude of 9.0 Richter followed by a Tsunami. As millions of TV viewers soaked in the “spectacular” live streaming of the unfolding horror, with concern and sympathy, little did anyone realise the overall magnitude of the event and the yet to unfold drama. With about 26000 people dead or missing, this was one of the saddest natural calamities in recent times. However, images of upturned cars, ruins of buildings and supermarkets etc paled into insignificance, when the news came in about the impending disaster in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants.

The engineers struggled to cool the core of the nuclear reactors. Every effort was undertaken including pouring of thousands of gallons of water from helicopters. However, all the efforts appear to have turned futile. There have been reports of three workers impacted by radiation when radioactive water fell on a workers feet and shoes, confirming fears that there has been a breach of at least one of the nuclear reactors in the complex.
In the tap waters of Tokyo, radioactive iodine ( Iodine 131 ) was detected at 210 Becquerel’s per liter. This is significantly higher than the 100 Becquerel’s per liter limit for infants and slightly less than the 300 Becquerel’s per liter limit for adults. Accordingly, the authorities started distributing bottled waters for the 80,000 infants in the city. According to a Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) report, in the Pacific Ocean at a distance of several hundred meters from the Nuclear Power plant, the levels of Iodine 131 is about 1250 times higher than the limit. Furthermore, the level of Caesium – 137 is found to be at 80 times the permissible limits. With a half life of 30 years, Caesium – 137 is not going to decay soon and will impact marine life and humans as well.

The farm produce in the region has been impacted as well due to the radioactive vapour. Several countries have already placed restrictions in importing the food products from Japan.

The American Government has instructed its citizens to stay at least 50 miles away from Fukushima. The Japanese Government without admitting the gravity of the situation has taken a soft approach and has asked people to voluntarily relocate from the city.

In the world of Nuclear Power where high secrecy is the norm, one can make conclusions from these incidents. The last nuclear disaster was in Chernobyl. Most of the proponents of Nuclear power dismiss the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in Ukraine as operator error in a badly maintained place in a former Soviet republic. However, Fukushima is diametrically opposite as it is located in a developed country like Japan. If the meticulous Japanese are struggling, will it be a cake walk for India?

The nuclear reactors are complex pieces of engineering with zero tolerance for faults as the faults can cascade to a full blown crisis. There are checks and balances built into the designs; however, as seen in the Fukushima crisis if for some reason those checks and balances fail, it can lead to a massive crisis. No other form of power generation is so complex or has the possibility for such a massive impact. The half life period of plutonium is about 24400 years. In contrast, the current technology developed to store the spent fuel, is not even a hundred years old. No amount of simulation in super computers can predict the situation a few hundred years down the line, especially when we are starring at the massive impact that climate change is going to bring upon us. Of course, we can very easily dismiss this concern as our generation is not going to face the impact. However, is it ethical to burden future generations to come with our sins? Moreover, some experts get into a denial mode that this kind of Earthquake and Tsunami is not going to hit India and our reactors are better than Japans etc. Is this not insanity to think that calamity is not going to hit us? Perhaps the powers to be, in our nuclear establishment, have gone into a “Freeze Think” mode and are thinking alike. In such a situation, it is imperative that experts from other disciplines are roped in, so that a holistic view can be taken. Else, our nuclear establishment will continue to think from the same narrow perspective.

Despite opposition, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has given the environmental clearance and hence go ahead to the nuclear power project in Jaitapur on the eve of the French president’s visit to India. The European Pressurised Reactor model of the French company Areva, which is going to be used in the Jaitapur Nuclear Project in Ratnagiri district, is a largely untested model and is facing opposition as well as delays in Finland. Despite this untested technology, the Indian Govt. moved ahead and in an obvious attempt to please the French, gave the go ahead to the Jaitapur Project. The French certainly went back happy; however, the people of this country do have the right to ask what the basis for this diplomatic gesture is. Indian economy is growing at the rate of 9 percent per annum even though the developing economies are struggling, so every country is eyeing to be a part of this growth story. India should be asserting its growing economic clout and forcing other countries to extend concessions to it. Unfortunately, the Govt. of India is still carrying the mindset of the 90s when the former Prime Minister VP Singh had infamously announced that our “coffers are empty”. Perhaps India today is acting like a captured elephant. It might be pertinent to mention here that a chained elephant calf struggles the most and needs to be chained more securely than an adult elephant. When the calf grows to become a massive adult elephant, it still retains the memories of its failed attempts to break free and doesn’t exert as much effort to break its shackles. Perhaps it doesn’t realise that as an adult elephant it has much more strength than it had as a small calf. India today appears to be in a similar situation where it doesn’t take into account its new found economic strength and decides to humour the French by agreeing to the Nuclear Power Project in Jaitapur.

This “strategic decision” as the Minister for MoEF Shri Jairam Ramesh had mentioned, taken with the aid of faulty environmental impact assessments and ignoring massive protests by the local people doesn’t suit a democracy like ours. For further details one can check here: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6313

This also brings another dichotomy in our policies. When we think of relocating tribals and other villagers from our forests to create inviolate places for our wildlife, we talk of their voluntary support. However, in other places the archaic land acquisition act is used and people are forcibly evicted. Such a scene is waiting to be repeated in Jaitapur. In a country where equal franchise was adopted even before other developing countries had adopted it, this contradiction is surprising and discriminatory to say the least.

The unfortunate earthquake and tsunami induced impending nuclear disaster in Japan has led to the Indian Government announcing review of the safety of our nuclear plants. As concerned citizens, we should demand our right to be consulted before we embark on future Nuclear power generation projects. If the society is not willing to take the risk, the Government has no right to thrust these hazardous Nuclear power plants on us.

Ever since, the former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the Golden Quadrilateral project at a humungous cost of 56000 crore rupees, grand infrastructure projects have become fashionable. The bigger the better seems to be the Mantra. However, at the same time, another visionary Shri Ratan Tata had directed his team to create a small car “Nano”. Apart from a multitude of patents it looked at car design from an entirely different perspective – the first time someone took a different approach to car design since the original Model T of Ford was created. A new term “frugal engineering” has been coined as a tribute to Indian engineering. When frugal engineering is becoming the buzz word, can someone teach our Nuclear establishment and the politicians with their “Gandhi caps” to train their thoughts according to Gandhian principles?

Big need not always be better! Germany, a developed country has ignored Nuclear Power and a major portion of their power supply is from solar power. When a country like Germany, not as well endowed with bright Sunshine like India is, can employ solar power, why can’t we? With a vast coast line extending to about 7600 kilometers, India should be looking at tapping tidal power. Similarly, wind power, though seasonal in nature and varies in intensity during various times of the day, should be aggressively promoted through tax breaks. A suitable mix of Solar, wind and tidal power with their varying seasonality and time of day constraints can help in alleviating India’s growing energy needs. The government should encourage R&D in creating solutions for storage of energy, so that the energy can be stored and released back to the grid as per requirements.

I hope better sense prevails and the Government focuses on power generation through alternate sources instead of Nuclear Power. However, I am not sure whether better sense will prevail and our Nuclear experts and the Government would sacrifice their ego and look for safer energy sources. It would be pertinent to quote Albert Einstein – who’s formula E=mc was the key for unlocking the atomic energy – and who has perhaps a far better knowledge about human behaviour.

Only two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity.

And I am not so sure about the former.” Albert Einstein.

Other Conservation Issues:

Constructions inside Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has ordered constructions to be stopped inside the Ranthambhore tiger Reserve. Hopefully the CEC order will result in stopping the concretization of this wilderness area. http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6289

Gaur Translocation in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve:
A group of 19 gaurs were translocated from Kanha to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. However, exclusive filming rights and death of a gaur has got this project into controversy. For further details please check here: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6180

Bharatpur loses its tiger:
The tiger code named T-7 which had left Ranthambhore and had somehow managed to hide in sugarcane fields and sparse vegetation had finally reached Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur and had happily stayed there. However its roughly five month stay was over, when it was captured and traslocated to Sariska. For further details please check here: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6055

Natural History:

Changing Colours of Agama: V S Sankar
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6214

Rat snakes: Dr. Hari Venkatesh K R
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6272

Wildlife Photography:
Images shared by our members between 10th Feb 2011 – 9th March, 2011 that depict interesting animal behaviour or are just plain beautiful.

My 5000th post by Mrudul Godbole
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6193

Lion on the move by Dipankar Majumdar
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6198

Leopard Male by Praveen Siddannavar
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6235

Tiger Habitat -Vishwanath M K
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6200

Wire tailed Swallow by Dr. Satej Bagade
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6094

Pelican R Tern fight by Sandesh Astgikar
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6121

Blyth’s Reed Warbler by Tushar Dixit
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6204

My fair lady- an interesting behaviour by Bibhav Behera
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6184

Malabar Pit Viper camouflage by Tushar Dixit
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6104

I look forward to your inputs and your support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in this beautiful country. For other interesting articles and photographs please check: http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/

The link to this Newsletter is available at: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-3-issue-iii

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Regards,
Sabyasachi Patra
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