Need To Revisit The Role Of Nuclear Power
For India 's Energy Security
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao Ph.D
15 December, 2011
While the social and political implications of the movement against Koodankulam nuclear power plant in southern India are being discussed nationwide, a Special Essay appeared in The Hindu, November 6, 2011 by Dr. A.P.J. Abudul Kalam & Mr. Srijan Pal Singh claiming “Nuclear power is our gateway to a prosperous future.” Abdul Kalam, former President of India, is qualified in aeronautical engineering and has experience in missile technology. Srijan Pal Singh has been working in the area of sustainable development.
A large section of the Indian public has no information or only a meagre information at their command, to know the claims and arguments of former Indian President Dr.Kalam are all ill founded. The face value of Kalam comes in the way of Indian public discovering that the enormous investment in nuclear power being advocated by Dr.Kalam and people like him is going to impoverish India and India is sure to face internal and external wars on water resources which would remain undeveloped and under developed on account of the disproportionate energy budget flowing towards the nuclear power research and installation. Hence this detailed Analytical Essay to counter the long Special Essay of Dr.Kalam.
People's movement against nuclear power in India has recently been intensified with the sustained peaceful movement from the people in and around Koodankulam nuclear power plant, in Tamilnadu State in southern India . The plant with its two Russian VVER 1000 reactors of 1000 MW each, located on the east coast of India next to the Bay of Bengal Sea , is ready for commissioning.
Opposition of people in and around Koodankulam to the nuclear power plant has been continuing right from the beginning. Public debate questioning the need for Koodankulam nuclear power plant was quite wide spread from the inception.  & . The worldwide reverberations from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was crippled in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, had its effect at Koodankulam too.
The crisis at Koodankulam nuclear plant raises the fundamental question - whether India needs nuclear power as an essential component to attain its energy security? It also raises the question - why the people of India should be condemned to dangers of nuclear radiation and loss of livelihood, while India , unlike Japan and France , is blessed with rivers, sunshine and wind to harness energy?
According to National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC), a Government of India Enterprise, India is endowed with economically exploitable and viable hydro potential assessed to be about 84,000 MW at 60% load factor (1,48,701 MW installed capacity). In addition, 6780 MW in terms of installed capacity from Small, Mini, and Micro Hydel schemes have been assessed. Also, 56 sites for pumped storage schemes with an aggregate installed capacity of 94,000 MW have been identified. However, only 19.9% of this entire massive hydro potential has been harnessed so far. .
The geographic location of India makes it a strong candidate for harnessing solar energy. With about 300 clear, sunny days in a year, India 's theoretical solar power reception, on only its land area, is about 5 Petawatt-hours per year (PWh/yr) (i.e. 5 trillion k Wh /yr or about 600 T W). The daily average solar energy incident over India varies from 4 to 7 kWh/m 2 with about 1500–2000 sunshine hours per year (depending upon location), which is far more than current total energy consumption. For example, assuming the efficiency of PV (Photo Voltaic) modules were as low as 10%, this would still be a thousand times greater than the domestic electricity demand projected for 2015.
However, at present solar energy produced in India is less than 1% of the total energy demand. The grid-interactive solar power as of December 2010 was merely 10 MW. 
The Ernst & Young's report stated that India 's gross renewable energy potential (up to 2032) is estimated at 220 GW. "Clearly, with a renewable energy capacity of 14.8 GW i.e, 9.7% of the total installed generation capacities of 150 GW (as on June 30, 2009 ), India has barely scratched the surface of a huge opportunity. However, given that in the last couple of years itself, the share of renewable energy in installed capacity has grown from 5% to 9.7%, India is definitely looking to make up for the lost time rapidly,'' stated the report. .
People's movement in southern India has now halted the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear plant. What made the movement more visible is the sensible step the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Ms. Jaya Lalitha has taken to ask the Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, who is directly in-charge of the Department of Atomic Energy, to assuage people's fear of nuclear radiation and to attend to the issues raised by all those who are pursuing a sincere, informed, sustained, peaceful and democratic movement against the Koodankulam nuclear plant. This is certainly a notable response of Tamilnadu Chief Minster Ms. Jaya Lalitha to the people's movement against nuclear power plants in the east coast, compared to the harsh response of Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan against people's movement opposing Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra State on the west coast where it is proposed to construct 6 European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) designed and developed by Areva of France , each of 1650 megawatts , thus totalling 9900 megawatts .
It appears, Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant is destined to reset the nuclear priorities in India . Decisions on the Russian origin Koodankulam nuclear plant on the east coast in Tamilnadu would shape the things for the French origin Jaitapur nuclear plant on the west coast in Maharashtra and American origin proposed nuclear plants in other parts of India . Consequently, the people in India agitating against nuclear power are bound to face the wrath of the nuclear business corporations from all corners of the world. It is well known, like the Oil Majors, the Nuclear Majors are very powerful and influential and their sole aim is business and profit.
India is now at the crossroads to decide - to go or not go for building and commissioning further nuclear power plants. If careful and in depth scientific analysis done with due intellectual honesty to arrive at a reliable balance-sheet of the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear electricity, were to point out in the direction that India should avoid the nuclear as a component in the energy mix, then there should be no hesitation to abandon not only the Koodankulam nuclear power plant but also all other proposed nuclear power plants. Abandoning Koodankulam nuclear plant need not be and will not be a reflection on the Russian nuclear technology if it is a national policy of India to avoid any further investment in nuclear electricity. Loss of Rs.13,615 Crores in abandoning a ready to commission Koodankulam nuclear power plant of Russian origin will be a pittance compared to the loss that is bound to accrue from flooding the country with nuclear power plants of French, American, and other origin.
Energy and economy
Dr.Kalam and Singh are right in pointing out that there is a known correlation between the industrial growth of a nation and the per capita consumption of electricity. At the same time it is necessary to point out there is a direct relationship between the health of the people and the availability and quality of drinking water. Therefore, the most prudent energy policy of a developing country, while it commits its scarce funds, should be to harness first its rivers so that not only electricity but also additional benefits including irrigation and drinking water are realised. India is blessed with many rivers, sunshine through out the country, and winds to and fro land and sea. Energy planners should at first take into full consideration these available natural resources. India 's future will be bright if hydro, solar, wind and other alternate sources of energy are harnessed fully.
In the Indian context, while discussing electricity production, it is a gross misrepresentation to claim, as claimed by Dr.Kalam and Singh, ‘Nuclear power is our gateway to a prosperous future.' of India . Kalam's ardent advocacy and intense enthusiasm for nuclear power is rooted more in rhetoric and less in scientific base. Kalam's Special Essay contains contradictions as well as unsubstantiated assertions and ill founded hopes.
The fundamental contradiction is to claim on one side, “ we and we alone will decide what is the best needed action for our economic prosperity, based on our context and resource profile.”; and at the same time ignore ‘our context and resource profile' and adapt the very model that was recklessly resorted to by the U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower to pursue nuclear electricity ignoring completely the sound advice contained in the report of a special commission. A bit of history needs to be recalled.
By the end of Eisenhower period, the key pieces in the pattern of private nuclear reactor development were in place. All that remained was to translate enthusiasm into plants. Yet, with hindsight, there is a final irony in the five-volume study of America 's natural resources that was on the President's desk when he took office in January 1953. The document was the report of a special commission headed by CBS chairman William Paley. Forecasting to the year 1975, the study predicted oil shortages and concluded: “Nuclear fuels, for various technical reasons, are unlikely ever to bear more than about one-fifth of the load …. It is time for aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy- an effort in which the United States could make an immense contribution to the welfare of the world.” [ 6 ., p. 164]
In the intervening years, some $200 billion have been spent throughout the world in attempts to develop nuclear power. Solar has received perhaps one-thousandth that amount. At the end of the 1970s, solar technology was still regarded as “futuristic” and nuclear technology as ‘mature”. Nuclear advocates like Dr.Abdul Kalam continue to talk as if there had never been a choice about what to do first, as if there was a natural order for the sequence of human discovery.
Mikhail Gorbachev , the Soviet premier at the time of the Chernobyl explosion, wrote in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 's March/April 2011 issue, " it is necessary to realize that nuclear power is not a panacea , as some observers allege, for energy sufficiency or climate change. Its cost-effectiveness is also exaggerated , as its real cost does not account for many hidden expenses. In the United States , for example, direct subsidies to nuclear energy amounted to $115 billion between 1947 and 1999, with an additional $145 billion in indirect subsidies . In contrast, subsidies to wind and solar energy combined over this same period total l ed only $5.5 billion. ” 
Thus one could see not only enormous amounts were allocated for research to develop nuclear power, starving funds for research in solar and other sources of energy, but also huge amounts as direct and indirect subsidies were given to build and operate nuclear power plants. With mutated nuclear renaissance in the air, the same story is now repeating, by having people with face value like Dr.Abdul Kalam to sing systematically in praise of nuclear electricity. When Business and Profit but not human welfare is the priority, the people worldwide are bound to be condemned to continue their fight against horrors of nuclear contamination.
Yes! now and then, we do hear the clarion call like the call from Gorbachev , “To end the vicious cycle of “ poverty versus safe environment ” , the world must quickly transition to efficient, safe, and renewable energy, which will bring enormous economic, social, and environmental benefits. As the global population continues to expand, and the demand for energy production grows, we must invest in alternative and more sustainable sources of energy - wind, solar, geothermal, hydro - and widespread conservation and energy efficiency initiatives as safer, more efficient, and more affordable avenues for meeting both energy demands and conserving our fragile planet. ” 
International Scenario on nuclear energy
A key argument of Dr. Kalam and Singh for India to elect nuclear electricity as a necessary prominent component of its energy mix is, “The study indicates that most of the prosperous nations are extracting about 30-40 per cent of power from nuclear power and it constitutes a significant part of their clean energy portfolio, reducing the burden of combating climate change and the health hazards associated with pollution.”
It is helpful to look at the context and compulsions of the United States , France and Japan in harnessing the atom for electricity. To meet their energy demands, the United States in the past had a choice to avoid nuclear electricity but it chose not to. In the present also the Federal Government has a choice to call off further reliance on nuclear electricity but they continue the policy of massive subsidies to nuclear electricity. What guides this policy? - it is the desire of the United States to retain its nuclear supremacy as well as the pressure from the private Big Nuclear Power Industry. Whereas, the compulsions for France and Japan to hang on to nuclear electricity are primarily the lack of adequate other alternate energy sources, which is not the case with India .
In 1949 nearly 91% of America 's total primary energy came from coal, oil, and natural gas. The balance came from renewables, including hydropower. By 2008 the market share for coal, oil and natural gas, along with nuclear, had grown to 92.5% of total primary energy in the U.S. with the remainder coming from renewables. The U.S. nuclear power industry currently comprises 104 licensed reactors at 65 plant sites in 31 states and generates about 20% of the nation's electricity .
Canada, having the potential to harness the atom for electricity as much as the United States, chose to remain modest with its nuclear electricity and invested to derive sixty percent of its electricity from hydro power by harnessing its rivers. Hydropower has enabled Canadians to meet their need for energy, making life easier and safer. Having opened up remote regions, attracted industries, stimulated economic growth, nurtured innovation, and created world-class expertise, hydropower has founded a modern economy. Drawing on the renewable resource of water, hydropower has contributed all of this without adding to air or water pollution. Norway generates 99% of its electricity by harnessing its rivers and lakes.
Indian Energy Planners should come out of their obsession with nuclear power which is grabbing maximum share of energy investment and starving other sources of energy, and should take notice of the data compiled by World Atlas & Industry Guide, 2007 and U.S. Energy Information Administration, on worldwide hydro power cultivation and installed capacities and generation, China 130,000 (MW) & 440 TWh/year, Canada 70,858 (MW) & 355 TWh/year, Brazil 73,678 (MW) & 351 TWh/year, USA 90,090 (MW) & 270 TWh/year, Russia 46,100 (MW) & 168 TWh/year, Norway 28,691 (MW) & 119 TWh/year and India 35,000 (MW) & 105 TWh/year. India has harnessed less than 20% of its huge hydro potential of 1,48,701 MW. The writing on the wall is clear. India is going to face wars, internal as well as external, if it fails to harness on a war footing its water resources in harmony with its energy security.
In such facts and circumstances, it is not a prudent policy for India to emulate and cite “prosperous nations are extracting about 30-40 per cent of power from nuclear power”, and insist that India should also commit its investments to aim at that much percentage of nuclear in its energy mix. It is certainly not a prudent policy for the Indian Energy Planners to give back seat to the abundant hydro, solar, wind and other alternate resources India is blessed with. Furthermore, it cannot be forgotten that the reasons for the 30-year halt in U.S. nuclear plant orders included high capital costs, public concern about nuclear safety and waste disposal, and regulatory compliance costs.
In the fifties to promote nuclear electricity business, Eisenhower administration used two slogans - ‘atoms for peace' and ‘too cheat to meter'. At present Obama Administration cleverly labelled nuclear electricity as a ‘clean source' to combat global carbon emissions. At all times, the United States avoided adequate investments to pursue research and develop of solar and other alternate sources of energy and relegated those alternate sources to secondary position. Therefore, in the energy planning, the American model or similar models, cannot be a benchmark for any developing country including India with abundant resources of hydro, solar and wind.
The Obama Administration submitted a $754 million FY2012 funding request for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear energy research and development on February 14, 2011 . Including advanced reactors, fuel cycle technology, and infrastructure support, the total nuclear energy request is $21.9 million above the FY2011 funding level and it was approved by Congress on April 14, 2011 . The FY2011 level is $37.5 million below the FY2010 appropriation. Those totals exclude funding provided under other Defence Activities for safeguards and security at DOE's Idaho nuclear facilities, for which $98.5 million is being requested for FY2012. [ 9 , p.1]
President Obama's State of the Union Address on January 25, 2011, called for nuclear power to be included in a national goal of generating 80% of U.S. electricity “from clean energy sources” by 2035. Along with nuclear power and renewable energy, “clean energy” would include “efficient” natural gas plants and clean coal technologies, to the extent that they reduced carbon emissions from conventional coal-fired plants. The President's proposed Clean Energy Standard could provide a significant boost to U.S. nuclear power expansion. The Big Nuclear Industrial Conglomerates and Military Industrial Complex have their ways to make US President appear patriotic when he paves ways for their smooth and massive business.
President Obama committed a blunder to recognise nuclear power as a clean source of energy. It is a blunder because it ignores the price the United States is already paying for its nuclear supremacy.  . A supremacy which resulted in irreparable massive nuclear contamination of its soil, waters, underground water tables and rivers around many of the nuclear installations in the United States. The town of Hanford in Washington State is one such example. “In the thirteen year period from 1944 when B reactors went into operation, 530,000 curies of iodine-131 were released into the atmosphere. Buried for decades in secret files, this fact was only made public in 1986, along with equally shocking revelation that in 1949, as an experiment, radioactive material had been deliberately been released into the surrounding area.” [ 11 , p.20]. As part of that experiment known as Green Run experiment, in which radioactive material was deliberately released into the surrounding area of Hanford on December 2 and 3 of 1949, the quantities released are – xenon: 20,000 curies; iodine-131: 7,780 curies. Dispersed over an area 1,200 by 400 miles. [11, p.22]. According to Martin, a scientist who had been involved in the Green Run, “the total amount of radioactive material released into the atmosphere over the thirteen years from 1944 almost reaches Chernobyl proportions. The total for 1944 and 1945 represents sixty percent of the whole amount, or 340,000 curies.” [11, p.23].
The blunder of recognising nuclear power as a clean source can also be noticed from the inability of the United States Government up till now to find a permanent location to bury the spent nuclear fuel problem. Today, the United States faces a contamination problem for which there appears to be no immediate solution. Under increasing pressure from the public, the United States is beginning to count the cost of being at the fore front of nuclear technology.
One of the most controversial aspects of nuclear power is the disposal of radioactive waste, which can remain hazardous for thousands of years. This problem has become quite acute in the United States . Each nuclear reactor produces an annual average of about 20 metric tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, for a nationwide total of about 2,000 metric tons per year. U.S. reactors also generate about 40,000 cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste per year, including contaminated components and materials resulting from reactor decommissioning. 
The federal government is responsible for permanent disposal of commercial spent fuel (paid for with a fee on nuclear power production) and federally generated radioactive waste, while states have the authority to develop disposal facilities for most commercial low-level waste. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act ( NWPA ) (42 U.S.C. 10101, et seq.), spent fuel and other highly radioactive waste is to be isolated in a deep underground repository, consisting of a large network of tunnels carved from rock that has remained geologically undisturbed for hundreds of thousands of years.
As amended in 1987, NWPA designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the only candidate site for the national repository. The act required DOE (Department of Energy) to begin taking waste from nuclear plant sites by 1998—a deadline that even under the most optimistic scenarios will be missed by more than 20 years. DOE filed a license application with NRC for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in June 2008.
However, the Obama Administration “has determined that developing the Yucca Mountain repository is not a workable option and the Nation needs a different solution for nuclear waste disposal,” Therefore, DOE filed a motion with NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application on March 3, 2010. An NRC licensing panel denied DOE's withdrawal motion June 29, 2010 , and the matter is now before the full Commission. 
Alternatives to Yucca Mountain are being evaluated by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America 's Nuclear Future which was formally established by DOE on March 1, 2010 . The Commission is expected to issue a draft report in the summer of 2011 and a final report six months later.
The Yucca Mountain project faced regulatory uncertainty even before the Obama Administration's move to shut it down. A ruling on July 9, 2004 , by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a key aspect of the Environmental Protection Agency's ( EPA 's) regulations for the planned repository. 
The three-judge panel ruled that EPA's 10,000-year compliance period was too short, but it rejected several other challenges to the rules. EPA published new standards on October 15, 2008 , that would allow radiation exposure from the repository to increase after 10,000 years. 
The State of Nevada has filed a federal Appeals Court challenge to the EPA standards. (For more information on the EPA standards, see CRS Report RL34698, EPA's Final Health and Safety Standard for Yucca Mountain , by Bonnie C. Gitlin.).
The budget sought by Obama administration for the FY2012 and approved by Congress on April 14, 2011 , includes 6 billion dollars for the nuclear contamination clean up of defence and non-defence installations. [ 16 . p.36]. Similar problems and burdens are confronting all other nations engaged in nuclear pursuits.
While such are the hard problems of the nuclear waste disposal, spanning issues of nuclear contamination, environmental protection, people's health, with social, political and legal dimensions, that are confronting successive US Governments, how could President Obama recognise nuclear power as a clean source of energy? How could those issues be overlooked in democratic India , or for that matter in any other country, while trying to flood the country with nuclear power plants?
While most of us reflect on the fate of those affected by 1986 Chernobyl accident in USSR, of the victims of 1979 Three Mile Island in USA, and of the highly covered-up Windscale fire of 1957 in U.K, and now in March 2011 of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, we may be tempted to believe the suggestion such as the suggestion of Kalam and Singh in their Special Essay that such disasters are isolated and unlikely to occur in Indian context especially with the claim that the new reactors now coming to India are of the latest fourth generation and not of the forty year old Fukushima Daiichi type.
But we must bear in mind that the nuclear accidents Chernobyl and Three Mile Island resulted from human error. All the four accidents mentioned above, do have a common factor of inadequacies of design and insufficient grasp of safety requirements. The consequences of a nuclear accident are far too serious to be ignored. People living next to nuclear installations in USA , U.K. , France , Russia , Japan , India and elsewhere, have been living on a razor's edge for decades.
Beyond these horrifying scenarios, a large number of people are at present exposed to emissions from nuclear installations of different sorts – that contaminate the air we breath, the food we eat and even consumer products in our homes – and all these in order to assure the survival of an industry whose very raison d'etre is unjustifiable on environmental, social and economic grounds, and whose survival would have been inconceivable without vast government subsidies, both direct and indirect.
Very recently, on September 12, 2011 , a nuclear waste site in southern France had an explosion that killed one person, seriously burned another and slightly injured three others. The place of the accident, Centraco, is located on the 300-hectare Marcoule site, which also houses a research centre and four industrial sites, including one that makes Mox, a fuel made from plutonium and uranium.
The material at Centraco comes from nuclear sites and therefore is mildly radioactive, spokeswoman Carole Trivi said. She said the site treats mostly waste from EDF's own power plants, as well as a small amount of material from hospitals or medical research labs. The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and an investigation has been opened, Trivi said. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for details on the accident. 
France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with the lion's share of its electricity coming from the 58 nuclear reactors that dot the country. France is also a major exporter of nuclear power, treats nuclear waste from around the world, and state-owned nuclear giant Areva is one of the country's most prominent companies. India signed agreement with France under which Areva supplies the nuclear power reactors for the proposed Jaitapur nuclear complex on the West Coast in the State of Maharashtra .
France has stuck firmly to its pro-nuclear policy, and the kind of soul-searching about using nuclear power that swept the world following Japan's March 11 tsunami and the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant have been largely absent in France. In June, 2011, President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged that France will stick to a plan to invest euro1 billion ($1.37 billion) in future nuclear reactors.
By contrast, neighbouring Germany reconsidered its position, took eight of its older reactors off the grid in the wake of the Japanese disaster and lawmakers have voted to shut the country's nine remaining nuclear plants by 2022.
Kalam and Singh tried to ridicule the experimentally derived and long held opinion from the field of genetics that radiation exposure can cause genetic mutations in living organisms and the effects of mutation could be hereditarily passed on to the next generations. They wrote, “Another argument which surrounds the nuclear debate is that nuclear accidents and the radiation fallout as the aftermath would not only harm the exposed generation but also continue to impact generations to come. If available facts and scientific inquiry was given more weightage than mere conjectures and comic-bookish imagination, this argument will in all probability be proved a myth.”
The authors rely on a statement in the report prepared by the U.S. government Atomic Bombing Casualty Commission (ABCC) established in 1946 to assess the late-effects of radiation among the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and subsequently reconstituted in 1974, as a joint venture between the U.S. and Japan under the name of Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF). The statement in the report quoted by Kalam and Singh is, , “ Our studies have not found thus far any inherited genetic effects from parental radiation exposure among the children of Abomb .”
Robert Jay Lifton who spent considerable time with Japanese hibakusha (victims of radiation) writes in 1992 in his Foreword to the book EXPOSURE  “Survivors have been haunted by a life long fear of invisible contamination (nuclear contamination), a fear that could extend over generations. During recent trips to Hiroshima , people would tell me of their relief that studies show no significant increase in abnormalities in the next generations, but would sometimes add that they are still worried about what could happen to the third generation and the ones after that.
Anyone who is familiar with genetics knows that Mendelian inheritance (or Mendelian genetics or Mendelism ) is a scientific description of how hereditary characteristics are passed from parent organisms to their offspring; it underlies much of genetics . Thomas Hunt Morgan and his assistants later integrated the theoretical model of Mendel with the chromosome theory of inheritance, in which the chromosomes of cells were thought to hold the actual hereditary material, and create what is now known as classical genetics , which was extremely successful and cemented Mendel's place in history. 
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA ( Deoxyribonucleic acid) and protein found in cells . It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes , regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences . Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.  .
The crucial point is, genes are regulatory elements that contain genetic information based on which the development of fertilised egg in the womb takes place to become the child that is born in due course. Nuclear radiation (alpha, beta and gamma rays) alters genetic information and the regulation mechanism. When altered, the corrupted information in the altered gene can give rise to birth defects. The body cells have certain amount of regenerative capacity to correct the altered genes. But if alteration of gene remains uncorrected, the corrupt information is bound to have its consequences if not in one generation but in subsequent generations. The probability of mixing the genes from father and mother in the fertilised egg follows the Mendel's laws which are known as, the Law of Segregation (The “First” law) and the Law of Independent Assortment (the “Second Law”), also known as "Inheritance Law". . It is because of these laws, the individual characteristics can show up even after a few generations as determined by the genetic information.
Only because no inheritance defects are noticed in one generation from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki one cannot make it as a scientific finding that radiation affects are not inherited. Moreover, Kalam and Singh did not show from the report, that chromosomal alterations were noticed in the affected Japanese parents who had no abnormal children. If chromosomal alterations are noticed, the effect may show up in subsequent generations if not in the immediate generation. In many villages of India , one still hears the elders saying that when you look for marriage alliance of young boy or girl, enquire about seven generations on both sides. Perhaps, Indians long ago somehow had an intuitive understanding of inheritance laws, even before the meticulous Monk Mendel propounded his laws from his experiments on beans.
There is a direct experimental evidence of radiation effects getting transmitted through inheritance. The experiment was done by the Americans.
The screwworm fly was persistent molester of cattle in the south eastern United States until it encountered the power of the atom. In 1958, some enterprising government officials started a screwworm fly factory in Florida and bred millions of the nasty black insects. They then irradiated them with gamma rays, making them sterile, and dropped them from aircraft on Florida , Alabama , and Georgia .
Over a period of eighteen months, two billion of the sterile flies were allowed to complete with their virile brothers and sisters in the natural breeding process. Sterile males were soon outnumbering virile males by nine to one. By the end of 1959, the screwworm fly was all but eradicated from the three states.
The conclusions of the study on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki require careful examination. The method generally used to relate the doses received by people to the measured effects is based on the experience of a sample of the survivors of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. These survivors were rounded up some five years after the events and became the object of a “Lifespan Study” on which the calculation of radiation risk factors is based. These people had survived because they were either too far away from the explosions to be atomised, incinerated or to suffer terminal cellular disruption. The dose they received was nevertheless a big one, it was mainly external and it was a single dose. So their experience was not of much use for estimating the effect of continual small doses over long period, many of which are derived from internal radiation, which is the case with people living near Sellafield in UK or other nuclear installations.
In addition, there is no way that doses received by the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could have been measured properly. They were roughly estimated. Nevertheless they were related to the cancers that subsequently appeared in the population on the basis of current assumptions. A straight line was drawn on some graph paper from a point corresponding to the maximum dose received, and no attempt was made to estimate the effect of any internal dose received from fallout. It is this straight line that is still used to predict the cancer levels caused by expose to radioactivity. The large, single, acute flash is still assumed to have exactly the same effect as a long succession of small exposures.
However, the doses received by the inhabitants of the area around Shell field are at least 100 times lower than those to which the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were subjected. At such high doses, cells are killed rather than mutated - giving rise to a disproportionately lower increase in the cancer rate. Yet this is not taken into account. The official position is totally unacceptable for another important reason: it does not distinguish between external and internal radiation. Now we are exposed to radiation in two very different ways – Externally as with solar and cosmic radiation and X- rays, and internally, largely by inhaling or ingesting unstable radioactive atoms called isotopes.
Opportunity cost of nuclear energy
According to Kalam and Singh, we should not miss the opportunity to prosper from nuclear power, lest we should pay in the future heavy cost for missing it. This is at best an academic proposition not applicable to India . India is already paying heavily for placing undue importance on the nuclear power.
The geographic location of India makes it a strong candidate for harnessing solar energy. But we are missing it because maximum chunk of our energy budget goes to nuclear power.
India is blessed with immense amount of hydro-electric potential and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario with economically exploitable hydro-power potential to the tune of 1 48 700 MW. The basin/rivers wise assessed potential Indus Basin (33,832 MW), Ganga Basin (20,711 MW), Central Indian River system (4,152 MW), Western Flowing Rivers of southern India (9,430), Eastern Flowing Rivers of southern India (14,511 MW), Brahmaputra Basin (66,065 MW) with a total of 1,48,701 MW. In addition, 56 number of pumped storage projects have also been identified with probable installed capacity of 94 000 MW. In addition to this, hydro-potential from small, mini & micro schemes has been estimated as 6 782 MW from 1 512 sites. Thus, in totality India is endowed with hydro-potential of about 2 50 000 MW. However, exploitation of hydro-potential in India has not even crossed 20%. . It is so, because the energy budget of India is heavily loaded in favour of nuclear power.
There are other alternate sources of energy in India waiting to be harnessed, but we are not able to harness them fully and promptly, only because the energy budget of India is heavily loaded in favour of nuclear power.
Safety issues of nuclear power
Entering the discussion on the safety issues of nuclear power, Kalam and Singh refer to “four major incidents of plant failure — the Kyshtym accident in fuel reprocessing in 1957, the relatively smaller Three Mile Island meltdown (United States), the much bigger Chernobyl accident (USSR, 1986) and the recent Japanese incident at Fukushima.”
Then they strenuously argue and arrive at the conclusion, “the occurrence of four failures in six decades cannot be made out as a case for completely disbanding the technology — which is one of our foremost keys to graduating beyond the fossil fuel-based low-end energy. “ The premise and conclusion are both wrong.
The evolution of opposition to nuclear power is gradual and steady since the seventies. For the first time in the seventies, ordinary citizens began to reshape nuclear decisions and limit choices available to the nuclear decision making quarters. It is now, the ordinary people in and around Koodankulam in southern India agitating and causing the Indian Nuclear Establishment to reconsider some of its decisions.
Needless to say, the ‘experts' of the Nuclear Establishment have never ceased to assure us that nuclear radiation is quite safe, save at very high doses, to which we would rarely, if ever, be exposed. The experts sitting in the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) set safety levels that reflected this assumption.
The very ‘experts' who are believed to be all knowledgeable in setting those standards have systematically altered over the years the standards of safety levels for people exposed to occupational radiation – it was 73 rem in 1931, 50 rem in 1936, 25 rem in 1948, 15 rem in 1954, 5 rem in 1977 and 2 rem in 1990. [ 20 , p.398]
Thus the ‘acceptable level' for people exposed to occupational radiation reduced six times since 1931, and is now more than 36 times lower than it was then, while the acceptable level for the general public has been reduced from 0.5 rem per annum in 1977 to 0.1 rem per annum in 1990. By the end of the seventies, the public image of the experts had been seriously devalued: it had become abundantly clear that they had not known what they were doing. Citizens affected by radiation from having worked with it, lived near it, or were part of the growing environmental movement were angry that they had been deceived.
The new sense of alarm called for new standards of exposure and intensified the search for a “threshold dose” –some definitive proof that exposure to radiation below a certain level did not harm. The equally horrific problem of the latent effects of radiation poisoning received added attention as the number of radiation-linked cancers increased.
In fact, evidence has been piling up for years that there is no safe dose of radioactivity – a fact that even the National Radiological Protection Board ( NPRB ) of U.K. conceded in 1995, 100 years after Roentgen's discovery of radioactivity. In the words of NRPB “There is no basis for the assumption that there is likely to be a dose threshold below which the risk of tumour induction would be zero.” [20, p.398]
No single event caused the erosion of public confidence in the experts. It was the result of several seemingly unrelated incidents that surfaced wherever radioactivity was found. Those affected included the uranium miners, the victims of fallout from weapon testing in the Pacific and near the Nevada test site, hospital patients treated with X rays, and workers in the atomic factories and nuclear power plants.
The nuclear establishment, a closed but visible elite, presented its critics with a single and easily identifiable target. Small groups of concerned citizens, especially scientists, began to question specific aspects of nuclear expertise. At first formed on a local basis, these groups quickly spread nationwide. Before long, there was a worldwide set of antinuclear groups. As theses groups successfully forced more information from the secret files of institutions like the US AEC (Atomic Energy Commission), it became clearer how far the nuclear community had been prepared to go to protect itself- and how far it might be prepared to go in the future.
Nuclear zealots faced a barrage of allegations of cover-up, lies, deceit, and wilful suppression of important evidence. Many of these allegations were true. Open hostility broke out between those scientists who worked for the nuclear establishment and those who worked out side it, especially when it was discovered that some on the inside had broken the scientists' tribal code of honesty in research and agreed to suppress data.
America's open government system provided the best examples of this degenerate behaviour, but there is every reason to suppose that it happened in each country that was supporting a nuclear program for either warlike or peaceful uses. At the U.S. AEC, the hardening of the institutional arteries gave way to a phase of total intellectual corruption. Expertise was no longer regarded as process of free inquiry and debate; scientific results were subjected to a test of loyalty to the institution before they were checked for accuracy. Information both inside and outside the AEC became acceptable only if it enhanced the commission's narrow institutional goals-especially the goal of expanding nuclear power. It was only a question of time before some of the scientists on the inside found they could no longer abide the dishonesty and preferred to defect. The decade of the sixties saw the first of the radiation experts become whistleblowers of the nuclear age. [6, p.311].
The first of several debates that eventually breached the self confident image of the nuclear establishment actually started in the late fifties over a question of fallout, not from bombs, but from an accident in a nuclear power plant. The 1957 reactor fire at Wind scale in U.K had first drawn attention to the radioactive isotope Iodine-131. A short-lived substance with a half life of eight days, Iodine-131, when ingested, concentrates in the thyroid gland, where it can cause cancers.
The amount of Iodine 131 released from the Windscale plant in U.K. was tiny compared with the amount released from bombs exploded at Nevada test site in USA , but the British found the levels in local milk samples so high they destroyed two million liters.
Two years after the Windscale accident, in 1959, the US AEC became concerned over a report that significant amounts of Iodine 131 had been found in milk samples in the St.Lous area, over one thousand miles due east of the Nevada test site. One US AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) analyst reported, “All things considered, it seems to me more difficult to conclude that levels of Iodine 131 in milk comparable to those measured following Windscale did not occur in many places following several of the early tests than it is to conclude that they did occur.”
By 1962, it had become clear that one of the most important dangers of the Nevada bombs- Iodine 131- had been totally ignored in the early years of testing: the AEC monitoring teams around the Nevada test site had not looked for Iodine 131: they had measured the external gamma radiation dose. Armed with the new evidence from Windscale and St. Lous, researchers tried to determine the relationship, if any between the external gamma dose and the Iodine 131 content. These retrospective calculations were disturbing: they suggested that children who had drunk the milk from cows grazing on the ranches of southern Utah might have received very large doses indeed.
Surprising concentrations of radioactivity were found. For example, fish had Iodine 131concentrations thousands of times greater than the water they lived in and some birds had concentrations tens of thousands of times the amount measured in the air they breathed. But calculating average doses was a real problem: radioactive isotopes do not come down to earth in an even pattern from a fallout cloud. The AEC was faced with the same problem as the statistician who drowned in a river of average depth of three feet. Fearing a public outcry over Iodine 131, the AEC engaged in some of clearest examples of suppressing information.
It was not until the late 1970s, when many of the earlier AEC discussions on the health aspects were declassified, that the actual adverse health effects of the Nevada testing became clear. By that stage, the dishonesty of the official nuclear community was well known, and a second breach in its armour had already been made. This involved the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle: the mining of uranium. In the early 1960s, between10 and 20 present of 6,000 US miners who had been employed in the post-war American uranium mining boom discovered they were going to die from lung cancer. No one now doubts that the prime cause of their cancers was lack of ventilation in mines, which meant the miners inhaled harmful quantities of the radioactive products called “radon daughters”.
In any deposit of uranium in the earth's crust, the natural decay of the mineral through radioactivity produces a radioactive gas called radon. When inhaled, the gas produces its own decay products called “radon daughters.”. They emit alpha radiation. If these particles become lodged in lung tissue, they can, over a period of several years, cause cancers. The miners were told not to worry unduly about the gas. Their employers advised them, erroneously, that an hour after they had finished work all the radioactivity would have cleared from their lungs. The US , government was no more helpful. Regulation of the mines was so lax that surveys of radon gas present in the mines, most of which were located on the Colorado Plateau, did not begin until 1949, and the “radon daughter” particles were not measured at all until 1951, Even then, surveys were used purely for information purposes, not to devise a measure of health control. That would not emerge until the 1960s when the first of the deaths occurred.
The shocking fact is that the dangers of uranium mining had been known for more than a hundred years before the Colorado mines were opened. Uranium and pitchblende miners in the Erz Mountains on the German-Czech border had a long history of lung complaints. In 1879, lung cancer had been identified as the main cause of their problems and of their subsequent deaths. By the 1920s, the source of the problems, the radon gas, had been identified. By 1939,a German study showed that lung cancers among the miners were thirty times the national average. The disease even had a local name: the miners called it Bergkrankheit, or mountain sickness. [6, p.313]
Dr. Kalam in his Special Essay in The Hindu (Nov 6, 2011) gives a narrative of how he happened to witness personally, while he was President of India, the misery of people living near Jharia coal fields in Jharkhand and the havoc the coal mining has caused to the humans and other forms of life in that place. It is unfortunate, the former President of India, has not said even a word about the miserable state of the people who worked in the uranium mining at Jaduguda in the state of Jharkhand and how the environment in the mining area has been affected. Kalam also does not say even a word about the nuclear radiation affects and occupational hazards inflicted upon the people and the environment around the nuclear power plants in India as revealed from scientific studies. Of course there is not even a whisper about the effects on people and environment in Rajastan from Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II under ground nuclear tests. What could have happened to the people in and around Pokhran we have to infer from the affects of similar tests in other countries.
Dr.Kalam in his Special Essay (The Hindu, Nov. 6, 2011 ) refers to his participation in the Indian space program and says “I was the Mission Director of the launch, and we were accused of putting a few crores of rupees into the sea. We did not wind up our dreams with that one accident and the criticism. The mission continued and the next year we were successful.” When there is a failure in the space program it is seen by people and nothing could be hidden. That is why, perhaps, the Indian space program was compelled to march into corrective path to reach its goal. Whereas, the Indian Nuclear Establishment pushes all its failures under the carpet and is totally non-transparent invoking national security.
In their affidavit in reply before the Bombay High Court in a Public Interest Petition, the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) admitted that radiation is found in the fish and marine organisms in Thane Creek, but the actual levels of radiation cannot be disclosed in public interest. Located on the edge of Thane creek in the thickly populated Mumbai, is the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) which has been discharging its nuclear effluents into the Thane creek for over forty years, thereby contaminated the creek from where fish is regularly caught and sold in the market.
In another Public Interest Petition before Bombay High Court, a social organisation named “Citizens for A Just Society” founded by noted Gandhian, and Freedom Fighter, Dr. Usha Mehta sought disclosure of at least the 90 nuclear issues concerning the nuclear power plants in India compiled by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) in its Report titled “Safety Issues in DAE Installations” which listed 135 nuclear issues in all the nuclear establishments. There were six massive affidavits in reply filed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) opposing the Public Interest Petition. An additional affidavit was filed by Dr. R. Chidambaram himself as the then Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission ( AEC ) and Secretary Department of Atomic Energy ( DAE ) claiming ‘secrecy' and ‘privilege' and blocked the disclosure of the AERB Report including the 90 issues pertaining to nuclear power plants. Dr. Chidambaram is the present Indian Government's principal scientific adviser.
Upon inquiry into the unprecedented collapse of the containment dome of Unit-I of the Kaiga plant in 1994, there was a report from the AERB appointed Committee and another report from the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) appointed Committee. Both reports were marked secret and were not disclosed to the public.
Upon inquiry into the serious accident on March 31, 1993 at Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS), there was a report from the AERB appointed Committee and another report from the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) appointed Committee. Both reports were marked secret and were not disclosed to the public.
When DAE and NPCIL have shown, all along, such utter indifference towards public concerns, the people agitating against the commissioning of Koodankulam nuclear power plant are justified to put it as a precondition that the radiation levels in and around all our nuclear installations, in the soil, waters, underground water table, fish and marine organisms, vegetation should be subjected to independent examination and the results should be made public, and all the reports on the nuclear incidents in the nuclear power plants and establishments should be made public.
Nuclear fuel of the future: Thorium
Kalam and Singh are quite optimistic about the role of thorium. They express, “It is perhaps the best solution possible in the future and would be technologically and commercially the best option in another two decades.” Except making some theoretical pronouncements, they have not pointed out any genuine and significant research work in India in support of their optimism.
It is true, India has the world's largest deposits of thorium. Dr.Homi Bhabha saw these thorium deposits as the foundation stone of energy independence for a millennium. While the rest of the world concentrated on thorium, Bhabha adopted a theoretically viable long-term strategy leading to thorium reactors. The first stage was to include natural uranium reactors producing plutonium. As part of the first stage Bhabha chose the Canadian Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) design which is the basis for India 's nuclear power plants at Rajathan, Kalpakam, Kakrapara, Narora and Kaiga. The second stage is to use the plutonium produced in these PHWR reactors to burn breeder reactors with thorium blanket, producing the less common isotope of uranium, U-233. The third stage is to use uranium U-233 as fuel in thorium breeders. The whole plan was an exercise in untested technology and uncosted investments. The ambition was staggering. Yet, for many years Western observers were almost unanimous in their praise for the Indian program under Bhabha's leadership. Under the shadow of Bhabha, the Indian scientists and technologists acquired positions at the forefront of international technological development. Indeed, their achievements were admired particularly because of the nation's limited resources; few questioned the economic wisdom of the project and few questioned the ability of Indian scientists selected by Bhabha to translate his dream to master thorium technology.
The irony is, Bhabha, though internationally reputed theoretical physicist, was lacking adequate knowledge of nuclear reactor designs, and it had left void after him, more so because there is no Rickover (as in USA) amongst the people chosen by Bhabha himself to translate his dream of mastering thorium technology. It is a long and complicated story that needs a separate discussion. Suffice it to say, the very first move of Bhabha did not fit into his three stage program when he selected the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) of the General Electric as the first Indian nuclear reactor at Tarapur. Similarly, the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) design of the present Koodankulam nuclear power plant also will not fit into the three stage program of Bhabha.
It is necessary to mention that though every one else was praising Bhabha's plans and selections, there was, however, one dissident voice at the end of 1955, and it came from I. M. D. Little, one of leading energy economists of the day. Professor Little pointed out that Bhabha had overestimated the costs of conventional power stations, assumed optimistic availability factors for untested nuclear plants, and underestimated the thermal efficiency of modern coal-fired plants.,. Little said: “To put any of her own capital resources into buying the early products of this Western research would seem to be a great waste of the very limited savings of the Indian people. As Dr. Bhabha says: electricity is in short supply in India . It is likely to go on being in short supply if one uses twice as much capital as is needed to get more.” [6. p.178].
Bhabha never commented on Little's analysis. After the second Geneva Conference in 1958, the French physicist Francis Perrin added his voice to Little's criticism, arguing that underdeveloped countries could not expect the full advantages of nuclear technology until they had passed through a phase of industrialisation in the traditional way. Bhabha simply asserted: “I do not believe it.”
Whatever may the optimism of Kalam and Singh about the thorium technology and its advantages, India has a long way to go, to tackle the following challenges that arise in attempts to harness thorium for electricity production and to resolve the following known issues in mastering thorium technology:
? The melting point of ThO2 (3 3500C) is much higher compared to that of UO2
(2 8000C). Hence, a much higher sintering temperature (>2 0000C) is required to produce high density ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels. Admixing of ‘sintering aid' (CaO, MgO, Nb2O5, etc) is required for achieving the desired pellet density at lower temperature.
? ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels are relatively inert and, unlike UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, do not dissolve easily in concentrated nitric acid. Addition of small quantities of HF in concentrated HNO3 is essential which cause corrosion of stainless steel equipment and pipings in reprocessing plants. The corrosion problem is mitigated with addition of aluminium nitrate. But Boiling THOREX solution [13 M HNO3+0.05 M HF+0.1 M Al(NO3)3] at ~393 K and long dissolution period are required for ThO2–based fuels.
? The irradiated Th or Th–based fuels contain significant amount of 232U, which has a half-life of only 73.6 years and is associated with strong gamma emitting daughter products, 212Bi and 208Tl with very short half-life. As a result, there is significant build-up of radiation dose with storage of spent Th–based fuel or separated 233U, necessitating remote and automated reprocessing and refabrication in heavily shielded hot cells and increase in the cost of fuel cycle activities.
? In the conversion chain of 232Th to 233U, 233Pa is formed as an intermediate, which has a relatively longer half-life (~27 days) as compared to 239Np (2.35 days) in the uranium fuel cycle thereby requiring longer cooling time of at least one year for completing the decay of 233Pa to 233U. Normally, Pa is passed into the fission product waste in the THOREX process, which could have long term radiological impact. It is essential to separate Pa from the spent fuel solution prior to solvent extraction process for separation of 233U and thorium.
? The three stream process of separation of uranium, plutonium and thorium from spent (Th, Pu)O2 fuel, though viable, is yet to be developed as an efficient and economical process .
? The database and experience of thorium fuels and thorium fuel cycles are very limited, as compared to UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, and need to be augmented before large investments are made for commercial utilization of thorium fuels and fuel cycles.
[ 21 ] Thorium fuel cycle — Potential benefits and challenges , IAEA-TECDOC-1450
From the above mentioned analysis, it is clear that there is no scientific basis to claim as claimed by Kalam and Singh, “Nuclear power is our gateway to a prosperous future” of India . The fact is, India is blessed with rivers, abundant sunshine and winds blowing between land and sea on three sides and those natural resources, which remain poorly harnessed, must be harnessed fully and pursuit of nuclear power neglecting those abundant alternate sources of energy will ruin India 's future. Therefore, there is a need to revisit the role of nuclear power for India 's energy security.
The decision on Koodankulam nuclear power plant should not be taken without an independent examination of the radiation levels in and around all the nuclear installations, in the soil, waters, underground water table, fish and marine organisms, vegetation, and without making public the reports on the nuclear accidents and incident which have been withheld from the public all these years. India being a constitutional democracy, its people have every right to be satisfied that their present and future are safe and secure.
Buddhi Kota Subbarao is former Indian Navy Captain with Ph.D in nuclear technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay . As an advocate of Supreme Court of India, he successfully argued several public interest petitions before Indian Courts. His e-mail address: email@example.com
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[ 21 ] Thorium fuel cycle — Potential benefits and challenges, IAEA-TECDOC-1450
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