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Nuclear Power Business Is Defacing Indian Democracy

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

18 September, 2012

Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamilnadu, southern India, has become Oracle of Delphi to reveal the future of India. It has also become a touch stone to know the worth of Indian Democracy.

The crude and cruel ways deployed by the Central Government of India and the State Government of Tamilnadu to contain the people expressing in an entirely democratic way their opposition to the Koodankulam nuclear power reactors and also the ease with which false and frivolous criminal cases as well as serious sedition charges have been instituted against them would show that the people in power are too preoccupied with politics and pressing problems to grasp the perils of nuclear power plants in the long run.

If India continues to climb on the curve of nuclear power growth, it is bound to face the problems Japan is now facing after Fukushima Diaiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. Japan now finds it difficult to climb down on the nuclear power.

Japan finds it too expensive and in a way impossible to clean up the radiation contaminated soil, forests and water caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The hardships to the displaced people will continue for years together. Even after a few decades, people cannot return to their homes located up to more than ten kilometre radius from the stricken Fukushima nuclear complex. Lives of people are severely disrupted. Food chain is affected, and under water belt is contaminated. Groundwater with cesium at 9 times gov't limit has been found in Fukushima. Scientists detected radioactive cesium at 10 times above normal levels at 800 km away from Fukushima. The decommissioning of nuclear reactors would greatly increase the problem of long term storage which has not been resolved so far by any country including Japan which has to take care of 50 years of spent fuel.

A thing to be noted is, compared to the investment and commitment Japan made in nuclear power, India is at best at the starting point. Prior to Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, Japan had about 30% of its electricity from nuclear, while India generates even now only about 3% from nuclear. Therefore, it is prudent for India to stop building any more nuclear power plants and concentrate on renewable energies as Germany and Japan are doing now. Fukushima opened the eyes of people worldwide. Koodankulam should open the eyes of Indian people and Indian planners of electrical power.

The truth is the global nuclear power corporate sector is as powerful as the global oil corporate sector, and more sophisticated in enticing the leaders of the developed countries like Japan and developing countries like India. The pressure the Japanese Government is now facing from the powerful global nuclear power corporate sector to restart the shut-down nuclear reactors in Japan against the wishes of the Japanese people should be an eye opener to the Indian Government as to what it is going to face if India becomes a market place for nuclear power plants against the wishes of the Indian people. Ordinary people in Koodankulam and Idinthakarai and other villages around are sacrificing their lives to help the Indian Government to open its eyes. 

Nuclear scientists in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) should come forward for open public debate. These scientists are doing a great disservice to the nation as well as to the cause of science in India with their bald statements that all is well with the nuclear installations and nuclear power plants in India. Many things are not revealed to the Indian public. Media, print and electronic, is yet to demonstrate its skills to unearth the mismanagement in DAE. Prime Minister of India and the Chief Ministers of States craving for nuclear power plants are all ill-informed and insufficiently informed on the injury and loss in store for the nation in the long run from opting for nuclear power plants and neglecting renewable energy sources such as small and medium hydro power plants, solar, wind, biomass and biogas, geothermal and energy saving .

Global nuclear power corporate sector has become restless after Japan announced its new nuclear power policy. The determined and sustained opposition of Japanese people to nuclear power has compelled the present Government of Japan headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to declare a new energy policy 18 months after the earthquake and tsunami devastated Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, triggering meltdowns, spewing radiation and forcing some 160,000 people to flee.

Salient points of the new energy policy of Japan are: limit the life of the nuclear reactors to 40 years, stop building new nuclear power plants, phase out nuclear power by the year 2030 and restart the shut-down nuclear reactors only if the nuclear regulator permits. Thus, Japan joins countries such as Germany and Switzerland in turning away from nuclear power. In abandoning nuclear power, Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30% of its energy mix.

Whether it is a political statement or a real zero nuclear energy option by Japan, time alone will show. But there is an immediate reaction from the United States, France and Britain expressing concerns over the zero nuclear energy option of Japan because they all make money from Japan's nuclear industry. An added concern of France and Britain is Japan may refuse to take back spent fuel that was sent from Japan to France and Britain for reprocessing. The dealings connected with reprocessing are quite tricky. Japan at present holds 70 tons of high grade plutonium.

Without their nuclear power reactors, Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co., Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co. would all go bankrupt. Therefore, the “Big Business” has already termed the new energy policy of Japan as anti-industry. In the days to come, if the new energy policy is diluted, the agitating Japanese public will raise the slogan of ‘anti-people' and if the new energy policy is strictly implemented the “Big Business” will air the slogan of ‘anti-business'. The resulting public debate is bound to gravitate democratic Japan much faster towards renewables energies and energy saving methods. In all this there is a lesson for democratic India.

In its efforts to phase out nuclear power after last year's Fukushima disaster, Japan has by now approved more than 33,000 renewable energy projects that can receive subsidies under a new energy law that took effect on July 1, 2012. [1]

Of those, 81 are solar power projects with capacity of 1 megawatt (MW) or more each, in all totalling 243 megawatts.

Six wind power projects totalling 122 MW have also been approved, as have homeowners and small companies which have installed solar panels on their roofs, totalling 202 MW, and small-sized hydro power projects coming to 0.2 MW.

Some of the biggest renewable power projects either approved by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) or being planned include the following:

- Toshiba Corp, heavy machinery maker Hitachi Zosen Corp, JFE Steel Corp and three other firms are to jointly invest 120 billion yen over 10 years to set up offshore wind turbines with combined output of 300 MW.

- Trading firm Marubeni Corp and Wind Power Energy have won the rights from Ibaraki prefectural government to build separately two wind farms off the coast, north of Tokyo, with total capacity of 250 MW. Construction is set to start around 2015.

- Softbank Corp has said it would build 10 solar farms and a 48-MW wind farm by March 2015, with total capacity of 230.2 MW. Of the 10 solar farms, it has two plants in Kyoto city, western Japan, and Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo, with combined capacity of 4.5 MW, already in operation.

- Zen-Noh, the country's main agricultural cooperative, will install solar panels with total capacity of 200 MW at 400-600 of its facilities by March 2015, costing 60 billion yen. Trading house Mitsubishi Corp is involved in the project.

- Toshiba will build solar plants with total capacity of 100 MW on the tsunami-hit coastline of Fukushima Prefecture, at a cost of around 30 billion yen.

- Kyocera Corp, heavy machinery maker IHI Corp and Mizuho Corporate Bank, will launch a 70-MW solar plant in southern Japan.

- Engineering firm JGC Corp will construct and operate a 27-MW solar power plant in the city of Oita, southern Japan, at a total cost of 8 billion yen.

- A consortium of 10 companies and University of Tokyo will build a floating wind farm off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture with a total capacity of 16 MW. The project, subsidised by METI, will start building a 2-MW floating turbine this business year.

- The city of Sapporo in Hokkaido will install solar modules on the roofs of all 311 of its public primary, middle and high schools.

- In the city of Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, a project led by local businesses has led to the establishment of a roughly 1 MW hydropower plant, with the project's cost of 1.05 billion yen financed mainly by residents.

Germany is one of the pioneers in the global switch to renewable energies.

One-fourth of German electricity was furnished by renewable energies in the first six months of this year (2012). Based on calculations from the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), water, wind, biomass and photovoltaic power plants produced 67.9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity between January and June, 2012 That represents a 25.1 percent share of German electricity consumption. [2].

This has shown the way to Japan which plans to make up its 30% nuclear electricity deficit from out of renewable energies. Certainly India can plan to have the present 3 or 4% of its nuclear electricity from out of renewable energies and become completely free from nuclear electricity. Systematic expansion of renewable energy will not only be good from an environmental point of view, but also in terms of innovation, growth and employment.

It is necessary to mention that despite the financial crisis, global investment in renewable energies increased by almost 20 per cent in the 2011alone, to a volume of 257 billion dollars.

Global nuclear power corporate sector would do anything and everything to rundown the pursuit of renewable energies. The countries exporting nuclear power plants always think in terms of global market share. The competition is so nasty that arm twisting, corruption, misinformation, media manipulation and enticing intellectuals are the common tools deployed to sell nuclear power plants. Former Chairman of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Dale Klein , an influential American “committed to the future of nuclear energy” referred to the growing market share of Russia and remarked while addressing the American Nuclear Society,  “The Russians are pursuing exports of their VVER reactor design with deals in Turkey, India, China, and Vietnam . We need to pay more attention to their growing global market share." India has already become a victim to this game of global market share. Otherwise, the repressive measures at Koodankulam would not be necessary. These repressive measures are defacing Indian democracy.

Indian planners should plan country's energy security taking into account India's natural resources and not by imitating other countries which lack the natural resources India has. The need is to bestow equal emphasis on water and electricity and that would set the correct direction for India.

Central Government and State Government of Tamilnadu should stop immediately the oppressive methods unleashed on the people agitating against Koodankulam nuclear plant. An informed public debate and also a meaningful and an in-depth debate in Indian Parliament on the need for nuclear power will be in the interest of India's future.

Koodankulam nuclear power plant should not be commissioned till a full and proper independent examination of the safety aspects of all the existing nuclear installations and nuclear power plants is carried out including the damage caused to the environment around them which includes water, soil and life forms of all types. Indian people have a constitutional right to know all the things that have been pushed under the carpet by DAE by misusing the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.


[1]  http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/33000-renewable-energy-projects-approved-since-july-1?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2012-09-16_AM

[2] http://www.india.diplo.de/Vertretung/indien/en/__pr/Climate__

The following are the earlier articles by the author in countercurrents.org :

AERB And Regulatory Capture In India: Conflict of Interest?

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

12 August, 2012


Who Benefits From Nuclear Power Plants In India?

02 August, 2012

Whether Ordinance On Self-Denial Of Nuclear Power Harmful To India?

11 June, 2012

Koodankulam Nuclear Plant: Jayalalitha Is Consciously Missing A Historic Opportunity

04 April, 2012

Should The Koodankulam Power Nuclear Plant Be Commissioned Or Abandoned?

08 March, 2012


Need To Revisit The Role Of Nuclear Power For India 's Energy Security

15 December, 2011,


Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Is Destined To Reset The Nuclear Priorities In India

16 October, 2011


Indo-US Nuclear Deal- Some Unexplored Angles

9 March, 2006.


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:    bksubbarao@gmail.com

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