Koodankulam NPP Verdict From Supreme Court Requires Review And Recall
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
28 August, 2013
On May 6, 2013, a two member bench of Supreme Court of India (Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan & Justice Dipak Misra) dismissed the appeal against Madras High Court judgment and gave green signal with some mild conditions for commissioning the controversial Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant next to Bay of Bengal Sea in the South-Eastern tip of India, in the State of Tamil Nadu.
The appeal was against the refusal of Madras High Court to stay the completion and commissioning work on the first unit of 1000 MWe Russian VVER type nuclear reactor. There are two units of 1000 MWe each under construction at Koodankulam.
A careful reading of the May 6, 2013 judgement from the Apex Court shows the need for a review and recall by a larger bench of the Supreme Court.
The GROUNDS to seek review and recall include the following:
(i) The judgment of May 6, 2013 rests heavily on an ill founded and erroneous earlier opinion of Supreme Court that nuclear power plants are necessary to make nuclear weapons and together they are sensitive in nature ( People's Union for Civil Liberties and Another v. Union of India and Others , (2004) 2 SCC 476). The fact is, the plutonium used in conducting Pokhran I (May 1974) and Pokhran II (May 1998) nuclear explosions was realised from Research Reactors and not from nuclear power plants. Research Reactors are much cheaper to build and easy to operate. Moreover, Research Reactors in addition to producing plutonium can also be used for advanced research in material science and also to make radio isotopes having medical and industrial applications.
(ii) While on one side the judgment dated May 6, 2013 sees and accepts a compulsion to stay away from examining the policy matters of the Central Government on the need or otherwise of nuclear electricity, on the other side without necessary examination and discussion on the safety and economics of nuclear electricity in Indian context, the judgment has rushed to make judicial pronouncements that nuclear electricity is necessary for India.
Without any clearly formulated issue, without a prayer on the issue, without examining any evidence necessary to decide on the issue, and without hearing the affected parties on the issue, the two-member bench in its 247 page judgment advocated the merits of nuclear technology and opined on nuclear radiation, nuclear safety, cost of nuclear electricity, relative merits of different energy sources, and the desirability of nuclear electricity and made the following pronouncements:
“ One of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significant part of the fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas etc. Oil and natural gas resources might exhaust themselves .” (at page 11 of the judgment).
With profound respects to the Judges of the Supreme Court it must be said that this opinion from the Supreme Court is ill founded, incorrect and unwarranted. Scientific study of the total fuel cycle of the nuclear power plants including uranium mining, fuel processing, effluent discharges during operation, spent fuel disposal and decommissioning of the nuclear power plants clearly shows the nuclear energy is unclean, a long lasting polluter of the environment affecting all forms of life on earth, costly, unreliable and not at all a competitive energy source, especially in Indian context with the advantage of so many rivers, abundant sun shine and wind.
Though India is blessed with many rivers, not even thirty per cent of total hydro potential has been harnessed so far. Harnessing water resources to the maximum would ensure not only electricity but also help in irrigation and in solving drinking water problem in the country.
The writing on the wall is clear. India is going to face internal and external wars for water. Flooding India with nuclear power plants which are hungry for water would only aggravate the war.
It is unwise to invest any more money on nuclear electricity. India's priority should be hydro, solar, wind, bio-fuels and energy conservation.
It is necessary to emphasise that hydro power pursuit would also have additional benefits of irrigation and drinking water. India is blessed with many rivers. Harnessing them fully is in national interest.
Blind imitation of other countries in planning India's energy policy is detrimental to the country. It is necessary to plan the energy policy on the basis of the available resources in India. Supreme Court of India endorsed nuclear electricity without examining all other available safe methods. Nuclear electricity is loaded with dangers to the present and future generations, to the environment as well as to all living forms.
India is going to face internal and external wars for water if it does not harness its water resources on an urgent basis. Rs.17, 000 crores spent on Koodankulam nuclear plant would be a pittance compared to the enormous investments in the pipe line on the proposed nuclear plants at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh) and other places in the country. Insisting on running Koodankulam nuclear plant would be nothing but being penny wise and pound foolish.
(iii) Under Article 141 of the Constitution of India, the law declared by Supreme Court is binding on all the Courts within the territory of India. While examining the Koodankulam matter which came up from Madras High Court in the State of Tamilnadu, the Supreme Court has put out its view that nuclear electricity is necessary for India.
Therefore, when the people of other States approach their respective High Courts seeking examination of the threat to their lives and the deprivation of their fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, on account of the proposed nuclear power plants in their midst, the High Courts of those States cannot take a view contrary to the view expressed by Supreme court of India.
It would mean, the people of those States are denied one stage of appeal. Consequently, the law declared by a seven member bench of Supreme Court in Antulay's case is attracted wherein a seven member bench of Supreme Court reviewed and recalled a five member bench decision of Supreme Court ( 1988 AIR 1531).
(iv) After the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011 in Japan, the Nuclear Power Corporations of India Ltd. ( NPCIL ) set up a Committee called Task Force to examine the safety of nuclear power plants in India and to make recommendations in the light of the lessons from Fukushima. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board ( AERB ) of India set up another High Level Committee of Specialists for the same purpose. Thus there are two Reports from these two Committees. If the Supreme Court had insisted on examining and analysing these two Reports together, with the help of knowledgeable persons in the country, the true picture about the state of Indian nuclear power plants and the monumental mismanagement therein would have come to the notice of the Supreme Court. Mere assertions of ‘all is well' would have been exposed. Since the issues are at the intersection of law and nuclear technology, the burden on the Counsels of both sides also would be substantial. Omission to examine these two Reports in sufficient depth led to miscarriage of justice. It also led to ignoring the genuine fears of the people agitating against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.
(v) The issues raised by the appellants (petitioners) before Supreme Court are broadly categorised as: 1) Safety, 2) Radioactive waste management, 3) Environmental Clearance, 4) Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and 5) Disaster Management.
The appellants sought from the Supreme Court appropriate orders to treat as precondition the implementation of all the 17 recommendations of the Task Force appointed by NPCIL and also fulfilment of other mandatory requirements including the availability of fresh water as required under the regulations and the arrangements to deal with spent nuclear fuel. However, in the May 6, 2013 judgement of Supreme Court there is nothing to show whether the Court was sufficiently briefed (if briefed at all) on the significance of the 17 recommendations of the Task Force appointed by NPCIL and the recommendations of the High Level Committee of Specialists constituted by AERB.
Appraising the Apex court fully on all these issues which are at the intersection of law and nuclear technology would be in the national interest and it would also help in securing the ends of justice for people of Koodankulam in Tamilnadu; Jaitapur in Maharashtra; Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh; Mithi Virdi in Gujarat; Haripur in West Bengal; Kumharia or Gorakhpur in Haryana; Bargi or Chuttka in Madhya Pradesh; Markandi (Pati Sonapur) in Orissa and all other places where nuclear power plants are proposed.
(vi) Since nuclear technology is an unforgiving technology, substandard components endanger the safety of nuclear power plant with attendant danger to people.
Federal Security Service (FSB) the successor organization to the KGB arrested in February 2012, Sergei Shutov, procurement director of a prominent machine building plant in Russia known as ZiO-Podolsk. Moscow court ordered Shutov's arrest.
The accusation is, as procurement director Shutov allegedly purchased low-grade steel for equipment in collusion with Dmitry Golubev general director of ZiO-Podolsk's supplier A???-Industriya . The low-grade steel is accounted as high grade steel and the difference in price is pocketed. The arrangement between Shutov and Golubev allegedly involved Shutov turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel in return for a large portion of the profits reaped by ATOM-Industriya.
In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application from People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) confirmed that for Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, ,the Russian company, Zio-Podolsk, supplied, “Steam Generators, Cation and Anion Filters, Mechanical Filter, Moisture Separator and Reheater, Boric Solution Storage Tanks, Regenerative Blow Down Heat Exchanger, Pipelines and Fittings of Different Systems, Insulation Materials, PHRS Heat Exchanger.” All these components play vital role in the functioning of the nuclear plant and if inferior quality steel is used in their manufacture it could endanger the safety of the nuclear plant and consequently the safety of the people.
If for turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel, the procurement director Shutov could be sent to jail by a Moscow Court, will the Supreme Court of India be acting in public interest if no investigation is ordered against the concerned officials in NPCIL, AERB and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for not raising objection to the equipment containing inferior quality steel and for not rejecting it, and thereby endangering the safety of the nuclear plant and the people around?
Viability, Sustainability and Necessity
If a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) Petition were to be filed by a citizen seeking a declaration from the Supreme Court of India that nuclear power plants are not required for the energy security of India, the Court, perhaps, would have turned it down by stating that it is a policy matter to be looked into by the Legislature and the Executive only.
Whereas, Justices Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, without the necessary and sufficient material and arguments & submissions thereon to assess the desirability or otherwise of nuclear electricity, and without the necessary and sufficient arguments and submissions on the issues of nuclear safety which are at the intersection of law and nuclear technology, proceeded to rule, “ National policy of this country, as already stated, is that atomic energy has a unique position in the emerging economics in India. Nuclear energy is, therefore, considered to be a viable source of energy and it is necessary to increase country's economic growth. Nuclear energy is now considered in India as a sustainable source of energy and India cannot afford to be a nuclear isolated nation, when most of the developed countries consider it as a major source of energy for their economic growth .” (paragraph 109 of the May 6, 2013 judgment of Supreme Court)
Policy declaration that “ atomic energy has a unique position ” cannot be the premise to conclude, “ Nuclear energy is, therefore, considered to be a viable source of energy ” Viability does not get established by mere policy declarations.
“Viability” of nuclear energy cannot be distanced from its cost-effectiveness which in India is totally ignored only because in India there is no clear cut separation between the nuclear weapon policy and the policy of producing electricity from nuclear power plants. The fact that nuclear power plants are in the civilian sector is conveniently ignored.
Similarly a mere policy declaration cannot be the basis to conclude “ Nuclear energy is now considered in India as a sustainable source of energy .” Examination of sustainability requires examination of the cost of inputs; costs to ensure safety of people and environment in the present and in future; and the amount of net benefit from all such efforts.
Similarly a mere policy declaration cannot be the foundation to conclude that nuclear electricity “ is necessary to increase country's economic growth. ” Any effort to conclude the ‘necessity' of nuclear electricity, would require examination of the available natural resources in the country such as hydro, solar and wind and a scientifically made comparison between nuclear electricity alone and the electricity plus irrigation and drinking water from renewable sources such as hydro.
The two member Bench of Supreme Court (Justices Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra) have approvingly recorded their opinion on the ‘viability', ‘sustainability' and ‘necessity' of nuclear electricity in support of Central Government's gigantic projections to climb up steeply on the nuclear electricity curve (from the present installed nuclear capacity of 4780 MWe , to 20000 MWe by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2030), surprisingly after placing on record the reluctance of the Bench to examine the fairness or otherwise of the nuclear electricity policy of the Central Government.
Citing English Judgments and the earlier Judgments of Supreme Court of India, the two member Bench recorded their opinion, “It is not for Courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfillment of a policy, is fair. Reason is obvious; it is not the province of a court to scan the wisdom or reasonableness of the policy behind the Statute.” (paragraph 11 of the May 6, 2013 judgment of Supreme Court).
The contradiction is obvious because if it is not in the policy of a court to scan the wisdom or reasonableness of a Government's policy, the court cannot suo motu endorse the policy without hearing fully the other side and that too when there is a deep controversy about Government's nuclear electricity policy.
India does not fall in the category of countries where nuclear electricity is a must to meet the growing energy needs. India is blessed with many rivers and has enormous hydro potential which is so far not exploited beyond thirty percent. It is the faulty Indian planning that makes the nuclear electricity look as a necessary component in meeting energy needs in India. Harnessing the rivers would produce not only electricity but also would help in irrigation and drinking water.
The necessary factors to conclude, ‘viability', ‘sustainability' and ‘necessity' of nuclear electricity, have not been examined, let alone the sufficiency of the examination. Therefore, the conclusions and rulings in the 247 page, May 6, 2013, judgment of Supreme Court of India in Koodankulam matter are ill founded and erroneous. It has resulted in miscarriage of justice and caused enormous injury and harm to the people agitating against Koodankulam nuclear plant. It is in the interest of justice and in public interest to review and recall the May 6, 2013 judgment of Supreme Court.
Approach of Developed Nations
With profound respects to the Hon'ble Judges Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra of Supreme Court, it must be said that they have either been misinformed or they have themselves misread the agenda of the developed nations possessing the wherewithal of nuclear technology. Furthermore, it may not be easy for the judges to grasp the subtlety with which the high level nuclear scientists of India place their personal careers above the national interests.
The agenda of the nations with ability to export nuclear technology, USA, France, Japan, UK, Canada and South Korea is to sell nuclear power plants and components to make money. They all work like a Cartel and invest a great deal to convince the leaders of the developing countries to see many benefits in nuclear power plants. It is this Cartel which has commissioned many academicians around the globe to paint nuclear electricity as clean and green, even though the nuclear power plants at every stage of fuel cycle lead to long lasting radiation pollution with irreparable damage to all living forms on earth.
It is to fulfil this Cartel's agenda that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) prepared gigantic plans to climb up from the present installed nuclear capacity of 4780 MWe , to 20000 MWe by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2030. This gigantic plan is declared as national policy in consonance with Atomic Energy Act, 1962 to which the Supreme Court of India shows utmost deference as in the present Koodankulam matter. The Indo-US nuclear deal the so called civil nuclear cooperation agreement is in fact an aggressive handiwork of this Cartel led by the United States. The deal would benefit only the nuclear business lobbies and would certainly impoverish India.
Whereas, Russia's role is a little bit different in so far as India is concerned. Russian VVER Reactors at Koodankulam are not out of any aggressive effort on the part of the former USSR to sell nuclear reactors to India.
When the incompetency of the nuclear scientists at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), to make a viable nuclear submarine propulsion plant design in spite of their twenty year effort, came to the personal knowledge of two successive Prime Ministers, Smt.Indira Gandhi and Shri.Rajiv Gandhi, through the design calculations of an Indian naval officer, both the Prime Ministers, one after the other, made efforts to acquire nuclear submarine design from the USSR. It was during Rajiv Gandhi's time the effort materialised. But the Russians wanted India to pay not only for the nuclear submarine design but also for a land based nuclear power plant. India had to agree. That was the reason India had entered into an inter-governmental agreement with the erstwhile USSR in November 1988 followed by a supplementary agreement on 21.06.1998 signed by India and Russia to establish Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
It appears, these facts about the Cartel's attempts to flood India with nuclear power plants purely with an eye on business profits and the compulsion to accept Koodankulam NPP are not brought to the knowledge of the Bench of Supreme Court (Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra). As a result, like everyone else in the country, the judges of Supreme Court of India also became victims of a well-orchestrated propaganda on the merits of nuclear electricity for India's progress.
Except this well-orchestrated propaganda, there is no other scientific basis for the Supreme Court to opine and record, “ One of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significant part of the fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas etc. ” (paragraph 9 of May 6, 2013 Judgment of Supreme Court of India).
The fact is nuclear energy is not clean, is not safe, is not reliable and is not competitive. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Central Government have all misrepresented, misguided and misdirected the Supreme Court to believe such globally orchestrated propaganda. This is one of the strong grounds to review and recall the May 6, 2013 judgment of Supreme Court on Koodankulam NPP as there is a lot to examine to know the myth about nuclear energy being “clean, safe, reliable and competitive.”
The nuclear business corporate sector is in a way more powerful than the powerful oil business corporate sector. Advanced countries with nuclear power plant technology are committed to nuclear power purely because of their desire to make money by selling nuclear power plants. Entering into agreements with such of those countries is becoming possible with political and economic pressures and immoral inducements. The touted bilateral agreements with such countries are invariably due to political and economic pressures and immoral inducements.
After stepping down from the post of Chairman & Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Dr SK Jain, immediately joined in June 2012 WANO ( World Association of Nuclear Operators ) Governing Board, Tokyo Centre. Though the professed aim of WANO is "To maximize the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants worldwide by working together to assess, benchmark and improve performance through mutual support, exchange of information and emulation of best practice.", its real purpose is to promote nuclear power industry.
To facilitate the path of flooding India with nuclear power plants, there will be many subtle inducements to the high rank Indian nuclear scientists and to the politicians in power and also to the influential people in India. The case of Dr. S K Jain joining WANO Governing Board, Tokyo Centre is painted as an honour to India. Such honour roll is bound to grow to pave the way for flooding India with nuclear reactors.
Similarly, the primary goal of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to promote the growth of nuclear technology. The birth of IAEA is in the slogan “Atoms for Peace” and its life motif is in the slogan “Nuclear Technology is clean and green”. Both the slogans are monumental myths.
Lucrative posts in IAEA and frequent visits to IAEA are all big attractions to the nuclear scientists of the countries buying nuclear technology. Indian nuclear scientists have a big share of those lucrative posts and foreign jaunts.
While such is the reality of foreign connections, the Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh is ever ready to dub the common people opposing the Koodankulam nuclear plant for fear of danger to their lives and loss of their livelihood, as mere frenzy and unpatriotic folks encouraged and supported by foreign money. Manmohan Singh is an honourable man!
While the Supreme Court of India may not have the time and opportunity to dig into such realities, it is a hasty and ill-founded decision on the part of the Apex Court to conclude that nuclear power plants are necessary for India's progress.
To understand the connecting links to India, one must know, U.S. nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric is a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp. Nuclear power plants in USA have heavy engineering components such as the pressure vessels manufactured in Japan. Nuclear power business houses of US and Japan are intimately connected. Therefore, there should be no surprise if USA and Japan are putting a collective effort to flood India with nuclear power plants. After all it is a big multibillion dollar business.
GW Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden and a host of other high profiles from the Unite States meticulously discharge their duties to promote nuclear power business in India. They are for the Corporates and the Corporates are for them.
US Secretary of State John F. Kerry's recent visit to New Delhi in June 2013 was to sell nuclear reactors built by Westinghouse Electric Company to India. Westinghouse President and CEO Danny L Roderick told Energy Daily , a publicly known e-newsletter, “Secretary Kerry's efforts to move discussions forward with an announced goal of reaching commercial agreement in the September timeframe to support licensing and site development of AP1000 reactors in India are proving to be invaluable,”
Replying to the address welcoming him to India, Secretary Kerry said, “I'm also proud of the work that we did on the Civil Nuclear Agreement that Nancy referred to when she introduced me. When I was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we guided that agreement through the United States Congress, and I was privileged to work with Prime Minister Singh in helping to try to create the capacity for it. That agreement demonstrated our mutual confidence of our strategic partnership. So we look forward to realizing the full implementation as soon as possible, including making progress on the efforts of Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi to construct nuclear power plants in India.”
US Vice-President Joe Biden's visit (July 22-25, 2013) was the first by a foreign dignitary to India after the Koodankulam Unit 1 attained criticality on July 14, 2013. The matter of Nuclear power projects for American companies was on the top of Biden's agenda. He started where Secretary John Kerry left off in June 2013. US company Westinghouse is looking forward to building 6,000 MW of nuclear power projects in Gujarat. Similarly 9,500 MWe GE reactors made in the US are slated to come up at Kovvada, in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh.
The connecting links are clear – US Westinghouse, US GE and Japan's Toshiba Corp are joint sellers of nuclear power plants and India is the buyer.
Past Experience & Lessons
It will only be to the peril of India, if Indians forget their past experience with the Americans in the nuclear field.
In the late fifties and the beginning of sixties Dr.Homi Bhabha, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to have from US General Electric (GE) their Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) design for India's first nuclear power plant at Tarapur on the west coast. It is the same type of BWR design which went into melt down at Fukushima Diaiichi in Japan in March 2011. The reluctance of Dr.Bhabha at that time was partly because BWR does not fit into the scheme of three stage nuclear program of India formulated by him.
Tarapur nuclear power plant was built by the US General Electric under an Inter-Governmental Agreement with India. It was commissioned in October 1969.
As per the Inter-Governmental Agreement, the nuclear fuel for Tarapur is to be supplied by the United States for the entire life of the plant. But the Americans unilaterally broke the contractual agreement and declined to supply nuclear fuel to Tarapur after India conducted its first underground nuclear test on 18 May 1974 at Pokhran in Rajasthan known as Pokhran-I.
The argument of the Americans was that the law passed by their Senate would not permit supply of nuclear fuel to countries which conduct nuclear tests or develop nuclear weapons. The fact that the law passed by US Senate was much after the Tarapur Agreement did not cut ice with the Americans. They have no hesitation to break unilaterally the Inter-Governmental Agreements. Indians should be aware of these facts at all times and in all cases.
The ease with which the United States unilaterally broke in 1974 the Tarapur Nuclear Agreement is a clear-cut lesson for India. That lesson should be viewed alongside the unprovoked threat to India during the 1971 Indo-Pak war wherein the American Leaders ordered to move into Bay of Bengal their US Seventh Fleet led by nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. Whereas then and at all times, Russia proved to be a reliable friend of India.
Tarapur nuclear plant is now one of the most polluted nuclear plants in the world. It has two units of 220 MWe each, but each one has been for a long time downgraded to 160 MWe, because of the aging and nuclear radiation problems. Some experts feel, Tarapur nuclear plant is a ticking time bomb. It continues in operation though there is a strong compulsion to decommission it.
There is also a recent lesson if India is willing to learn. The Commission of Inquiry set up by the Pakistan government to look into the US military operation that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a sprawling house in the Abbottabad military cantonment area, had recorded evidence. The Commission quotes Director General ISI ( Inter Services Intelligence Of Pakistan ) as having said: “Pakistan had become too weak and dependent on the US to take necessary action to defend itself against US policies.” (DNA July 21, 2013, Mumbai).
Indian nuclear power plant policy is going to make India dependant on the United States and India will be irretrievably stuck in the orbit fixed by the US.
Fishing Community at Fukushima and Koodankulam
The method and the manner in which real danger and hardships descended on the fishing community at Fukushima in Japan shows that the fears of fishing community at Koodankulam are not ill founded.
In March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami triggered reactor meltdowns and hydrogen explosions that spewed radiation around Fukushima.
Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes by the threat of radiation, with many still unable to return.
On July 22, 2013, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) admitted for the first time that its Fukushima Daiichi plant was leaking contaminated underground water into the ocean, a problem many experts had suspected since shortly after the crisis unfolded more than two years ago. It has taken more than 2 years for TEPCO to admit to the leak. Radioactive groundwater leaking out to sea, fuelled fears of ocean contamination. TEPCO apologized while its President Naomi Hirose took a pay cut as a result.
TEPCO disclosed the estimate on August 2 showing the amount of tritium in the contaminated water that leaked since May 2011 to be between 20 to 40 trillion becquerels. TEPCO will also estimate the total amount of radioactive strontium that has leaked from the plant.
The toxic radioactive substances detected in groundwater in June and July 2013 at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant included the highly toxic strontium-90, a by-product of nuclear fission that can cause bone cancer if ingested, at levels 30 times the permitted rate.
In Fukushima Prefecture, many communities are raising the alarm that decontamination efforts are not providing satisfactory results. Over the last two years, it has been reported multiple times that areas that have been decontaminated have been found to become re-contaminated over short periods of time.
Environment experts warn that the radioactive groundwater leaking out to sea may affect marine life and ultimately impact humans who eat sea food.
Fishing around Fukushima was halted. It has affected the livelihood of fishing community there.
Masakazu Yabuki, a veteran fisherman in Iwaki, just south of the Fukushima plant said in July 2013, “Nobody knows when this is going to end,” Yabuki went on to say, “We've suspected (leaks into the ocean) from the beginning ... TEPCO is making it very difficult for us to trust them.”
“It's a race against the clock,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority. “The top priority is to keep the water from escaping into the sea.”
To cool the crippled reactors' decay heat, water is continuously injected. Water flowing out in the process becomes contaminated. TEPCO have been trying for months together to recycle the contaminated cooling water which leaks into the basement.
TEPCO has rigged a makeshift system of pipes and hoses to funnel water into the melted reactors in order to keep the melted nuclear fuel from overheating. In the process, the water becomes radioactive. The radioactive water is then treated and stored in the aboveground tanks that have now developed leaks. But far more radioactive water leaks into the reactor basements during the cooling process — then through cracks into the surrounding earth and groundwater.
The three reactors that had core meltdowns are being flooded by emergency cooling water needed to keep the leaky units stable, but the water is leaking from the reactors into the basements, where it is mixing with groundwater penetrating the walls of the 40-year-old plant.
Contaminated water about 330,000 tons - enough to fill more than 130 Olympic swimming pools - has been pumped into storage pits and above-ground tanks at the crippled facility. The interconnected tanks stand as tall as a three-story building. TEPCO confirmed the integrity of one such tank has breached. It appears TEPCO will continue to be defeated by the water problem.
Subsoil water usually flows out to sea. It means harmful radioactive substances emanating from the crippled Fukushima plant and reaching subsoil water could normally make their way into the ocean, possibly affecting marine life and ultimately impacting humans who eat sea food. It affects the livelihood fishing community as there will be a ban to catch fish in contaminated sea.
Harness available resources.
The right course for India is to delink the nuclear weapon pursuit from the nuclear electricity pursuit and to abandon completely the nuclear electricity pursuit.
The nuclear weapon pursuit, if required, can easily be continued with less costly research reactors from where weapon grade plutonium can be realised in addition to the opportunity to use neutron flux for conducting advanced research in materials science and also to produce radio isotopes for medical and industrial use.
Greater good to India would accrue if the Koodankulam nuclear power plant is closed down. It would have no repercussions on Indo-Russian relations if the closure is based on a decided policy of the Central Government to phase out nuclear power plants like Germany in a time bound manner.
Climbing up nuclear energy curve may be easy. But climbing down is difficult as Japan is finding it now. At the time three nuclear melt downs occurred at Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, Japan had about 30% of its electricity coming from nuclear power plants and the country even had plans to go beyond 50%. But now, only two of its fifty two reactors are in operation. Japanese public is opposed to bringing the rest of the reactors into operation.
But the present Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is keen to commission them. Without commissioning some of those idle reactors, Prime Minister Abe may find it difficult in his drive to sell nuclear technology to other countries including India, Vietnam, and Turkey. Prime Minister Abe is, of course, part of the aggressive nuclear business cartel as explained above.
It is necessary to note that Japan and all other nuclear technology selling countries have already made concrete plans to expand on alternate energy sources like solar and wind in order to climb down on nuclear energy curve. Therefore, it will be unwise on the part of India to try to climb up on the nuclear energy curve by paying for nuclear power plants from these countries.
It is now an admitted position that the underground water table is contaminated due the radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima plant travelling down to join the subsoil water. It is also an admitted position that the contaminated underground water is continuously moving towards the sea to contaminate the sea water. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is fighting a losing battle to stop the contaminated underground water from reaching the sea. This fight is consuming a lot of tax payers' money.
The incident of radioactive water leaking into sea has been rated level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale in July 2013. The reactor meltdowns in March 2011 were rated level 7, a status that remains unchanged.
The Fukushima decommissioning is projected to cost at least $11 billion and take at least 30 years to complete. Some experts estimate the cost to be much more and it might take 40 to 50 years.
By no means, nuclear electricity could be considered, clean, safe and competitive in cost.
Therefore, India should not invest any more on nuclear electricity. Emphasis should be on hydro-power, solar, wind, bio-fuels and energy conservation. Hydro power pursuit would also have additional benefits of irrigation and drinking water. India is blessed with many rivers. Harnessing them fully would be in public interest.
India should not blindly imitate other countries while striving to achieve energy security. Energy policy should be based on available resources in the country.
Nuclear energy is loaded with dangers to the present and future generations, to the environment as well as to all living forms.
India is going to face internal and external wars for water if it does not harness its water resources on an urgent basis. For that, closing down Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu is necessary, lest it should lead to huge investments on nuclear plants at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh) , Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Haripur (West Bengal), Kumharia or Gorakhpur (Haryana), Bargi or Chuttka ( Madhya Pradesh), Markandi (Pati Sonapur) in Orissa and other places.
The Apex Court's judgment and order dated May 6, 2013 endorsing the nuclear energy as “clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source” has affected the legal and constitutional rights of the people of India as explained above.
This endorsement and such other endorsements from the Supreme Court would come in the way of every High Court to examine afresh the issues that arise from the establishment of nuclear power plants within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court. Under Article 141 of the Constitution, the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all the Courts within the territory of India.
“ The test of a country's justice is not the blunders which are sometimes made but the zeal with which they are put right ” according to Cyril Connolly.
According to a seven member bench decision of Supreme Court of India in Antulay's case, “ To err is human. Courts including the apex one are no exception. To own up the mistake when judicial satisfaction is reached does not militate against its status or authority. Perhaps it would enhance both .” A.R. Antulay vs R.S. Nayak & Anr, 1988 SCR Supl. (1) 1, at paragraph 89B.
Therefore, it will be in the interest of justice and in public interest, if Supreme Court of India reviews and recalls its judgment and order dated May 6, 2013 in the matter of Koodankulam NPP.
In the words of Francis Bacon “Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. ”
Buddhi Kota Subbarao is former Indian Navy Captain with Ph.D. in nuclear technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay . He is practicing advocate of Supreme Court of India. His e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright: Author.
Some of the earlier articles by the author in the nuclear field are the following:
(i) Koodankulam Nuclear Plant Has Salient Lessons For India And Russia
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao.Ph.D.
24 March, 2013
(ii) Condemning North Korea's Latest Nuclear Test Is Meaningless
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
14 February, 2013
(iii) Nuking Indian democracy
Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
(iv) Nuclear Power Business Is Defacing Indian Democracy
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
18 September, 2012
(v) AERB And Regulatory Capture In India: Conflict of Interest?
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
12 August, 2012
(vi) Who Benefits From Nuclear Power Plants In India?
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
02 August, 2012
(vii) Whether Ordinance On Self-Denial Of Nuclear Power Harmful To India?
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
11 June, 2012
(viii) Koodankulam Nuclear Plant: Jayalalitha Is Consciously Missing A Historic Opportunity
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
04 April, 2012
(ix) Should The Koodankulam Power Nuclear Plant Be Commissioned Or Abandoned?
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
08 March, 2012
(x) Need To Revisit The Role Of Nuclear Power For India 's Energy Security
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
15 December, 2011,
(xi) Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Is Destined To Reset The Nuclear Priorities In India
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
16 October, 2011
(xii) Indo-US Nuclear Deal- Some Unexplored Angles
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
9 March, 2006.
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