Protests be damned, more money given for India’s nuclear power obsession
Ignoring utterly the continuous protests against nuclear power plants in India, the central government in the 2013-14 Union budget has promised even more money to the Indian nuclear power establishment. Moreover, a signal has been sent to India’s anti-nuclear power movement that the government in power intends to institutionalise the training (indoctrination) of new cadres of nuclear power plant drones who will look after (if they survive) the killer reactors being built.
But first, the finance. The Department of Atomic Energy has been allocated a proposed INR 13,879 crore (or INR 138.79 billion, equivalent to about USD 2.53 billion and about EUR 1.94 billion). The allocation in 2012-13 was INR 11,673 crore (or INR 116.73 billion, about USD 2.13 billion or about EUR 1.63 billion), and in 2011-12 it was INR 7,257 crore (or INR 72.57 billion, about USD 1.32 billion or about EUR 1.02 billion). So in two years the allocation has risen 90%.
Where is the new money going to go? INR 37 billion for research and development, INR 12 billion for industries sector projects (which sounds like preparing India’s atomic power public sector to receive foreign direct investment), INR 4.7 billion for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a useless and dangerous plaything of the world’s pampered and irresponsible nuclear power schoolboys, and INR 2.5 billion for the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd, which is supposed to build a 500MW prototype fast breeder reactor.
Second, the preparing of a first crop of wide-eyed, misguided and hopelessly uninformed young Indians to be the frontline cannon fodder when radiation leaks occur. The text of a newspaper announcement (image above), released three days after the budget, said:
“DAE [Department of Atomic Energy] invites young, dynamic engineering graduates and science post-graduates to a stimulating world of cutting edge technology in pursuit of basic and applied research and development in a wide variety of frontier areas of relevance to our nuclear programme in the domain of engineering, physical, chemical, biological and earth sciences as well as nuclear engineering including design, construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities.”
On offer (without nuke hazard suits) are, a one-year orientation course for engineering graduates and science post-graduates, a two-year DAE graduate fellowship scheme for engineering graduates and post-graduates in physics.
The huge increases in the budget for the DAE have come during continuing, large-scale, organised and steadfast agitations against nuclear power plants in Koodankulam (Tamil Nadu), the proposed plants in Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and in Mithi Virdi (Gujarat). At the forefront is the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) which in a press release on 21 February 2013 said: “The officials of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) have consistently refused to share any public documents on the KKNPP (the Koodankulam plant) and to reveal any truths about the various leaks, repairs and the technical problems in the project.”
PMANE is also coordinating opposition to a “nuclear power park” (how frightful a term is that?) that is being set up at Mithi Virdi, Gujarat. The reactor vendor Westinghouse signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in 2012 to construct six AP1000 units at the site. The people of Mithi Virdi, Jaspara, Mandva, Khadarpar and other neighbouring villages oppose the project and in the past they forced survey engineers to leave the project site. PMANE calls it a “struggle against the American annihilation plant”.
Reportage about the opposition, the protests, the repression visited upon protesters (in their own lands and villages) by the central government has till now been frequent and independent. A recent report in the English news daily DNA had said that the decision to import 40,000 MWe capacity light water reactors (LWRs) in early 2006 was taken without any techno-economic evaluation by the Atomic Energy Commission or any other agency to assess the need for these imports, quoting a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Another report explained how the local organisation spearheading the opposition to the proposed 9,900 MW nuclear power plant in Jaitapur said it wanted the whole project to be scrapped. “Our struggle is for cancellation of the nuclear plant project…. We do not want increased monetary package,” the report quoted Prakash Waghdhare, President of the Madban, Jaitapur, Mithgavane, Panchkroshi Sangharsh Samiti.