#India -Village falls within Jaitapur nuclear reactor’s 2-km danger zone #WTFnews


Nitin Ghanekar reports in  Hindustan times, June 10, 2013

Since we are so close to the plant, we fear that we might be displaced.
SACHIN WAGH DHARE, a Dhanivare resident

JAITAPUR/MUMBAI: Residents of Dhanivare village are a worried lot. Given the proximity of their hamlet to the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant site (JNPP), the village falls in a range of 0 to 2 km distance from the plant, which makes it a part of the plant’s exclusion zone.

A nuclear plant is supposed to have an exclusion zone of 1.6 km around the nuclear reactors, making this area uninhabitable. That the JNPP site can be accessed from Dhanivare village on foot within five minutes makes the hamlet’s proximity to the site clear. But the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) seems to have forgotten this tiny hamlet when claiming that that no house would be displaced while creating the exclusion zone.

When HT contacted additional chief engineer of JNPP SG Galgali, and asked him about the fate of Dhanivare, he said, “The nuclear reactors at JNPP would be located along the shore in a northsouth direction near the Rajapur bay lighthouse. They would be located in such a way that no village falls in the 1.6kms exclusion zone.”

However, a report from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) states otherwise. Recently, under the Right to Information Act, Mumbai residents Premanand Tivarkar and Dr Bhikaji Waghdhare obtained a site selection committee report dated September 2002. The report detailing the population in villages around the Jaitapur site says, “Dhanivade, a hamlet of Madban, falls within the 1.6 km exclusion zone and has an estimated population of 135.”

Galgali said, “The report might have stated that the hamlet is in the exclusion zone, but the positioning of the plant will not displace its residents.”

Residents of Dhanivare said that the NPCIL’s attempts to encroach on their mango orchards might be their way of pressurising them to relocate. “We never received any notices from NPCIL regarding land acquisition or any exclusion zone. As we are so close to the plant, we fear we might be displaced,” said Sachin Waghdhare, a resident of Dhanivare.

N-plant encroaching on our orchards’

Boundary wall built by NPCIL for Jaitapur power plant passes through mango groves that are a source of livelihood for an entire village

JAITAPUR/MUMBAI: Even as French nuclear giant Areva, officials from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) met to work out a financial package that would fund two 1,650 megawatt reactors at Jaitapur, residents of Dhanivare village near the plant site have alleged that there is a quiet attempt by NPCIL to encroach on village land not marked for acquisition.

Dhanivare is a hamlet of less than 200 people located within a 2-kilometre distance from the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant (JNPP). The residents of the village, many of who own mango orchards, have alleged that NPCIL and their sub-contractors have been trespassing on their land — marked as ‘survey no. 119’ — and are trying to encroach on it to build an unfinished boundary wall outside the plant site. This has allegedly been going on for over two years.

Survey no. 119 was not a part of the land acquired by the Ratnagiri district administration for JNPP. It did not feature in the list of notified lands to be acquired for JNPP, published by the Konkan administrative division in the Ratnagiri edition of Tarun Bharat newspaper on January 10, 2007. Current district collector Rajeev Jadhav also attested to this. The land in question is home to around 500 mango trees that serve as a source of livelihood for Dhanivare residents.

Recent developments in the area are contrary to NPCIL’s claims that villagers’ livelihood would not be snatched away due to the project.

Though the issue dates back over two years, a fortnight ago, residents said that NPCIL officials arrived at the land in question with a bulldozer and civil supplies in an effort to continue work on the incomplete wall. “There was a wedding in the hamlet so many of us were away. When we returned to our orchards, we saw that a few people had entered our property and were trying to carry out civil work. We protested and drove them away,” said Sachin Waghdhare, a resident of Dhanivare who owns close to 150 mango trees and earns between Rs50,000 and Rs1,00,000 from it annually. Even before this, villagers found paint markings running across orchards, starting from the unfinished wall, right up to the pathway to orchards. “The paint markings indicated that they (NPCIL) want to encroach into our villages. If this happens, all of us would lose our livelihoods,” he added.

Bhikaji Waghdhare, the sarpanch of Madban gram panchayat, of which Dhanivare is a part, sent a letter on May 31 informing the district collector about the markings and tree felling. When HT contacted Ratnagiri collector Rajeev Jadhav, he said, “I have not yet seen such a letter, but if NPCIL is encroaching on land not meant to be acquired for JNPP, we will follow the rule of law to take action.”

Villagers claim the issue dates back to December 2010, when the NPCIL started construction of a wall that was to pass through the mango orchards. Back then, villagers had protested against NPCIL’s activities and had even sent a complaint to the then collector of Ratnagiri and to the Sakhari Nate police station, alerting them about this issue. Through sustained protests they managed to stop the construction. Later, in 2011, Mumbai resident Dr Bhikaji Waghdhare, 74, a native of Madban, filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court. The court had found the petition to be substantive but asked Dr Waghdhare to pursue the case at the local district court in Ratnagiri. Owing to ill-health, Dr Waghdhare did not pursue the case. He owns 0.60 hectares of land that bears 160 mango trees, 40 toddy palm trees and one well. “I sought survey maps under right to information (RTI) act and they indicate that the area where NPCIL is trying to carry out work is survey no. 119,” said Dr Waghdhare. HT is in possession of those maps. Besides, in a reply to an RTI application filed by Mumbai resident Premanand Tiwarkar, NPCIL admitted, that survey no. 119 was not acquired for JNPP.

HT mailed a detailed questionnaire to NPCIL, sent text messages to officials and also tried to contact senior officials to seek their response, but there was no reply.

DAE 1972 Chakravarty Report states Jaitapur has potential sources of Earthquake


Radiation sign for maps

 

 

 

 

 

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

 

A 1972 study by the Site Selection Committee of the DAE states d, “Tectonic features in the region can be regarded as potential sources of earthquakes as some of them may get reactivated at any point….”

 

The relevent parts of report can be downloaded here

 

 

 

 

 

#India – Centre’s report indicates Nuclear plant not safe for Jaitapur


Sunday, Apr 28, 2013, | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited‘s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

In the past there have been other studies on the region that have stated that the area is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. However, some pages of the September 2002 ‘Report no 3 Assessment of sites for locating nuclear plants’, which was kept confidential by Centre’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is the first report made public by the government that states the site is unsafe for a nuclear plant.

The NPCIL had earlier assured locals that the 90-ft high plateau would be adequate to protect the plant in event of a tsunami but the DAE report contradicts NPCIL’s claim. The DAE states that the plateau is made of laterites which is derived from basaltic rock that make the site dangerous.

The report also states, “The seacoast at the Jaitapur site is prone to erosion by breaker (waves) as evidenced by the large number of boulders strewn below the cliff.”

Activists opposed to the nuclear site also say that DAE had initially stated that the construction of the plant would not require excavation. However, they have recently informed the locals that 20 to 30 metres of the lateritic cover and the underlying weathered zone would have to be excavated. This would make the plant susceptible to tsunamis. A 1972 study by the Site Selection Committee of the DAE also stated, “Tectonic features in the region can be regarded as potential sources of earthquakes as some of them may get reactivated at any point….”

 

India has led the arms race in South Asia


Dr M.V. Ramana is a nuclear physicist who works in Nuclear Futures Laboratory and Programme on Science and Global Security, both at Princeton University. Author of several books on nuclear energy, Ramana recently published The Power of Promise: Explaining Nuclear Energy in India. Excerpts from an interview with

RASHME SEHGAL

Q: Have we in the sub-continent become prisoners of the nuclear dream? Would you say the sustained agitation in Jaitapur and Kudankulam has helped introduce a sharp degree of scepticism around India’s nuclear programme.
A: I think that the nuclear dream is not new and has existed in some form or the other for decades. However, the sustained protest movements in Jaitapur and especially Kudankulam has raised important questions about the social costs of a nuclear expansion.

Q: Can India afford a rapid increase in nuclear energy given the rising costs and also its safety record?
A: The high costs of imported nuclear reactors as well as fast breeder reactors, which constitute the second stage of the three stage programme, imply that a large scale expansion of nuclear power will be incredibly expensive, and unaffordable. For example, the cost of the six proposed EPR reactors at the Jaitapur site is expected to be upwards of `3 lakh crores. The inherent hazards associated with nuclear reactors and deficiencies in the safety culture of the nuclear establishment imply that there is a significant risk associated with each new reactor operated. Thus, the more the number of reactors, the more the risk of a catastrophic accident.

Q: Why is so little known about DAE’s accident record and why is there a veil of secrecy around its programmes?
A: There is some secrecy associated with the nuclear programme, but I think it primarily affects discussions about performance and costs. I have detailed several instances of such secrecy in my book. In terms of the accident record, I think the greater reason for the lack of awareness of the safety hazards is the constant propaganda that DAE officials engage in. They have repeatedly claimed that there is simply no chance of an accident at any nuclear reactor in India. Even though that claim is scientifically not tenable, by being repeated frequently, it creates the impression that all is well.

Q: Again, the problem of disposing of nuclear waste has not been discussed publicly by the DAE?
A: In its public discussions, the DAE has never acknowledged that nuclear waste disposal could be a problem. Its standard response when the question is raised is that they do not consider spent fuel as waste but “a resource to extract plutonium from”. Moreover, they state that reprocessing of spent fuel and vitrification of high level waste is a solution to the whole problem of radioactive spent fuel. But vitrification only helps with storing the high level waste rather than destroying any radioactivity which also has to be disposed off. Reprocessing has various problems associated with it, including the release of low-level radioactive waste into the environment.

Q: India has declining coal and gas energy while the cost of installing renewables is also on the rise. Nuclear energy has been projected a reliable and steady source of energy for an energy-starved nation?
A: Actually the cost of electricity from renewables has been decreasing, and their contribution to electricity generation in India, as well as a number of other countries, has been increasing relatively rapidly, albeit from a small base. Nuclear energy can be described as a steady source, but only in the sense that its share of total energy generation has remained fairly consistent at around 2 to 3 per cent for a couple of decades. Even if it expands, remember that all other sources of electricity generation are also expanding. Therefore, nuclear power is unlikely to become a major source of electricity generation in India for decades.
Q: If, as our book has made out, nuclear energy is risk-prone and uneconomical, why was an economist politician like Manmohan Singh willing to risk the survival of his government to push the Indo-US nuclear deal ?
A: I don’t think Manmohan Singh was acting like a hard-nosed economist in pursuing the US-India deal. Instead, his greatest emphasis seems to be on building a sense of trust and credibility with the United States. The importance of this characteristic to the United States is explained by physicist Suvrat Raju thus: “Credible governments are those that do not allow domestic political compulsions to prevent them from adhering to American interests”. Thus, he is still pursuing the idea of importing a number of nuclear reactors, even though they are expensive and untested, without subjecting them to public scrutiny.

Q: Your earlier book Bombing Bombay talked about the enormous loss of life that would entail if Bombay was bombed by a nuclear device? Can such a scenario unfold, given that Pakistan is building up its stockpile?
A: Yes, of course, there is always that risk. While I don’t condone Pakistan’s building up of its fissile material, one must remember that the India has led the arms race in south Asia, and has made various choices that allow Pakistani hawks to make arguments for increasing their fissile material production. Specifically, during the course of the negotiations of the US-India nuclear deal, India got away with keeping its prototype fast breeder reactor outside of safeguards, precisely because it had “strategic” uses, code for saying that it could be used to make about 30 weapons worth of plutonium for the nuclear arsenal. This unsafeguarded source of plutonium as well as the accumulated quantities of reactor-grade plutonium are among Pakistan’s reasons for not stopping its own production.

Q: Is our nuclear energy meant for civilian purposes or is there a strong likelihood that it can be used to make bombs as well?
A: The DAE’s programme is deliberately both a source of weapons materials and nuclear electricity. I don’t think it can be said to be either purely for peaceful or purely for weapons purposes. Though some of its nuclear reactors are under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards, there are still several reactors classified as strategic. Thus, even if these are not being utilised to make plutonium for weapon right now but the DAE would like to keep its options open.

http://www.asianage.com/ideas/india-has-led-arms-race-south-asia-750

 

Inside India’s WoRld of Nuclear Failures #DAE


[Mail Today (India)]

Al Bawaba Ltd. Tomes on India’s nuclear establishment are seldom racily written or free from rhetoric. Here’s anotable exception from aPrinceton scholar

NNUCLEAR- RELATED issues have dominated public discourse in the country with varying intensity since 1998, when the second set of nuclear tests were conducted at Pokharan.

A few years later came the Indo- US civilian nuclear deal which shook the very foundations of UPA- I, and follow- up actions such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group ( NSG) waiver and nuclear liability law continues to be in a limbo.

In the past two years, protests against the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, have grabbed headlines and eyeballs. It is interesting how the debate pendulum has swung from the bomb, which symbolised national security, to nuclear power, which is claimed to signify energy security.

It is equally interesting to note that both the developments are functions of a single wing of the government — the Department of Atomic Energy ( DAE). There is nothing wrong with this arrangement, but for the fact that this wing of the government is steeped in unbound secrecy even in this age of transparency and RTI. There is very little known about how it works, but for its sanitised ( and often self- contradicting) annual reports, glossy publicity literature and occasional institutional biopics penned by serving or retired nuclear scientists. Kudos to M. V. Ramana, an Indian scholar working at Princeton University, for putting together a critical history of India’s nuclear power prorgramme, despite such handicaps.

The Indian nuclear establishment over the decades has successfully earned political patronage and has crafted a glorified public image by projecting itself as the pride of Indian science. An entire generation of Indians has grown with this establishment’s self- congratulatory claims, such as: ” it was the genius of Homi Bhabha that laid the foundation of nuclear programme”; ” India has developed and mastered nuclear power technology indigenously”; ” the nuclear programme is mainly for power development and not for making nuclear weapons”; ” nuclear is the only viable source of cheap and clean electricity”; the nuclear safety record of India is exemplary”, and so on.

Ramana has busted all such myths with surgical precision and through scholarly collation and analysis of publicly available information, data and scanty archival material. There is no rhetoric. The book’s strength lies in the way the author has used DAE’s own The links Bhabha in Delhi wing atomic could include Saha.

Bhabha secrecy right modelling yardsticks and promises made to the nation to judge its performance.

For a student of science and nuclear policy making in India, the book reads like a racy novel. It is an eye- opener.

The most revealing part of the narrative is the historical perspective relating to seeding of the nuclear power programme and its early growth under Bhabha, and the political patronage provided by Nehru.

The book shows how personal links with Nehru helped Bhabha work his way through Delhi and have a dedicated wing in the government for atomic energy that nobody could question and did not include critics such as Meghnad Saha.

Bhabha deliberately built secrecy into the programme right at the beginning by modelling the Atomic Energy Commission and the atomic energy after the British Atomic Energy Act. Though Nehru publicly defended the need for secrecy, it worried him privately as reflected in of his letters where he says, ” The work of AEC is shrouded in secrecy. I try to keep in touch with from time to time. … I do not know how else can proceed in this matter.” Not much changed since the times of Nehru. Ramana repeatedly denied information about economic costs of fast breeder reactors, among other things, under the Act.

DAE’s obsession with secrecy understandable when one looks at its dismal performance on every count — design and development of nuclear reactors, power generation, functioning of heavy water plants, reprocessing plants, uranium mining, and so on.

It begins with claims made by Bhabha and Nehru about Apsara — the much- acclaimed swimming pool reactor — being an indigenous effort, whereas it was completely based on the design and technical data that Bhabha got from his colleague from Cambridge, Sir John Cockcroft.

The first unit of electricity from a nuclear plant came from the Tarapur reactor, which was supplied by General Electric, was erected by Bechtel and funded by USAID. Ramana, using authentic data and examples, also exposes the half- truths about indigenous development and growth under the technology denial regime post- Pokharan I. The most glaring part of the Indian progeramme and duplicity of its leaders are the claims made from time to time about the promise of nuclear energy. In the 1980s, DAE claimed it would generate 10,000 MW of nuclear power by 2000. In the 2000s, it changed the goal post to another rhythmic figure — 20,000 MW by 2020. To justify the civilian nuclear deal, it came up with another magical figure of 275,000 MW by 2052.

All these promises have been made by DAE fully knowing that it neither has the necessary knowhow, fuel and technology, nor the money to achieve even a fraction of it. Despite gobbling up thousands of crores over half a century, the DAE has an installed capacity of just 4,780 MW, compared with 22,333 MW of renewable power installed capacity achieved with a tiny budget. The jugglery of figures also continues when it comes to calculating costs of nuclear power.

The book is highly recommended for policy makers and energy policy planners as well as anyone who is interested in an independent view of India’s nuclear power programme. It is a valuable addition to the growing literature on this subject.

It was Homi Bhabha who started the tradition of hiding the DAE behind an iron veil of secrecy

source- http://www.equities.com/news/

 

Exclusive and Explosive : Public safety info not for public: DAE


Though the central information commission and the Bombay high court have both reiterated that public safety issues must be given precedence, the department of atomic energy (DAE) continues to reject RTI applications seeking information on public safety, citing this information as being of “strategic importance”.

In response to an application filed by DNA in October seeking information on the ground water contamination in areas close to a nuclear fuel complex, the DAE said: “The information on safety issues in respect of NFC, Hyderabad is of strategic importance.”

Yet another RTI application filed with nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on the same subject was rejected on the same ground. “The trend of rejecting is similar across all the nuclear establishments in the country,” said Arul Doss, a nuclear activist from Chennai who has filed several RTI applications with various nuclear power plants across the country.

In April 2012, the chief information commission (CIC) pulled up the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for rejecting an application seeking copies of a safety evaluation report of the Koodankulam reactors. The public information officer (PIO) said the security, strategic and scientific interests of the state would be compromised by the disclosure, but was unable to justify such reasoning, said the CIC order.

The CIC directed the PIO to furnish the information to the applicant and place it on its website before May 30, 2012. “Public authority’s [NPCIL] unwillingness to be transparent is likely to give citizens an impression that most decisions are taken in furtherance of corruption resulting in a serious trust deficit,” said the order.

As far back as 1996, hearing a PIL seeking disclosure regarding 90 issues pertaining to nuclear power plants highlighted by the AERB, the Bombay high court said information on safety violations cannot be denied to the public. Despite this order, DAE has been denying information on public safety.

NPCIL took more than three months to furnish information on safety issues pertaining to the power plant at Tarapore. This correspondent had to send at least eight e-mails besides several phone calls to get the information.

There are other cases where the DAE refused to part with information saying such records do not exist. Replying to an application seeking information on action taken by the nuclear regulator on a report prepared by former AERB chairman A Gopalakrishnan highlighting nuclear safety violations by nuclear power plants, the AERB on September 28, 2012, said it does not have any information on this.

This is despite court records that clearly suggest that DAE agreed in the Bombay high court to constitute a committee to look into the 90 nuclear safety violations raised in the report. Finally, after pursuing the matter with higher authorities, the information was provided to DNA.

“It is relevant to point out that the nuclear power plants are in the civilian sector and not in the defence sector. Therefore, the DAE’s argument that information about nuclear power plants cannot be furnished is flawed,” said BK Subbarao, a nuclear scientist.

DAE spokesperson SK Malhotra did not respond to queries sent by DNA to his official email id.

Dr Sreeramappa Chinnappa, an employee of NPCIL, has filed several RTI applications over the last couple of years seeking information about public health. In his letter, dated August 27, 2012, to the NPCIL chairman and managing director, Chinnappa said: “In spite of my repeated request, NPCIL is delaying and refusing to provide information. I have not received any communication either from CPIO or from Appellate Authority as per RTI Act time frame.”
ARTICLE URL: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_exclusive-public-safety-info-not-for-public-dae_1785681

 

Kalpakkam Data-Morbidity Survey


After being in denial for years, the department of atomic energy (DAE) has for the first time admitted that the deaths of its employees at the Kalpakkam nuclear site and their dependents were because of multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query in October last year, the DAE said nine people, including three employees working at the Kalpakkam atomic reactor, about 70km from Chennai, died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The department had earlier refused to divulge information despite an RTI query in 2010.

The risk to the lives of people working at the nuclear facilities at Kalpakkam came to the fore in 2003 when two of its employees — Mohandas and Ponniah — working at the reactor died of multiple myeloma after being exposed to nuclear radiation. DAE officials then denied that the deaths were because of overexposure to radiation.

While two people were detected with multiple myeloma when they were working at the reactor, another was found to have the rare form of bone marrow cancer after retirement. The RTI query revealed that 14 people, including 11 family members of employees at Kalpakkam nuclear facilities, have been detected with multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) officials, however, claim that there have been no deaths due to exposure to radiation at Kalpakkam. They even said the figure of people affected by radiation at the nuclear facilities was lesser than the national average of 1-4 per 1 lakh people.

“The figure of three employees at Kalpakkam having multiple myeloma during 16-17 years is not higher than the normal prevalence of such form of cancer among others, in India or abroad,” BARC said in its response.

Experts, however, said it was a faulty comparison and that it was not possible to compare such sensitive data to the national average. As per international standards, cancer cases because of radiation are computed by comparing people living in proximate villages to those living in villages far away from the nuclear facilities, said Dr V Pugazhenthi, a physician who has been practising in Kalpakkam for 20 years.

Going by international standards, a DAE-funded study by Dr Manjula Datta shows that the number of people in proximity to Kalpakkam nuclear facilities suffering from cancer is a cause of concern. DNA is in possession of the report that was never made public.

The report states that cancer cases in villages close to Kalpakkam are seven times higher (210 per 1 lakh people) compared to just (30 per 1 lakh people) in distant villages. Morbidity levels in areas near the nuclear reactor are 2-3 times higher than normal. The study covered 22 proximate villages (within 8km radius) and three distant villages (50km from the reactor site).

“Several cases of cancer due to nuclear radiation have come up in the vicinity of the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor, but they were never reported. Even when they were reported, the government refused to acknowledge them,” said VT Padmanabhan a researcher in health effects of radiation and member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk.

“Dr Datta’s report is one of the best independent surveys carried out to date. Going by its data, it is clear that radiation causes cancer.”

Data sought from the DAE under a separate RTI reveals as many as 244 Kalpakkam employees and their dependents were detected with various types of cancer between 1999 and 2009. Most people affected were in the 41-60 age group and included men as well as women. During 2000-2010, 19 cases of thyroid diseases were detected. Experts said thyroid diseases are common among people living in and around nuclear reactor sites.

BARC officials, however, said the 244 cancer cases and mortality rates among Kalpakkam employees were not different from those seen among the general population.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd officials did not respond to questions mailed by DNA to their official ids despite several reminders

Kalpakkam Data-Morbidity Survey 

2 year old Kanishka's Blood Smear Report

2 year old Kanishka's Blood Smear Report

DNA investigations: Deaths confirm cancer risk near N-reactors


Saturday, Jan 14, 2012, By Gangadhar S Patil | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

After being in denial for years, the department of atomic energy (DAE) has for the first time admitted that the deaths of its employees at the Kalpakkam nuclear site and their dependents were because of multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query in October last year, the DAE said nine people, including three employees working at the Kalpakkam atomic reactor, about 70km from Chennai, died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The department had earlier refused to divulge information despite an RTI query in 2010.

The risk to the lives of people working at the nuclear facilities at Kalpakkam came to the fore in 2003 when two of its employees — Mohandas and Ponniah — working at the reactor died of multiple myeloma after being exposed to nuclear radiation. DAE officials then denied that the deaths were because of overexposure to radiation.

While two people were detected with multiple myeloma when they were working at the reactor, another was found to have the rare form of bone marrow cancer after retirement. The RTI query revealed that 14 people, including 11 family members of employees at Kalpakkam nuclear facilities, have been detected with multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) officials, however, claim that there have been no deaths due to exposure to radiation at Kalpakkam. They even said the figure of people affected by radiation at the nuclear facilities was lesser than the national average of 1-4 per 1 lakh people.

“The figure of three employees at Kalpakkam having multiple myeloma during 16-17 years is not higher than the normal prevalence of such form of cancer among others, in India or abroad,” BARC said in its response.

Experts, however, said it was a faulty comparison and that it was not possible to compare such sensitive data to the national average. As per international standards, cancer cases because of radiation are computed by comparing people living in proximate villages to those living in villages far away from the nuclear facilities, said Dr V Pugazhenthi, a physician who has been practising in Kalpakkam for 20 years.

Going by international standards, a DAE-funded study by Dr Manjula Datta shows that the number of people in proximity to Kalpakkam nuclear facilities suffering from cancer is a cause of concern. DNA is in possession of the report that was never made public.

The report states that cancer cases in villages close to Kalpakkam are seven times higher (210 per 1 lakh people) compared to just (30 per 1 lakh people) in distant villages. Morbidity levels in areas near the nuclear reactor are 2-3 times higher than normal. The study covered 22 proximate villages (within 8km radius) and three distant villages (50km from the reactor site).

“Several cases of cancer due to nuclear radiation have come up in the vicinity of the Kalpakkam nuclear reactor, but they were never reported. Even when they were reported, the government refused to acknowledge them,” said VT Padmanabhan a researcher in health effects of radiation and member of the European Commission on Radiation Risk.

“Dr Datta’s report is one of the best independent surveys carried out to date. Going by its data, it is clear that radiation causes cancer.”

Data sought from the DAE under a separate RTI reveals as many as 244 Kalpakkam employees and their dependents were detected with various types of cancer between 1999 and 2009. Most people affected were in the 41-60 age group and included men as well as women. During 2000-2010, 19 cases of thyroid diseases were detected. Experts said thyroid diseases are common among people living in and around nuclear reactor sites.

BARC officials, however, said the 244 cancer cases and mortality rates among Kalpakkam employees were not different from those seen among the general population.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd officials did not respond to questions mailed by DNA to their official ids despite several reminders.