#India – Whistle Blowers and the Public Interest


June 25, 2013

whistle

by M. V. Ramana

The bulk of development policies, justified in the ‘national interest’, actually diminish poor people’s ability to control and gainfully use natural resources. Every ‘national’ project is presented as beneficial for the masses even though it requires some poor people to surrender their land or their livelihood. While the ‘greater good of the nation’appears to be a laudable cause, it must appear suspicious to the rural poor who are consistently chosen, time and time again, to make all the sacrifices, while those more powerful reap the benefits. – Amita Baviskar, In the Belly of the River

There is a common message emanating from the centers of power in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi: Whistle blowing, or truth telling as the act may be more accurately described, is not a welcome activity. As I write this, officials in the United States are searching all over Hong Kong for Edward Snowden, the high school dropout, who revealed the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programme. Proving its status as a loyal ally of the United States, the United Kingdom warned airlines not to fly Snowden to Britain. In the meanwhile, the trial of Bradley Manning, the most famous truth teller in the United States, started in Maryland, USA.

A much less celebrated truth teller was also in the Courts recently in New Delhi. Once upon a time, Manoj Mishrawas employed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) at its Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat and was the president of Kakrapar Unit Kendriya Sachivalaya Hindi Parishad. Before describing why this person was at the Supreme Court, a little bit of geography and history might be in order.

Kakrapar was originally considered as a potential site for a nuclear power plant in the 1960s but then rejected. The reason given then was that there was a large population within the exclusion area and the site was close to a major source of water used for drinking and cultivation (For more on the criteria used for reactor siting, see pp. 44-46 of The Power of Promise). In addition to the population, another problem with the Kakrapar site was that it was in a low-lying area, prone to flooding. This was of particular concern because the site was close to the Ukai Dam and it was conceivable that the whole reactor might get flooded.

In 1980, however, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that Kakrapar was to become the fifth nuclear power station and the two reactors there started commercial operations in 1993 and 1995. Of course, neither of the problems originally cited had changed. If anything, the population in the area had only increased, both naturally and because of various construction activities.Though some amount ofearth-fillingwas done to avoid flooding, things didn’t turn out so well.

The outlet from the turbine building of KAPS leads to an artificial lake called Moticher, which has gates to control the flow of water. On 15 and 16 June 1994, there were heavy rains in South Gujarat andthe water level of the lake began to rise. The ducts thatwere meant to let out water ended up becoming conduits for water to come in. And since there were no arrangements either for sealing cable trenches and valve pits, they too allowed water to enter. Water began entering the complex on the night of 15 June and by the next morning, there was water in the turbine building as well as other parts of the reactor complex. The workers inthe morning shift had to swim in chest-high water, and the control room was reportedly inaccessible for some time. Finally, a site emergency was declared and workers were evacuated.

By this time, another problem had become apparent. The gates that could control the flow of water into Moticher had not been well maintained, and so, mud had collected around them and they could not be opened. The KAPS management requested help from the district and state authorities, but that evidently didn’t help either. Fortunately, villagers from the area, who were worried about the security of their own homes, made a breach in the embankment of the lake that allowed the water to drain out. Finally, on 18 June, a large pump was brought to Kakrapar from Tarapur, and the work of removing the water from the turbine building began.

In the meanwhile, much of the equipment in the turbine building was submerged, including the water pumps used to cool the reactor core. Electrical power from the grid failed, and diesel generators had to be used. Fortunately, the reactor had been shutdown following the major fire at the Narora for inspection of turbine blades. The floodwater carried away canisters of radioactive waste, and it is not clear if they were ever recovered or if any of them released its contents into the waters.

This is where Manoj Mishra comes in. NPCIL officials evidently did not bother to inform members of the public about what happened. The way the public got to know anything about the damage at KAPS was because Mishra wrote a letter to Gujarat Samachar about what happened. For this revelation, Mishra was suspended and, after an internal inquiry, removed from service in March 1996. Since then, Mishra has been fighting the nuclear establishment in courts—and losing. This process of fighting in the courts took him to the Gujarat High Court, which, in 2007, dismissed his case. Mishra then appealed to the Supreme Court, and in April of this year, the SC dismissed his appeal. Itsobservations are worth quoting at some length:

“it will be apposite to notice the growing acceptance of the phenomenon of whistleblower.A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about the wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may beclassified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organisation) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues)…

“In our view, a person like the respondent can appropriately be described as a whistleblower for the system who has tried to highlight the malfunctioning of an important institution established for dealing with cases involving revenue of the State and there is no reason to silence such a person by invoking Articles 129 or 215 of the Constitution or the provisions of the Act…

“In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant…the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whistle blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as awhistle blower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistle blower.”

There are many questions that we should ask. First, in what way is the education level of Manoj Mishra relevant to deciding if he was a whistle blower, and why should any whistle blower be an expert on whatever it is that he or she is revealing the truth about? If someone reveals that a pharmaceutical company is producing contaminated drugs meant to treat cardiac problems (Such things do happen, see for example), does that person have to be an expert on how pharmaceutical plants operate? Or should he or she be a doctor with many years of experience in treating heart disease? Second, what might have happened if Mishra had actually been an expert in the operation of atomic power plants? Well, we can only speculate. But remember that for Mishra to become an expert, he would necessarily have to have spent several years at the DAE’s training school, during the course of which he would likely not just have learnt about nuclear reactor physics and engineering, but also become indoctrinated to trust authority and support the NPCIL and DAE policies of secrecy unquestioningly. This is a potential reason for the paucity of truth tellers from the upper echelons of the DAE or NPCIL. Or most other hierarchical organizations, for that matter. Third, what exactly is the public interest in this case? It is clear what the interest of NPCIL and DAE would have been—to hide the news that its design and its maintenance were inadequate to protect against even moderately severe floods. But, for the public, it would be just the opposite: to hear about what happened within KAPS during the floods, so they know what risks they faced.

Why then did the Court argue otherwise? Of course, we cannot know for sure. But some clues can be had from the other recent Supreme Court judgment. This decision dismissed a plea seeking to halt the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear reactors, under construction in Tamil Nadu, till the implementation of key additional safety measures recommended after the Fukushima accidents of 2011.

As is well known, the massive release of radioactive materials from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, which has resulted in the contamination of a large swath of area and is now estimated to lead in the long run to something on the order of a thousand cancers, also added to the already strong opposition among people living around Koodankulam. What the Supreme Court decided, in essence, was that these people will now have to put up with such “minor inconveniences”, “minor radiological detriments” and “minor environmental detriments”.

The Court’s opinion is replete with references to the public interest. “While setting up a project of this nature, we have to have an overall view of larger public interest rather than smaller violation of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution”. Elsewhere, “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21”. It went on further to say, “Nuclear power plant is being established not to negate right to life but to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution…it will only protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution for achieving a larger public interest and will also achieve the object and purpose of Atomic Energy Act”. And so on, and so forth.

What’s important about this decision is that the Judges’ idea of public interest seems to be based largely, if not completely, on testimony offered by various arms of the nuclear establishment. The decision,in essence, neglects the numerous pieces of expert testimony submitted by the petitioners questioning various aspects of the government’s wisdom in building nuclear reactors in general, including at Koodankulam. For this reason, if the Supreme Court decision was meant to help settle the contentious debate over Koodankulam, it has not, and cannot, succeed in this aim. The reliance on expert testimony from within the nuclear establishment demonstrates myopia on a very basic issue – the lack of public trust regarding thenuclear establishment.

But back to the basic point: arguments made by powerful institutions about the public interest often hide a more divisive reality: it is hard, if not impossible, to come up with a clearly defined and widely accepted notion of public interest that can apply to a large range of areas. [See Robert Jensen’s arguments on a related theme, the national interest, albeit in a different context]. More important, even if there might besome common public interest (“clean air”, for example), trying to actually reach that common interest usually involves having those goals be negotiated through power struggles, and the imposition of hardship to one disadvantaged group or the other.

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once wrote: “It is indeed true that we live in a society of risky choices, but it is one in which only some do the choosing, while others do the risking.” To this one may add, those who have the power to choose often make choices that are beneficial to them but have become adept at passing off those choices as being in the public interest. Whistle blowers seem to care more for those suffering the consequences, real or potential, than the interests of the powerful elite. We, at least those of us who do not belong to these exclusive elite enclaves of power, owe these whistle blowers a huge debt of gratitude.

[M. V. Ramana is with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin 2012)]

#India – Flaws in Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant


By A Gopalakrishnan

19th June 2013 07:23 AM

The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu is owned and will be operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is to oversee and regulate nuclear safety, while the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) also have well-defined regulatory roles to play in non-nuclear safety aspects.

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) reviewed previous lower court judgements and heard fresh affidavits on issues of KKNPP safety. In its final judgment on May 6, 2013, the SC directed AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB to (collectively) oversee each and every aspect, including safety of the plant, its impact on environment and the quality of various components and systems in the plant, before commissioning it. The SC has also directed that a (joint) report to that effect be filed before it prior to commissioning of the plant.

To understand the overall problems in their right perspective, one has to see how the total project responsibility at KKNPP is shared between India and Russia. Under the 1998 inter-governmental supplementary agreement, the Russians are to provide the reactor designs and supply the major equipment. The instrumentation and control (I&C) design package, including installation details, were also to come from Russia. The NPCIL and its Indian contractors would build the reactors, but a small team of Russian specialists (“advisers”) would stay at the site to render technical assistance at all stages of construction, in the installation of reactor equipment and in the commissioning and operation of the reactors, until NPCIL takes over.

KKNPP reactors are pressurised water reactors (PWRs) of the Russian VVER type, of 1000 MWe rating. The past Indian experience is entirely on pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), India having built only a very small PWR for a submarine which is yet to be started. The PHWRs are technologically very different from the VVER-1000 reactors, and the Russians have designed and built more than 20 of them. The experience gained over the years by Indian contractors who have steadily worked with NPCIL is also limited to PHWRs. Therefore, it is certainly foolhardy for India to insist that KKNPP Units 1 & 2 shall be built under the above division of responsibilities. The reasons for doing so have been the minimisation of cost and an overconfident estimation of NPCIL’s capabilities, combined with a lack of appreciation of the technological finesse required to build a large and complicated PWR for the first time. The problems described in this article can be primarily attributed to this fatal error in project formulation.

Besides the probable installation of substandard parts in KKNPP reactors due to laxity of quality control, it is now evident that another major safety issue related to the I&C systems is worrying the KKNPP management and the AERB, because of which the Unit 1 start-up is now postponed to July 2013. This inference is reached by piecing together information now available in the public domain. The problem, to put it simply, appears to be the inability to eliminate spurious signals of untraced origin appearing in many of the instrumentation cables of paramount importance to safety, like the reactor neutron chamber output lines, wiring of the safety and shut-off rod control systems, etc.

Such phenomena belong to a broad class of problems known as Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). A very rudimentary example of EMI, for instance, is that of a power-carrying, unshielded cable that would generate a surrounding electro-magnetic field, that in turn could induce a voltage/current in a nearby instrumentation or control cable. This spurious input can add to or subtract from the “real” signals, thereby sending erroneous control inputs to a variety of crucial safety systems, possibly leading to unpredictable and serious malfunctions or accidents.

EMI in nuclear plants can be totally avoided by following modern I&C system design and installation norms. (See, for example, “Modern I&C for Nuclear Power Plants”, IAEA, 1999). In particular, obtaining a sound, interference-free transmission of electrical signals between various parts of a nuclear system demands careful attention to cable laying and routing as well as earthing, and requires that specific rules in this regard are strictly followed. The Russian “advisers” on site seem to have earlier indicated to the Indians that most of the VVERs which they have commissioned have used strict Russian standards like GOST 50746-2000, called the National Standard of the Russian Federation for Electro-magnetic Compatibility (EMC) of equipment for nuclear power plants (Requirements and Test Methods), which is available at: http://files.stroyinf.ru/Data1/41/41348/. However, the sequential history of KNPP events do not show that such care was taken in implementation of I&C systems by NPCIL and their contractors.

The cable problems at Koodankulam have a long history. Glimpses of this can be seen from the past annual reports of the AERB. The 2009-2010 AERB report states the regulators were “informed (by NPCIL) that new cable routes have been created to take care of additional cables required for normal operation of the plant, as these were not accounted for in the earlier design”. AERB’s 2010-2011 annual report states that “NPCIL was asked to submit detailed response to various observations made on cable layout — along with justifications for deviations from established methods of laying of cables and alternative measures to meet any exigencies”. Interestingly, the 2011-2012 annual report is totally silent about the follow-up actions taken in this matter.

Around the same time, a telling PTI report on the KKNPP cable problem appeared on July 20, 2011, in Indian newspapers. In part it said (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/tn-kudankulam-nplant-to-achieve-criticality/168957-3.html), “But the observation that several cables were missing, to be incorporated by designers in the reactor almost towards completion of the plant (2009-2010), could not be explained… The designers discovered that several kilometres of power and control cables in the reactor were ‘missed’ after the completion of the double containment of the reactor… A year ago, a major operation had to be undertaken to incorporate the ‘missing’ cables by making new opening in the containment domes (breaking open the concrete walls and its steel liner) and sealing it again after bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside”. One wonders how such a serious error was committed by the NPCIL engineers and their contractors!

This exposes a serious difference in the ethics of doing project site work between the Russians and Indians. Russians are very well-organised and systematic, and they rigidly follow the rules and expect others also to do so. While Indians, too, have rules and regulations on paper, to expedite work or to minimise cost, they would not hesitate to bend or break rules. In case of the I&C design and installation details, the Russians had prepared detailed documentation including hundreds of drawings, which they expected the Indian installers to follow diligently, in the interest of performance and safety. The World Nuclear Association has reported that KKNPP control system documentation was delivered late by the Russians and, when reviewed (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/#.Ub7fWPkzjAs) by NPCIL, it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking of some aspects. This was necessitated because, while waiting for details to arrive from Russia, the NPCIL team had proceeded on with the I&C work based on their PHWR experience, little realising that the PWR/VVER requirements contained in the Russian documents would be significantly different. In doing re-work and rectification of the PHWR-based work, the NPCIL team is unlikely to have come close to meeting the Russian design intent or conformed to the installation documents received from them. The origin of the present problem lies in this massive installation error of the NPCIL.

In 2004, the then KKNPP station director told Frontline (http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2108/fl210800.htm) that “difficulty arose with working documentation, which was to arrive from the Russian designers. But I shall not blame the Russians, there was pressure on them to advance their drawings and documents.” He went on to say, “When you want to speed up…you have to take certain decisions even if the input data are not available. As a designer and an engineer, you have to assume those data and go ahead.” It is this daredevil approach of the NPCIL site engineers and their contractors which has landed the KKNPP in the present mess.

It is most likely that the KKNPP cable system, as completed today, has not conformed to the norms and standards of cable selection, EMI shielding, or layout as per Russian, Indian or any other standards. No wonder the EMI problem is persisting, because there is no other short-cut solution other than re-doing a sizeable part of the I&C cabling and its layout in accordance with a set of modern standards, agreeable also to the Russians. This may take several more months and extensive re-working, but this must be done in the interest of public safety. As directed by the SC, the group consisting of NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB must certainly find an acceptable resolution of this problem and include it in their report to the apex court.

A Gopalakrishnan is a former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

 

#India – Nuclear utility grabs land #WTFnews


Author(s):
Akshay Deshmane
Issue Date:
2013-6-30

Public sector NPCIL encroaches upon mango plantations near its Ratnagiri plant

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/14_20130630(1).jpg” width=”457″ height=”296″ border=”0″ />Faded white line has been marked by NPCIL for building a wall, says Latika Pawar (Photo: Akshay Deshmane)

LATIKA PAWAR had just returned home after working at her mango plantation when she heard a loud noise outside. The 54-year-old called other residents and rushed to her field, a stone’s throw away from her house in Dhaniwre hamlet of Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. “A bulldozer was moving towards our mango plantations, which are in the vicinity of a proposed nuclear plant. Two days earlier (on May 13), boundary lines with white chalk and yellow paint were drawn through our plantations,” recalls Pawar. “Company officials (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited or NPCIL) were preparing to build a compound wall of the plant through our plantations,” she says. “The corporation has persistently harassed us over the past one year to extend the wall,” adds resident Mahesh Ramchandra Waghdhare. At least 10 plantations with 250 mango trees are likely to be lost if the compound wall is built, say residents of Dhaniwre.

In 2010, NPCIL acquired 938 hectares from several villages in Ratnagiri’s Rajapur taluka amid much resistance from residents who are yet to accept the compensation package. The land on which Dhaniwre sits and the surrounding area was not part of the land acquired, claim the hamlet residents. The records of Ratnagiri collectorate support their claim: survey number 119, which stands for area under Dhaniwre and its surrounding, is not part of the project site. NPCIL itself has said several times that the land under the survey number 119 will not be acquired.

Bhikaji Wagdhare, sarpanch of Madban village, which includes Dhaniwre hamlet, alleges, “NPCIL slowly wants to force out all the residents from Madban and encroach on the land to accommodate the world’s largest nuclear plant. This is why they have not yet revealed the centre point where the reactors will be placed.”

NPCIL did not respond to Down To Earth’s calls, SMSs and e-mails.

On that eventful afternoon of May 15 when the bulldozer had almost dug a pit in the ground, the hamlet residents managed to stop it. “Since we were complaining, they asked us where would we like to have the extended compound wall. We said nowhere. They promised that if the wall comes up, our plantations would not be touched and water and power arrangements would be made. But we do not trust them,” says Pawar. The bulldozer left for the day and did not return. For Dhaniwre, home to 135 people, mango is the main source of income. “We earn Rs 1 lakh annually from mangoes. This year, however, our earnings were down by half,” says Pawar.

On May 31, the sarpanch wrote to Ratnagiri district Collector Rajeev Jadhav, complaining about the encroachment and overextraction of groundwater from the project site, leading to water scarcity in Madban. Jadhav is yet to respond.

The owner of a plantation which is abutting the compound wall approached the Mumbai High Court last year. Bhikaji Wagdhare’s petition stated, “… homestead has been encroached post impuned clearance (environment clearance) issued and without following due process of law”. Before this, he had filed a complaint against NPCIL’s alleged encroachment in the Nate police station in Rajapur. “The police did not act. They said the case is not in their jurisdiction,” he says.

In its judgement, the court directed Wagdhare to approach the National Green Tribunal for the clearance-related complaint and local courts for relief against encroachment. “I suffer from paralysis. How can it be expected of me that I should follow all the local courts?” asks Wagdhare, who now resides in Mumbai’s eastern suburb of Bhandup.

Collector Jadhav admits that “survey number 119 is not included in the list of land parcels to be acquired”. He denies knowledge of any encroachment near the plant site. However, in a telephonic conversation, he added, “We have asked NPCIL not to go beyond its (boundary) limits.” When asked if any written order was sent to the corporation, he said, “Verbal communication is enough.”

Pawar rues, “We have lost our paddy fields to the plant site. If we lose mango plantations to the compound wall, survival would be difficult.”


 

#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.

Don’t fund Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant , locals urge European banks


Friday, Jun 7, 2013, 6:47 IST | Agency: DNA

Protesters at the proposed site for a nuclear plant at Jaitapur sent an e-mail to the three main bankers — BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole in France — on Tuesday, requesting the CEOs not to fund the project.

They have intensified their cause to save the environment from effects of radioactivity.

Indian government officials are set to meet French and other European investors over the week in Paris to discuss funding opportunities for the nuclear project.

Sources said about 1,000 people gathered around the proposed nuclear site on Tuesday at Jaitapur after learning that officials were going to negotiate the financial aspect of the proposed project with with French as well as other European bankers.

“They were riled by the news that Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Department of Atomic Energy officials were going to Paris to discuss financing of the project with French bankers. Slogans were raised against NPCIL, Areva and the French bankers,” a source told dna.

Amjad Borkar, an activist from the fishermen’s community, said: “The project will destroy marine life and make fishermen destitute.”

The e-mail to the bankers stated: “NPCIL and the Government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information and distorting the facts and are trying their best to convince you to finance the mega project.”

Activists Premanand Tevedkar and Mansoor Solkar said that despite an increase in compensation, the farmers were not going to give up their land. “Protesters said they would lay down their lives but not give up their land and right to livelihood,” he added.

The e-mail was sent by the villagers, farmers and fisherfolk of Jaitapur, Madban, Sakhari Nate, Mithgavane, Niveli, Karel and all the surrounding villages situated near the site.

“We will never allow anybody to contaminate our ancestral land and sea, marine as well as land of the Konkan coast with nuclear energy. It’s our right to life and livelihood and we will not give these up at any cost,” said the e-mail to the bankers.

 

Kudankulam nuclear power plant : the unsettled queries


First Published: Wed, Jun 05 2013. livemint
On 6 May, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking to halt the commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu till the implementation of key additional safety measures recommended after the catastrophic Fukushima accident of 2011. The court’s argument was that the project is “part of the national policy” and it “is not for courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfilment of a policy, is fair”. Regardless of one’s opinion about that assertion, what is disturbing about the judgement is that it ventured well beyond its brief and commented on areas that were outside its provenance.
The first set of comments relate to the idea that nuclear power is “an important element in India’s energy mix” and that the risks involved are justified by the benefits. For a source that constitutes 2.3% of India’s electricity generation capacity to be described as important is, of course, questionable. More to the point, this endorsement of nuclear power is at odds with the larger argument about courts not taking a stance on policies. If the apex court cannot weigh in on a policy decision, it’s in an even worse position to decide on India’s energy mix or if the expenditure so far justifies people having “to put up” with “minor inconveniences”, “minor radiological detriments” and “minor environmental detriments”.
In a second set of comments based on various documents and safety codes laid out by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the court “notice(d) that adequate and effective protection measures are in place”. The problem here is that the court’s confidence in the effectiveness of protection measures does not comport well with the actual performance of AERB, in particular its lack of independence and its inability, and perhaps its unwillingness, to force the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL) to undertake stringent safety measures. The government’s efforts at constituting the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA), to “preserve the functional independence of the regulatory board”, is indicative of the problems with the setup.
The most pertinent illustration of AERB’s weaknesses is its actions on Kudankulam. Even though AERB committee set up following Fukushima “to review the safety of Indian NPPs (nuclear power plants) against external events of natural origin” came out with some sensible safety recommendations, when push came to shove, AERB permitted loading of fuel even though these recommendations had not been fully implemented in Kudankulam. None other than a former chairperson of AERB, A. Gopalakrishnan, has termed this decision “a total volte-face…and contrary to the spirit and recommendations of AERB post-Fukushima safety evaluation committee”. By endorsing NPCIL and AERB’s decisions, albeit with conditions, the apex court’s judgement might further entrench the lacunae in NPCIL’s safety culture (see the description in my recent book The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India).
Inexplicably, the court’s decision makes no mention of a devastating report from last year by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, the body mandated to “promote accountability, transparency and good governance”, on the subordinate legal status of AERB and its multiple failings to ensure safety of nuclear installations in the country. CAG observed that AERB had no effective independence from the department of atomic energy (DAE). Of the 3,200 recommendations by AERB’s safety review committee for operating plants, DAE and related organizations had not complied with 375, with 137 recommendations from 2004 or earlier.
The reliance on just the nuclear establishment’s testimony demonstrates myopia regarding a very basic matter—the lack of trust regarding AERB. The situation for any regulatory agency is like that of Pompeia, Julius Caesar’s wife, of whom, Caesar is supposed to have said, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. Public suspicion about AERB and its lack of independence is justifiably high. At least until the regulatory structure is completely overhauled, the court’s call for “safety standards in which public can have full confidence” cannot be fulfilled.
The chances of such a major overhaul are, unfortunately, slim. The proposed fix—replacing AERB with a new NSRA—won’t work. As currently envisioned, many of the key processes involving NSRA’s appointment, policy setting and budgetary allocation will continue to be controlled, in effect, by the Atomic Energy Commission. As CAG observed last year, the “fact that the chairman, AEC and the secretary, DAE are one and the same…negates the very essence of institutional separation of regulatory and non-regulatory functions”. Further, there is little nuclear expertise outside the DAE parivar to constitute an independent NSRA. Developing such expertise requires a decade or two of deliberate effort, which is so far missing.
For the reasons mentioned above and many more, the court’s decision cannot settle the contentious dispute over Kudankulam, or the larger questions about the expansion of nuclear energy in the country. That is still a matter for democratic debate. And all the familiar problems with nuclear energy—including high costs, susceptibility to catastrophic accidents, and the unsolved problem of dealing with radioactive waste—should play a role in that debate.

M.V. Ramana is with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

——–
M. V. Ramana
The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India

 

Paris – Secret meeting for Jaitapur Reactors continues despite protests in India #WTFnews


 

PARIS, June 5, 2013

Investors’ meet on for underwriting package for Jaitapur reactors even as protests continue

 Vaiju Naravane
 A crucial investors’ meeting to underwrite the financial package for two 1,650 megawatt Areva EPR reactors to be built in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, got under way here with a top four-man team from India, including officials from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL). Senior executives from Areva, the French nuclear giant, several banks and government agencies are also attending the meeting.

The meeting coincides with large-scale protests in Maharashtra against plans to build the two giant nuclear reactors. Hundreds of local farmers have signed petitions saying they do not wish to have their lands requisitioned or the giant reactors to be located close to where they live. Non-governmental organisations fighting plans to build the reactors say the project is located on a seismic site.

The Indian team in Paris is made up of four officials. C.B.S. Venkataraman, Additional Secretary and Niranjan Kumar, Deputy Secretary are from the DAE, while Preman Dinaraj (Financial Director) and Sandeep Singhroy (Director Jaitapur project) are from the NPCIL.

Soaring costs a concern

There have been serious concerns in India over the soaring costs of these reactors. Initially, India is expected to finalise an agreement for the purchase of two EPRs. This is expected to go up to six such reactors. The main sticking points in the discussions so far have been the cost of energy to India per kW/hour coupled with security concerns following the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan. Areva had initially promised India that energy from the reactors would not cost more that Rs. 4 per kW/h. But since the cost of each reactor has gone up from 3.3 billion Euros to 8.5 billion Euros, it would be a miracle if Areva is able to keep the cost of energy within the original framework.

Anne Lauvergeon, former chief of Areva, had told The Hindu in an interview two years ago that the “four rupee target” would be “maintained at all cost”. But the French have been unable to manage costs within their own country. The only EPR currently under construction in France at Flamanville has had massive cost overruns and is five years behind schedule. However, the two EPRs being built at Taishan in China are said to be going ahead at a terrific pace, being built to cost and to schedule.

“Since the reactors will be built by the NPCIL, the cost factor will definitely be lower in India, perhaps even 30 per cent lower than it is in France. There is, however, cause for worry and the talks in Paris will focus on reducing costs to a minimum without sacrificing safety or quality,” a well placed source close to the talks told this correspondent in Paris.

Members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti said that according to their calculations, the unit cost per kilowatt/ hour will be Rs. 14 per unit. The exact cost of each EPR in India has not been disclosed.

“Three important factors”

“There are three important factors in determining the price of a kilowatt/hour of nuclear electricity. The first is the cost of building the plant. The second element is the cost of borrowing the money. What rate of interest will India have to pay? The third element is the capacity at which the plant runs. If it fails to run at 100 per cent capacity, the costs inevitably go up,” Steve Thomas, a specialist on nuclear energy at Greenwich University’s School of Business told The Hindu.

None of these issues have been properly outlined to the public and no figures have been have been released either by the DAE or the NPCIL, which has angered opponents of the project. The project will supposedly have a 70:30 debt equity ratio.

Members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti said the meeting under way in Paris was kept secret to prevent demonstrations in India. However, word of the meeting leaked out. In a letter to French bankers, the Konkan Bachao Samiti said: “NPCIL and government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information, twisting and distorting the facts and are trying their level best to delude you [investors], in order to make you agreeable and secure loan finance for this mega disaster project.”

Anti-Areva Protest: Letter to French and European Bankers from Fishermen and Farmers of Jaitapur


02 June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To,

The Presidents / Chief Executive Officers,

The French and European Bankers,

 

SUBJECT:- FINANCING OF PROPOSED JAITAPUR NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT.

 

Dear Sir / Madam,

 

We the people of Jaitapur, Madban, Sakhari Nate, Mithgavane, Niveli, Karel and all the surrounding villages situated near proposed JAITAPUR Nuclear Power Project, are writing to you with a deep sense of anguish and disgust about the scheduled development taking place in the city of Paris on 5 th and 6 th June between Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) acting through Government of India, French Company AREVA and various French as well as European Bankers.

 

We, the thousands of Fishermen, Farmers as well as common inhabitants of Jaitapur and surrounding areas, are given to know that NPCIL and Government of India officials are going to negotiate with French as well as European Bankers the loan terms for financing the proposed JAITAPUR NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT.

 

We further understand that, to allay and assuage the serious concerns of Bankers as well as French Company AREVA about our staunch and fierce opposition to the proposed JAITAPUR NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information, twisting and distorting the facts and are trying their level best to delude you, in order to make you agreeable and secure loan finance for this mega disaster project.

 

To put the ground realities and facts in clear perspective, we, the fishermen and farmers of Jaitapur and adjoining areas, want to make it very very clear that our die hard opposition to Proposed JAITAPUR NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT is total, fierce and will not be subdued by any means or ways possible. In fact it is gaining momentum every passing day and is extending to larger and wider areas of Coastal Maharashtra, famously known as KOKAN.

 

In view of all above, we urge upon you not to buckle to the cheap tactics of NPCIL as well as Government of India and extend any loan to this ill fated Nuclear Project, which is sure to be scrapped sooner or later and you will end up not only loosing your money but your face too.

 

We will never ever allow anybody to contaminate our ancestral land, seas, marine as well as land environment of this konkan coast with NUCLEAR ENERGY and it’s dangerous fallout of ionizing RADIOACTIVITY at any cost and to achieve this objective, we are prepared to embrace even death if the situation so warrants.

 

Hope propriety prevails in your decision making and you desist from making money over our deaths.

 

                              

Yours Truly

                  Fishermen, Farmers and inhabitants of Jaitapur and vicinity

 

 

 

Jaitapur villagers oppose investors’ meeting, hidden from Locals


PUNE, June 4, 2013

Staff Reporter, The Hindu

Konkan Bachao Samiti says this meet was hidden from the locals to avoid furore

Even as officials of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) left for France for a crucial meeting between European investors and French conglomerate Areva to gather funds for the 9900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant, farmers and fishermen of the Jaitapur have written to the potential investors expressing their opposition to the project.

According to sources, a team of senior officers of both the DAE and the NPCIL will attend a meeting in France on June 5 and 6.

According to members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti, this meeting was kept hidden from the local population, to avoid furore and further protests.

“Deluding investors”

The letter by the Konkan Bachao Samiti states, “NPCIL and government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information, twisting and distorting the facts and are trying their level best to delude you [investors] , in order to make you agreeable and secure loan finance for this mega disaster project.”

Rajendra Phaterpekar of the Samiti stated that the exact cost of the project was still not made public, adding to the government’s non-transparent attitude.

According to earlier projections, the cost of the project was to be Rs. 1,20,000 crore, which is alleged to have increased three-fold over the last two years, he said.

“We, the fishermen and farmers of Jaitapur and adjoining areas, want to make it very very clear that our diehard opposition to the proposed nuclear power project is total, fierce and will not be subdued by any means or ways possible,” the letter says.

Added to this, the villagers of Jaitapur will stage a protest on July 4 to register their opposition, yet again.

 

Koodankulam’s Environmental Impacts: An open letter to Jayanti Natarajan


 

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan wrote this letter to the Minister of Forest and Environment Ms. Jayanti Natarajan. After getting no reply from the ministry, he has put this letter in the public, which has been published in today’s New Indian Express. The letter raises some urgent and crucial issues regarding adherence to MoEF norms as directed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgement.

Dear Ms. Natarajan:

My name is Dr A Gopalakrishnan. I have been the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the Government of India from 1993-1996, and have been actively following the nuclear projects and programmes in India, over the last several decades.

I have attached a bio-data of mine, which summarises my academic and professional background, which you may find informative. Many of us are deeply troubled at the unwritten and unexplained nuclear power policy which the UPA Government is following since 2004, with no opportunity given for a discussion with the knowledgeable sections of the public so that they may present their views and debate this policy with the government. I was appalled to hear your cryptic statement of support for the Indian nuclear power programme, by terming it as ‘essential’ for the country and a ‘sustainable’ form of electricity generation, in one of your recent TV interactions in the Headlines Today TV channel.

May I remind you that neither the Prime Minister nor his Department of Atomic Energy has ever presented such a case for nuclear power before Parliament or the public, on the basis of credible substantiating techno-economic and social impact studies. Therefore, I wish you would kindly take time out to study this issue in all its varied facets, rather than form superficial and self-serving opinions based on literature and views that the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO provide you to further their interests.

Considering the specific portfolio of Minister in charge of Environment & Forests that you hold in the Cabinet, we in the public are all the more concerned about your rather casual and ill-informed understanding and attitude towards the nuclear power sector. Incidentally, just two months before he demitted his office, your predecessor (Mr.Jairam Ramesh) had promised me at one of our meetings that he will organise a seminar at MoEF to discuss issues of nuclear power and the impartial regulation of its safety. But, as a loyalist of the current government, he also did injustice to the local people in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, by hurriedly issuing an environment clearance for the Areva nuclear power project envisaged there, because of pressures from the PMO, in view of the impending visit of the French President to India.

Soon Mr. Ramesh got transferred out of the MoEF and the possibility of any seminar on nuclear power and its potential environmental impact became a lost dream! Since Jairam should also be reminded of this, I am copying this mail to him as well. The immediate reason for this mail from me is the recent Supreme Court judgment, on the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu .

This judgment was delivered on May 6, 2013, and, for your ready reference, I have attached here a copy of the judgment.

Of crucial importance to you, the MoEF and the general public, is the fact that the “Directions” given by the SC Bench on pages 242-247 of their judgment call for certain very important actions to be independently undertaken in all seriousness by the MoEF experts. Lack of expertise in engineering systems, etc. cannot be claimed as excuses to shirk off the responsibility which the MoEF has been entrusted with by the SC.

Essentially, what is asked of your Department/ Ministry is to play the role of an impartial observer on behalf of the people of India, in a matter of life and death in which the SC decision does not reflect, in my view, a full trust in the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO. For the first time, in such a safety evaluation, the SC has brought in the MoEF and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), side by side with the NPCIL & the AERB, to form a collective four-organisation team, members of which are to get involved in examining ALL potential safety and environment-related areas, irrespective of what each organisation’s normal field of operation and responsibility would have been.

Many of us are keenly watching to see how the MoEF takes on this global responsibility and completes it in flying colours, to the full satisfaction of the Supreme Court and the general public.

Lastly, I wish to bring to your attention two articles I had recently published in The New Indian Express (dated April 19 and May 15, 2013), one before the SC judgment was delivered and another afterwards.

I have attached both of them to this mail for your kind information.

I hope I can expect to receive an acknowledgement of this letter and suitable and impartial follow-up action from the MoEF in this matter.

With Regards,
Sincerely Yours,
(Dr.) A. Gopalakrishnan,
Former Chairman,
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Govt. of India.