Japan’s radiation catastrophe was made in Australia


September 16, 2012

Opinion – Dave Sweeney, Sunday orning Herald

Our uranium fuelled Fukushima; it can’t be business as usual.

 

THE signs that things are not as they should be start gently enough:
weeds appear in fields, the roadside vegetation covers signs and there
are few people about. The country looks peaceful, green and sleepy –
then the radiation monitor two seats away wakes up and starts
clicking.

I am on a bus heading along a narrow and winding road towards the
Fukushima exclusion zone. The trip has been organised by a Japanese
medical group and my fellow travellers are doctors, academics and
radiation health specialists from around the world. They have come to
see and hear the story behind the headlines and to bring their
considerable expertise to support the continuing relief and response
efforts.

In March last year, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima
Daiichi reactor complex was shattered by the earthquake and tsunami
that tore through Japan’s east coast. The world held its breath as
images of emergency workers in radiation suits, bewildered and fearful
locals, and grainy aerial footage of an increasingly vulnerable
reactor dominated our screens and newspapers, and while the headlines
might have faded, the radiation, dislocation and complexity has not.

Fukushima means ”fortunate island” but the region’s luck melted down
alongside the reactor.
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Last September, a United Nations special report detailed some of the
impacts: ”hundreds of billions of dollars of property damage”,
”serious radioactive contamination of water, agriculture, fisheries”
and ”grave stress and mental trauma”.

To this day, about 150,000 people cannot return to their homes. Lives
have been utterly disrupted and Fukushima remains a profound
environmental and social tragedy.

A grandmother who was moved away from the exclusion zone hosts us in
her new home. The clusters of caravan-park style cabins are a long way
from her former village life. Her eyes light up and her years drop
down when she speaks of her three grandchildren and the three
great-grandchildren due later this year. But then she is asked how
often she sees them and the light fades. The interpreter stumbles, the
room falls silent and we all look down and feel sad and strangely
ashamed.

A doctor at a nearby medical centre tells of how more than 6000
doctors, nurses and patients were relocated there from the adjacent
exclusion zone. The hill behind is criss-crossed with red tape that
marks the progress of decontamination work.

When asked by a German doctor, the doctor confirms that while they now
have iodine tablets in the hospital, they weren’t equipped with them
when the disaster struck. ”Then it was too late,” she says. ”Yes,”
he confirms, ”then it was too late.”

We visit a local organic farmer – one of the first in the area to have
bravely returned to his land. Beside the farmer’s house is a cedar
tree that is 1200 years old. His ancestors had the honour of supplying
rice to the Shogun feudal lords – now the rice from those same fields
is radioactive. I sit by a pond in his rice paddy as he explains his
hope that if the ducks eat enough worms and grubs they might remove
the radiation from his soil. No one has the heart to contradict him.

On deserted roads we pass skeletal abandoned greenhouses, increasingly
wild fields, empty houses and rotting sheds. Long dormant vehicles
have grass in the wheel arches and the landscape is dotted with
recently removed contaminated soil wrapped like round hay bales in
blue plastic. Traffic cones and stern signage to deter looting block
the smaller side roads, and police and relocated residents share
patrols to keep thieves away.

But the biggest thief is invisible. Radiation has robbed this region
of much of its past, present and future. Radiation hits hardest at
growing cells and many parents are understandably concerned and have
moved. The old remain and in the absence of the young their years
show.

The manager of the local store shows us sophisticated point-of-sale
radiation monitoring equipment and warns us against eating wild
mushrooms.

A doctor speaks of the lack of community confidence in the official
radiation data and declares that another nuclear accident would be
”the ruin of Japan”, and all the while the radiation monitor on the
bus keeps clicking.

And each click counts the decay of a piece of rock dug up in
Australia. In October 2011, a formal Australian government statement
confirmed ”that Australian obligated nuclear material was at the
Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors”.

Australian uranium fuelled Fukushima. Australian uranium is now
radioactive fallout that is contaminating Japan and beyond and the
response of the Australian government and the Australian uranium
producers and their industry association has been profoundly and
shamefully deficient.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks of business as usual, Resources
Minister Martin Ferguson talks of the ”unfortunate incident” and the
more bullish of the uranium miners have called the crisis a
”sideshow”. There can be no atomic business as usual in the shadow
of Fukushima. The nuclear debate is live in Japan and now needs to
come alive in Australia. We need a genuine assessment of the costs and
consequences of our uranium trade. To fail to learn from this tragedy
is deeply disrespectful and increases the chance of Australian uranium
fuelling future Fukushimas.

■Dave Sweeney is nuclear-free campaigner for the Australian
Conservation Foundation.

India: Suspend work at Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, talk to protesters, urge concerned citizens


September 15, 2012

The movement against the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil
Nadu has entered a new phase with a Jal-satyagraha following the
repressive police action of September 10.

More than 120 eminent citizens from different walks of life have
signed the following statement expressing solidarity with the
protesters, and calling for serious engagement with them on vital
issues of safety.

The signatories include former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former
Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian and former Planning Commission
member SP Shukla, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A
Gopalakrishnan, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah,
former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, scientists PM
Bhargava, D Balasubramaniam, Satyajit Rath, MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju,
social scientists Romila Thapar, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Rajeev
Bhargav, Amit Bhaduri, Manoranjan Mohanty, Gyanendra Pandey, Achin
Vanaik and Zoya Hasan, writers Adil Jussawalla, Arundhati Roy and
Arvind Krishna Mehrotraq, dancer Leela Samson, artists Ghulam Shaikh,
SG Vasudev, Vivan Sundaram and Sheba Chhachhi, and many other scholars
and social activists such as Vandana Shiva, Aruna Roy and Ashish
Kothari.

The full list of signatories appears at the bottom.

In view of the public importance of the issue, could you please carry
the statement in full in your paper, channel or wire service?
Publication of the entire list of signatories on your website would be
greatly appreciated.

Best regards,

Praful Bidwai

o o o

Text of Concerned Citizens’ Statement on Koodankulam

We are appalled at the police repression unleashed against people
protesting peacefully against the Koodankulam nuclear plant. The
repression has forced them to take to a jal-satyagraha.

Their legitimate, and as-yet-unaddressed, concerns about the plant’s
safety were heightened by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s recent
admission that it has not implemented the recommendations of its own
review committee, including revision of safety parameters, and
installation of backup freshwater and power sources. No
emergency-evacuation drill was conducted as mandated, in a
16-kilometre radius, prior to fuel-loading.

The government has refused to disclose pertinent information,
including the Site Evaluation and Safety Analysis Reports,
nuclear-waste management plans, and the agreement indemnifying the
Russian supplier against accidents, which mocks the absolute liability
principle. These documents need to be discussed publicly and at least
with the people affected by the plant.

Instead, the government is accusing the protesters of sedition, and
the protest of being “foreign”- inspired, despite an absence of
evidence. This is part of a profoundly undemocratic pattern, recently
increasing, of demonising dissent, dismissing people’s concerns about
hazards, and brutally repressing protests.

We urge the government to suspend work at Koodankulam and engage
directly and democratically with the concerns of the people who live
in the vicinity, so that if the plant is to proceed it has their
acceptance.

1. A.K.Ramakrishnan
2. Abhishek Shrivastava
3. Achin vanaik
4. Adil Jassuwala
5. Aditya Nigam
6. Admiral L. Ramdas
7. Ajay Skaria
8. Amarjeet S Narang
9. Amit Sengupta
10. Amita Baviskar
11. Ammu Joseph
12. Amrita Chhachhi
13. Anand Patwardhan
14. Anandhi S
15. Anita Dubey
16. Anna George
17. Antony Arulraj
18. Arun Patnaik
19. Aruna Rodrigues
20. Aruna Roy
21. Arvid Ghosh
22. Asad Bin Saif
23. Ashish Kothari
24. Ashok Dube
25. Asit Das
26. Bablu Ganguly
27. Beena Sarwar
28. C P Chandrashekhar
29. Capt. J. Rama Rao
30. Cheran Rudhramoorthy
31. Chitranjan Singh
32. D N Jha
33. D. Balasubramanian
34. Darryl D’Monte
35. David Ludden
36. Dilip D’Souza
37. Dinesh Abrol
38. Dolphy Dsouza
39. Dunu Roy
40. EAS Sarma
41. G. Arunima
42. Garga Chatterjee
43. Geeta Seshu
44. Geetanjali Shree
45. Gopalarishnan
46. Gulam Mohammad Sheikh
47. Gyanendra Pandey
48. Hanan Sabea
49. Harsh Kapoor
50. Jairus Banaji
51. Jean Dreze
52. Jitendra Chahar
53. Jyoti Punwani
54. K Babu Rao
55. K. Ashok Rao
56. Kamal Kant Jaswal
57. Kamal Mitra Chenoy
58. Kamayani Bali Mahabal
59. Kamla Bhasin
60. Kavita Krishnan
61. Lalita Ramdas
62. Lawrence Surendra
63. Leela Samson
64. M V Ramana
65. Mahtab Alam
66. Manasi Pingle
67. Manoranjan Mohanty
68. Mary E. John
69. Mohan Rao
70. Mookhi Amir Ali
71. Nandan Maluste
72. Nandini Sunder
73. Naresh Dadhich
74. Neeladri Bhattacharya
75. Neeraj Jain
76. Neeta Deshpande
77. Nikhil Desai
78. Nikhil Dey
79. Nirupam Sen
80. Nivedita Menon
81. Noorjehan Safia Niaz
82. P M Bhargava
83. Prashant Bhushan
84. Pushpa Achanta
85. Rabin Chakraborty
86. Rafeeq Ellias
87. Rajeev Bhargav
88. Rajeev Suman
89. Rajni Bakshi
90. Ravi Hemadri
91. Ritu Kumar
92. Rohini Hensman
93. S P Shukla
94. S. K. Biswas
95. S.G. Vasudev
96. Sameera Khan
97. Sandeep Pandey
98. Sandhya Srinivasan
99. Sannybhai
100. Santanu Chakraverti
101. Saraswati Kavula
102. Satinath Choudhary
103. Satish Deshpandey
104. Satya Sivaraman
105. Satyajit Rath
106. Shabnam Hashmi
107. Shailesh Gandhi
108. Sheeba Chhachhi
109. Shree Prakash
110. Soumya Dutta
111. Subash Mohapatra
112. Sudhir Chandra
113. Sukla Sen
114. Sumit Sarkar
115. Suresh Khairnar
116. Suvrat Raju
117. Tajeev Suman
118. Tani Bhargav
119. Tanika Sarkar
120. TSR Subramanian
121. Uma Chakravarty
122. Uzramma
123. V. Prakash
124. Vaishali Patil
125. Vandana Shiva
126. Venu Madhav Govindu
127. Viren Lobo
128. Vivek Sundara
129. Walter Fernandes
130. Wilfred D’Souza
131. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ
132. Zoya Hasan

School survey ties primary scores to caste


BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY


New Delhi, Sept. 12: An NCERT survey has found children from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes lagging behind in education at the primary school level amid a national debate on reservation in promotions for them.

The National Achievement Survey, conducted to evaluate the learning achievement of Class V students, found SC/ST students underperforming compared to general students (see chart).

Over a lakh students from 6,602 schools in 27 states and four Union Territories were tested. While 83 per cent of the schools were in rural areas, 70 per cent were run by the state governments.

Each student was asked 115 questions — 40 from mathematics, 40 from environmental studies and 35 from language.

In all three subjects tested, children belonging to Scheduled Tribes were the least successful, with the SCs performing marginally better.

“A section of researchers argues a child is gifted with a certain amount of intelligence while another school says the child can accumulate intelligence provided he gets a supportive atmosphere. In India, the accumulation is not happening and is conditioned by caste in view of the pathetic living standards of SCs and STs,” said Kancha Ilaiah, director of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.

The environment, training and support of parents helps every child develop intelligence, the professor said, quoting researchers. But children from the SC/ST communities miss out on environmental and parental support, he said.

The NCERT study found that parents of two-thirds students were literate or had gone to primary or higher secondary school. The remaining one-third were farm labourers or street vendors. Children of educated parents fared better in the tests.

“Studies have established a connection between parents’ education and a child’s performance. In case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the parents are not much educated either,” Ilaiah said.

The accumulation of intelligence is also linked to nutrition, living standards and social status, he said.

Educationist Nargis Panchapakesan echoed him and attributed the poor performance of the SC and ST children to the poor socio-economic condition of these communities. “Children from a poor background also tend to underperform,” she said.

The survey, conducted by NCERT with support from SSA-Technical Cooperation Funds (TCF), found nearly 30 per cent of students took private tuition. In Bengal, the proportion of students taking private tuition was the highest at 83 per cent.

A total of 10,851 teachers filled the Teacher Questionnaire which revealed that 63 per cent were graduates or post-graduates, 23 per cent had gone to higher secondary school while the rest had studied till the secondary level or lower.

In Chandigarh, about two-thirds of the teachers were post-graduates. In Gujarat, on the other hand, 54 per cent teachers were qualified only up to middle school.

Overall, 79 per cent were regular teachers and there were 12 per cent para teachers.

“The survey did not find any evidence to suggest the para teachers are helping children. Another trend is that students of better equipped schools perform better,” said TCF team leader Jayshree Oza.

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