Science sans Humanity: India’s Pursuit of Nuclear Energy

Pradeep Kumar S.,

Pradeep is an M Tech final year student in Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur

He can be contacted at spradeepmahadeek

In this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair  — Albert Einstein

The United State’s Department of Energy in 1991 commissioned a team of six experts- an architect, anthropologist, material scientist, linguist & archaeologist to design a marker for the nuclear waste repository that was proposed to come up in Yucca mountain, Nevada desert whose facilities would house waste at 1000 ft deep amounting tens of thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste.

The challenge for the team was that the marker should last for at least 10,000 years & it should convey the following meaning

” No esteemed deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is buried here. This place is a message & part of a system of messages. Pay attention. We are serious. Sending this message was significant for us. Ours was considered an important culture.”

(strong opposition from the local communities & revelation of inconsistent reports caused US government to roll back its plan in 2009)

Ten thousand years !

Is it such a long time?. Yes indeed! About 10,000 years ago we were living as a hunter-gatherer communities. Back then, there was no language, no writing, no currency, no bank, no capitalism, hence no exploitation of weaker sections of society. The life was filled with love, compassion, affection and sharing that was harmonious with the other life forms of the world.No one would have dreamed then, that this human race would one day pose a serious threat to the only habitable planet in the solar system.Thanks to industrialization & capitalism of 21st century.

When a country like USA admits publicly the amount of nuclear waste produced in their plants & discuss with independent experts of the country to come up with a solution to protect their people from the radiation for next 10,00 years &  bring in a fair amount of transparency in their dealings, our India is busy in labeling the people who are questioning them as fools, illiterate and anti nationals funded by foreign NGOs.

The root of the problem might lie in the projection of modern science as reason of state. Science in India is advertised & sold, in the way consumer products are sold in any market economy, as a cure for all the ills of Indian society. In 60s & 70s it was atom for peace & green revolution , now it is turn for nuclear power plants and FDI. The common people are made to believe that  science is the only reliable source for information. people have started thinking that even if the politicians are not to be trusted & their newspaper are inaccurate, the scientists & science, at very least will provide them a correct perspective. But the problem is science cant do that.

Science is something that is alive & evolving. scientific theories are inherently falsifiable. That is what makes them scientific & not religious or moral proposition. History has shown us that scientists are no more exempt from the corruption of power than any other human being. Under right political conditions scientists claimed the right to experiments on black men , use poor people for medical trials as guinea pigs & torture Jews.The technologies are projected as an escape route from the dirtiness of the politics. Many sociologists agree that Science as a reason of state is inflicting violence in the name of national security or development.

The nuclear science establishment in India has taken advantage of the anxieties about the national security & developmental aspirations of this nation to gain access to power & resources. The poor records of the NPCIL and UCIL’s on protecting the people’s democratic rights and providing the necessary health care in Ketholai and Jaduguda speaks for itself. Their mainstream scientists have often been the most vigorous critics of civil right groups struggling for protection against the hazards of callous nuclear establishment.

The government’s recent flip flops on filing affidavit about the proposed nuclear waste repository in kolar gold fields & subsequent reactions of the Karnataka people and politicians makes two things clear time and again,

1. Politician’s double standard. The very same parties (DMK, ADMK, BJP) which supports Kudankulam nuclear powerplant in Tamil Nadu, opposes in Karnataka. Similarly the left party which opposes plants in Jaitapur and supports the Kudankulam plant.

2. Aam aadmi’s selective resistance to the draconian policies (i.e) opposing a policy only when it affects them, otherwise not bothering about that.  People of Karnataka didn’t care about the fate of the nuclear plant until they came to know that nuclear waste is going to be stored in Kolar fields. Similarly the Kerala people who opposed the proposal for nuclear plant in their place didn’t bother to follow up. Now when they realized that plant in Kudunkulam poses threat to them, they are fighting back.

The same can be said about the issues like FDI in retail price. Unless the emphasis is based on the draconian policies rather than its implementation in some particular locality, any protest will eventually help in strengthening the crony capitalism, making a mockery of our democracy, as we have seen in case of anti-nuclear agitation. If we agitate that we don’t want the plant in our locality, the government will simply change the location to  a place were people are more ignorant.

In a democratic country like ours (?), people’s duty and responsibility doesn’t stop at electing their representative. Constant vigilance and honest criticism only can keep the spirits of democracy high. Today’s education system is trying to rob this spirit by isolating the individuals from the society, so much that the so called intellectual elites of our country(sometimes true!) “IIT-ians” themselves are unaware that they are being exploited.The tax payer’s money is spent on these elite institutions only on the hope that they will solve the problems that is plaguing this country.

But what is the reality?. In my IIT Kanpur campus, mess workers are being randomly fired without any due compensations, 2 construction workers died due to inadequate safety measures in span of month. But the majority of the student community is ignorant about this. Even if they knew , they thing it is not their problem. Their goal being getting good grades and landing in MNCs which offers fat salary. Their idea of contributing nation is paying taxes (source). The students are not the one to be blamed. The society and government failed alike to educate them with social consciousness.

The culture of modern science in India has built an inverse relationship with culture of open politics & has began to produce new forms of secrecy, centralization, disinformation & authoritarian organizational structure. The way our present education system is designed & the way the mainstream media is controlled by corporates and political parties, without bringing this undemocratic coterie down, there is no hope of improvement in narrowing the gap between haves and have nots.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, wealth without work,pleasure without conscience,knowledge without character,commerce without morality,science without humanity,worship without sacrifice,politics without principle are the seven blunders that has the potential to wipe out the human race from the history of this planet. lets not make these mistakes and  be responsible for bringing Armageddon to this planet

References :

1. “About a mountain ” by John D’agata.

2. Science as a reason of state by Ashis Nandy


Nuclear Safari in Deutschland: A Waste Story of 2009


S. P. Udayakumar
Nagercoil, July 2009
Back in June 2009 I got a first-hand opportunity to face the nuclear demon that I had been fighting against all along. Deep in a hell-hole in a remote corner of a distant country!
I did not realize the seriousness of this trip until I saw my name in big bold letters on the door of a bathroom in the visitor’s building of Salt Mine Asse II. I was asked to strip naked and change the clothing starting with the underwear that they had kept ready there. The shirt and pants measurements and shoe size I had provided were helpful. As I dressed up, I was beginning to look more like an astronaut who was going into the depth of the Earth rather than flying into the space.
With a heavy hard helmet donning my head, a dosimeter was hung around my neck. With the hefty battery kit pulling my neck on the right side, a sturdy headlight was attached to the helmet. And then a very weighty oxygen kit was hung on my left shoulder. With all these safety accessories bogging me down, I could feel mild pain on my shoulders. The instructions given to deal with a possible fire or accident inside the mine was turning my stomach and caused palpitations.
When my friends from Argentina, Brazil and Germany and I were going down a rickety lift (do they still call it that when it is taking you down?) with a strong draft with so much noise and shake, I thought of the dangerous African safari I had undertaken a few years ago in the Kenyan jungles. But this nuclear safari was a lot more dangerous and deadly. If I was forced to pick one of the two safaris, I would certainly choose the African animals.
At 590 meters depth, we were at the mouth of the salt mine. And there was a small hand-carved St. Barbara grotto on one of the walls. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen. She is also traditionally the patron of armored men, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who works with cannons and explosives. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder. She is venerated by every Catholic who faces the danger of sudden and violent death at work.
We all got onto an open jeep driven by a woman mine officer and her colleague. I could not completely understand the architecture as there were narrow passages going in all directions. But one thing was clear. That I was deep in the long and convoluted nuclear waste intestine of the German nuclear industry.
Our first stop was a hidden corner of the nuclear waste burial site. Beneath our feet lay hundreds of deadly and treacherous waste-containing barrels. The woman mine officer explained to us in German-tasting English that the barrels were mechanically downed through a narrow metallic hole and buried. We were standing some 6 feet above this deadly treasure on a heavy metal plate. The possibility of radiation was so alarming. The waste, plutonium, the clothing of the workers, metallic parts of the equipment, and everything else had been crushed and thrust into those barrels.
We were driven deeper into the mines. At one point, our guide stopped and showed us the crevices of the mines where salt water was dripping and forming into icicles. One could easily guess that not everything was right in the salt caves. At another place, more water was collecting with a steady and heavy flow. One liter of water was collecting every minute and this water was being taken out of the caves manually.
We went to another side of the caves at 625 meter depth. Some 8,000 low-grade waste barrels had been dumped there and were covered with 2 feet of salt blown mechanically. If you scratched with your bare hands, you could dig out the hazmat.
Most of the nuclear waste from the German nuclear power plants had been stored in the Salt Mine Asse II since 1967. Although the local people had objected to the project, the German government and scientists supported the project; went ahead and buried the wastes until 1978. The water flow inside the caves became much stronger in 1988 but the government still stubbornly rejected all opposition.
In June 2008, it was found out that the water in the mine was contaminated with Cesium 137. There was a suggestion to fill up the mines with water so that it would take the waste even deeper and make the whole depository safer.
As I heard all these disturbing stories, I was naturally worried about the nuclear waste management in India. With scary and sordid thoughts and feelings crisscrossing my mind and heart and soul, I stood there stunned. The nuclear safari was over.
At 650 meter depth, the mine authorities checked our radiation exposure level at the Hand Fuss Kleider monitor before exiting the mines. The lift ride back to the face of the Earth was quite uplifting in every sense of the word, and I had never been happier to see the light at the end of the (vertical) tunnel. We were asked to take another shower and change to our original clothing.
We all know shit happens. But we cannot understand the concept of making nuclear shit in order for it to happen in the future, to our own children and grandchildren and the umpteen numbers of unborn generations. One thing is for sure, though! Those who make nuclear shit will suffer the shame and stigma. Or, will they?


Nuclear waste will not magically disappear. So who will be made to suffer its toxic effects?

Why I don’t take Kolar lightly

Nuclear waste will not magically disappear. So who will be made to suffer its toxic effects?

Nityanand Jayaraman, Independent Journalist

Not in our backyard Activists protest against plans to dump nuclear waste in Kolar, Karnataka

Photo: KPN

ON 21 NOVEMBER, the Solicitor General of India, Rohinton Nariman, declared in the Supreme Court that the country’s high-level nuclear waste has found a final resting place in the unused mines of the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). Nariman is appearing for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) in a case challenging the imminent commissioning of the Koodankulam reactors. Incensed by the choice of Kolar as India’s nuclear dumpyard, people of the town in Karnataka protested with a bandh on 23 November, forcing some in the UPA government to deny any such plans. On 27 November, the NPCIL clarified in court that it had no plans to dump nuclear waste in Kolar.

Neither the original statement in court nor the subsequent retraction should be taken lightly. Such flip-flopping on crucial facts exposes the nuclear establishment’s cavalier attitude towards people’s safety. In its affidavit to the Supreme Court on 7 November, the NPCIL had indicated that “R&D” (research and development) towards identifying a suitable site for permanent storage of long-lived nuclear waste has been in progress for over three decades. This included experimentation in the abandoned Kolar mineshafts. That is as specific as the affidavit gets. All other statements on spent-fuel management are casual, vague and replete with many a wishful “if this, then that”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warns that “spent fuel remains radioactive for thousands of years, and hence needs stringent isolation and safety measures”. In Koodankulam, for instance, the initial plan was to export the spent fuel by sea directly from the plant to the erstwhile Soviet Union. Now, many years later, the plan is to store them inside the containment for seven years, and then move them to a yet-to-be conceived away-from-reactor facility onsite. From there, they are to be removed at some undisclosed time in the future, to a yet-to-be conceived reprocessing facility, or a yet-to-be identified final disposal site through an undisclosed railway or road route.

This change — from exporting spent fuel to keeping them indefinitely onsite — radically alters the safety scenario. Spentfuel assemblies are stored underwater in specially made pools. With every passing year, the number of fuel assemblies in the pools increases to a point where the radioactivity in the pool far exceeds the radioactivity in the reactor cores.

A spent-fuel pool at Fukushima in Japan was badly damaged by the 2011 earthquake. If another earthquake were to drain the water in the pool, the spent fuel could explode, releasing up to 10 times more radioactive cesium than Chernobyl — a second Level 7 accident.

The Koodankulam plant operators are unprepared for any such event. To an RTI query on contingency plans for a Level 7 accident, NPCIL responded with a one-liner: “Level 7 accident is not envisaged at KKNPP.”

Spent-fuel management demands clarity, not platitudes that seek to convey that nuclear waste will magically disappear. Last week, Nariman told the apex court that spent fuel is reused for generating electricity, and that reprocessing spent fuel was the key to India’s three-stage nuclear programme. In an interview to The Hindu, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, Director Sekhar Basu said, “Our policy is to reprocess all the fuel put into a nuclear reactor.”

Such statements fail to reflect the whole truth. While India does reprocess some of its spent fuel, it does not yet produce electricity from the recovered plutonium. In a published paper titled India’s Atomic Energy Programme: Claims and Reality, physicist and activist Suvrat Raju writes: “Of the three planned stages, only the first stage comprises conventional nuclear reactors that use uranium as a fuel. The second and third stages were to consist of fast-breeder reactors and thorium reactors.” After more than 50 years, “only the first stage has been implemented, albeit unsuccessfully,” he notes.

Developing these technologies involves tremendous financial and radiation risks, besides delays. The Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, a tiny unit to reprocess waste from a fastbreeder test reactor, took 13 years to commission. India’s first 500 MW fast-breeder reactor in Kalpakkam was to have been commissioned earlier this year, but is still under construction.

The government’s passionate subsidising of the nuclear programme notwithstanding, India has a total installed annual reprocessing capacity of a paltry 300 tonnes of spent fuel in Tarapur and Kalpakkam. In an email to this writer, MV Ramana, a physicist critical of the economics and safety of nuclear power, stated that this is not sufficient even to handle the 376 tonnes per year of spent fuel generated by the Kaiga, Madras and Tarapur atomic power stations. The six Koodankulam plants alone would generate 150 tonnes of spent fuel.

Recent political developments, too, are bound to skew the economics of the three-stage programme, which had gained currency and relevance at an earlier time when the country was denied nuclear technology and uranium fuel, and had to depend on scarce local reserves of low-grade uranium. However, in September 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group that controls uranium fuel trade lifted a 30-year post-Pokhran embargo on India. Today, not only are uranium imports possible, but fuel suppliers are likely to be begging for buyers. With Japan, Germany, Switzerland and even France easing out of nuclear energy, demand for fuel is bound to come down. Now that uranium is easily available from global suppliers, reprocessing for the three-stage programme no longer seems to be the centre-plank of India’s nuclear strategy.

Is that why the government has purchased 32,000 MW worth of reactors from France, USA, Russia and South Korea, all of which will run on imported fuel? These will contribute 700 tonnes of spent fuel annually, for which no reprocessing capacity has been conceived. At $10 million/tonne rates cited by the US Department of Energy (DoE), a 700-tonne reprocessing plant will cost $7 billion (Rs 35,000 crore).

Most official views on spent-fuel management are replete with many a wishful ‘if this, then that’

ACCORDING TO the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based think-tank, “Reprocessing and the use of plutonium as reactor fuel are… far more expensive than using uranium fuel and disposing of the spent fuel directly.”

Cost analysis of recovered fuel versus imported fuel does not support the setting up of reprocessing facilities for fuel recovery. Neither does the waste management logic. Reprocessing does not make waste disappear. In fact, a recent study by the US DoE finds that reprocessing actually generates 160 times more low-level waste, requiring secure disposal. That is in addition to high-level waste with radioactivity lasting hundreds of thousands of years. One IAEA study estimates that reprocessing the spent fuel from a VVER (water-cooled, water-moderated) reactor, such as in Koodankulam, will itself generate 10.5 cubic metres of high-level waste per 1,000 MW, which will require final storage. Since the imported reactors are under IAEA safeguards, any recovered plutonium cannot be diverted for military uses. The plutonium recovered from India’s unsafeguarded reprocessing facilities, however, can be used for military purposes, and probably will be.

Economics, the historically partypooping show stopper, may have just put paid to India’s expensive reprocessing plans, at least for civilian purposes. Meanwhile, India still has to contend with a growing stockpile of high-level waste. Writing in Current Science in 2001, Ramana and others estimate that India’s stockpile of post-reprocessing high-level waste, as of December 2000, was 5,000 cubic metres, or the equivalent of 150 20-foot freight containers.

That is why I think the government will be seriously looking for a vulnerable community to dump the nuclear waste in — if not in Kolar, then elsewhere.

Jayaraman is a Chennai-based writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle


Dalit women organize protest for land rights- June 19- Kolar

Thousands of landless Dalit and other landless agricultural laborers in the district and Adima Shakthi Dalit Women Federation ASDWF has organised a protest rally on 19th June,2012-Tuesday  from Kolar Inspection Bunglow (IB) to Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office from 11 am to 1 pm, in order to demand land right .

Despite 64 years of Indian Independence, the caste system and untouchability practice continue to exist. Also there is no significant change in land holding pattern. Both these factors are highly condemnable. In order to change unequal distribution of land and accumulation of resource by the dominants, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar had suggested nationalization of land and redistribution and decentralization of resources. The system has not responded to the suggestion of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

As a result the landless grass-root communities are constantly subjected to social, economic, political and cultural exploitation, atrocity and oppression. Moreover in the guise of industrial development, special economic zone(SEZ) even the smallest piece of land and shelter that this community owned is being continuously and systematically robbed by Government, foreign and local companies and feudal. Landlessness is the prime reason for infant mortality and malnutrition.

Land ownership is the prime source of livelihood and in this regard Dalits, landless agriculture labors in Kolar districts are subjected to atrocity every day. Land has been granted to Toti’s, Neerugantis, however have not received their record of land rights. In this struggle of to get these entitlements the Dalits and landless agricultural labors of this district have to pledge their life.

Thousands of landless families in the district have been cultivating the excess land such as Gomala’s(grazing land), Kharabu(waste land) and darkhastu(Government allotted  ) land. Such landless families have given application to the Government for granting such cultivated lands under form no. 53.  They have also submitted application under form no. 53 to grant such piece of land. As on 30/04/1999, the information under KPFLR(Karnataka) India status of Land Legislation in Karnataka pertaining to form no. 53, in Kolar district alone 71,829 people have applied for grant of 1,87,114 acres of excessive land. Only 3109 applications are under the process of granting 4,603 acres. What is shocking is that 14,788 applications pertaining to cultivation of 34,460 acres land have been rejected! 61,521 applications pertaining to cultivation in 1, 60,901 acres of land are pending!

As on 31/01/2006, information on Regularization of unauthorized cultivation of lands under section 94-A pertaining to Form no-50 applications were filed to regularize 1,89,903 acres land during the period 19/09/1991. Out of those applications 41,079 applications pertaining to 39,558 acres land were regularized. It is disaster to know that 46,271 applications pertaining to 11,554 acres and 36 cents were rejected from regularizing! And 352 applications are pending.

The situation of these grass root communities is schizophrenic and don’t even own a 6 feet x 3 feet space to bury the dead bodies. In this context, Adima Shakti Dalita Women Federation understands that land is our mother and our livelihood and organized this  protest rally to demand land rights.

Major demands of the protest rally


    • Inspect all applications submitted under form number 53 and grant land along with the record of rights to the eligible applicants.
    • Inspect all applications submitted under form number 50 and regularize the land that is being cultivated by eligible applicants.
    • Those who are enjoying the land but not filed applications must be given space to file applications now.
    • All the applications that are rejected or pending under form no. 53 and 50 must be re inspected/re examined and grant or regularize land that is being cultivated by eligible applicants.
    • Toti, Neerganti and Inamti lands under other’s possession must be given back to the actual beneficiaries.
    • Those Dalit villages that lack burial grounds must be given land for burial. Those burial grounds given to Dalits that are encroached must be evicted and fenced.
    • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Development Corporation must set aside other programs/schemes and prioritise to purchase land and distribute them to the landless Dalit families.
    • Identify Government land in the district and distribute 5 acres of land to each landless Dalit families. The land khata (Record/Ownership)  must be registered jointly in the name of husband and wife.
    • In each Taluk land granting committee must be formed.
    • Like in Kerala and West Bengal, legislation on land ceiling must be implemented in Karnataka too.

Adima Shakti Vidyarthi mattu Yuvajana Vedike, Adima Shakti Krushi Kooli Karmikara Okkoota, Samaajika Janandolana, Samata Sainika Dala, Dalita Sangharsha Samiti(Ambedkarvada), Rajya Raita Sangha, Dalita Kraista Okkoota, Dalita Sangharsha Samiti, Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane.

More in formation- conact


Executive Director – TREES & Founder
Adima Shakti Dalit Women Federation &
State Convener
Samajika Parivarthana Janandolana,SPJ
Deshi Halli, Bangarpet-563114
Kolar District
Mobile: 94485 18396


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December 2021
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