Don’t let another Chernobyl happen
It is obvious that the yawning gap and gross disconnect between the unpalatable realities of nuclear power and the ostrich-like Indian establishment is growing by the day.
At a time when prominent global powers, such as Germany, Japan among others, are going ‘nuclear-free’, India is busy not only setting up or starting off nuclear plants that have been embroiled in controversy, especially the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu, but it is also equally adamant to bypass the extremely crucial nuclear liability law, in order to tow the US line and please the American corporate giants such as Westinghouse and GE that pull the strings in White House.
Ahead of the UNGA meet in New York on 27 September, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government is all set to hoodwink the public and get an important clause either removed or edited from the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, and had been soliciting the opinion of the attorney general GE Vahanvati, who’s himself under the scanner for other reasons, to do the same in the sly. In fact, the UPA government’s eagerness to dilute the liability clause, that holds the supplier responsible in case of an accident or disaster at a nuclear plant, has been squarely to please the US masters, who had been pushing for the clause’s removal for years now.
To effectively neutralise the liability law, which would hold the American reactor suppliers in charge in the event of an accident caused by faulty or defective equipment, is to basically make way for another Chernobyl or Fukushima on Indian soil, and bring about a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions, given the population density of our country.
Moreover, the AG’s suggestion that ‘it is for the (Indian) operator to exercise ‘right of recourse’ under section 17 of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, is outrightly dipped in pro-American favouritism that would even allow US suppliers to get away with substandard materials and not even be castigated for it, and at the expense of potential catastrophes in Indian territories, causing unimaginable loss of life, property, in addition to wreaking havoc on or permanently damaging the ecosystems.
Even though the Department of Atomic Energy has issued a rejoinder, clarifying that any contract signed would be fully consistent with Indian law, we have enough examples on our plate to know otherwise. It’s going to be 30 years since the Bhopal gas tragedy, but the victims and survivors of the Union Carbide-Dow Jones chemical accident that killed over 3,000 and diseased thousands of others, are still waiting for justice and are living a protracted nightmare since 3 December 1984.
But the legislative figures are turning a blind eye to all the possible consequences of diluting the liability act and editing out the clause that would bring to book the errant suppliers of nuclear equipments, particularly the reactors, simply because the US sees it as a ‘hurdle’ in dumping its substandard materials on the Indian nuclear junkyard. Already, countries are using the Indian naval territory to dump their toxic waste, and while the European Union is seriously considering the efficacy of nuclear energy, heavily shifting its focus on green energy such as wind and solar power, India is busy lapping up the discarded technologies and is fast becoming the sink to absorb all the discredited and extremely hazardous nuclear paraphernalia that the US, or other countries, need to get rid of fast and at substantial profit.
Indian government prefers to be myopic and run after petty profits that are only going to severely compromise the environment, human
habitation and national security.