India – Tamil Nadu Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Standoff

November 11, 2011

By Padmini Arhant

Nuclear power plant Koodankulam in Tirunelveli district of southern state Tamil Nadu, India is currently faced with confrontation between people and government.

Local residents comprising fishermen and other traders along with families living near the site do not approve the nuclear power station and were opposed to the project since inception.

Thorough review of both positions including nuclear technology repercussions could perhaps shed light on core issues with viable alternatives concluding 25 years old citizens’ protest against nuclear option.

In the People v. Government nuclear standoff,

The population concern is largely related to –

Nuclear waste management,

Reservoir contamination,

Radiation exposure,

Nuclear plant design and operational expertise especially during emergency shutdown,

Government preparedness to deal with nuclear accidents such as –

Nuclear reactor malfunction in Chernobyl, Ukraine (Former USSR) in 1986

Fukushima Daichi disaster, Japan in March 2011

Upon investigation in June 2011, radioactive tritium leaks detected in nearly three quarters of all nuclear plants in the United States.

Close observation show more than half of them have concentration level beyond federal drinking water limit although main distribution source not yet affected with the exception of leaks in three plants having contaminated nearby drinking wells for home supply.

Nuclear waste processing plant explosion at Marcoule in Chusclan France on September 12, 2011 with one fatality and four workers severely injured.

Ammonia leaks from San Onofre Power Plant in Southern California, USA on November 1, 2011.

Public grievances are factual and legitimate considering industrialized nations’ experiences with nuclear power plant mishaps and systemic failure.

Despite stringent control and mechanism in place to address predictable and untoward circumstances, the developed nations are unable to guarantee risk free functionality.

Further, citizens’ conviction on industrial accidents is also attributed to government and private sector ineptness combined with apathy witnessed in Union Carbide gas leaks in Bhopal, India and,

The Gulf Coast BP oil spill in the United States last year – resulting in deaths and destruction of life leaving victims mere collateral damages in the worst disasters due to human negligence.

Meanwhile European nations – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland are renouncing nuclear power and shutting down reactors entirely for a safer, cleaner and healthier environment.

Indian government stance on Koodankulam is a matter of huge investment estimated at US $3 billion (Rs. 13,615 Crores) with total production capacity 2GW electric power becoming the largest nuclear power complex in the nation allowing additional capability for 2 more reactors over ten years.

The bilateral agreements with Russia for third generation reactors and United States to import advanced uranium is another factor in government resistance to citizens’ request on nuclear projects termination.

Government moving forward through powerful advocates to support nuclear power plants nationwide without heeding citizens’ thoughts is exacerbating the contentious debate.

Apart from Koodankulam,

The other sites – Kalpakkam, Jaitapur, Kaiga, Rawatbhata, Kakrapar are planned for this purpose with some in existence and others under construction.

The government emissaries as experts in the nuclear field presenting qualified opinion strictly related to plant safety features only address the limited technical aspects of the vast nuclear issue.

Nuclear concept in the contemporary era is burgeoning security threat to mankind and environment at large proliferating nuclear status under nuclear power pretext regardless of abundant energy availability.

Besides, prevalent discord in honoring NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) specifically by nuclear states viz. United States, Israel, India and Pakistan – the prominent non- NPT members with targeted adversaries and maintaining fragile neighbor relations respectively create impediments for universal treaty on nuclear disarmament.

United States in an effort to avert proliferation contrarily facilitate nuclear arsenal possession in the U.S. – NATO nuclear weapons sharing policy through deployment of U.S. manufactured nuclear weapons in NATO states – Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

The consignment dispatch and storage is in clear violation of NPT Article 1 and II eliminating impetus for nuclear and non-nuclear members cooperation.

Recognition and acknowledgment of individual responsibility is imperative to absolve the world of nuclear menace – the premise for protracted warfare at irreversible loss of human lives.

Notwithstanding financial burden in waging wars on trillion dollars deficit budget i.e. borrowed money escalating debts and economy to the brink of collapse.

Last but not the least endangering planet sustenance – the only habitat for life.

Shifting focus to solutions on India and global energy demand – the concerted action to harness renewable energy – solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, biofuel, geothermal etc. could adequately meet humanity’s energy requirements,

Alongside prohibiting arms race and wars in quest for oil – primary contributor to economic and political turmoil.

The nuclear power plant in Koodankulam and elsewhere could effectively be converted into solar, biodiesel and biofuel generator becoming the powerhouse for the nation promoting business and employment opportunities at home.

Vegetation from land cultivation for substantial biodiesel, biofuel output maximizing the present use of cow dung, oil yielding plants e.g. Jatropha plant seeds readily usable after extraction without refining process among diverse choices deserve investments to resolve energy crisis.

Modernizing mass transit system to suit commuter convenience could considerably reduce energy consumption.

Simultaneously adjusting urban lifestyle with energy saving appliances and customized routine would cutback energy expenditure.

Indian leaderships in favor of global consensus on arms embargo and nuclear non-proliferation launching ambitious nuclear power programs based on the ‘responsible’ nuclear state perception foment nuclear competitiveness in the region.

Not to mention the conflict of interest in the two dimensional nuclear goals.

Governments around the world increasingly ignoring citizens’ voices misusing people granted power to serve all but the electorate needs.

Electoral mandate is to prioritize immediate and life dependent challenges rather than executing extemporaneous policies evidently detrimental in reality.

The government leaderships and eminent experts are urged to abandon nuclear power for greater good on a broad perspective and,

Change course in energy pursuits adopting pragmatic and peaceful approach to transportation in the high-speed technology age.

Hopefully rationality would prevail in the anti-nuclear settlement with strong political will to accept facts and alleviate citizens’ plight ending the months long non-violent dissent.

Good Luck! To residents and activists in Koodankulam, Jaitapur, Kaiga…and other nuclear sites in the commitment to nuclear free zone.

Peace to all!

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant





One Response to “India – Tamil Nadu Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Standoff”

  1. Selfless Soul on October 31st, 2015 8:10 am

    Insightful and factual. Thank you.

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