Nuclear democracy

nuclearThe most secretive institution in India is the Atomic Energy Commission. May it be the nuclear mishaps of Kaiga, the multiple shutting of Kakrapar, the leakages of Rawatbhata, the safety concerns of Tarapur, or the voices being raised by thousands in Kudankulam, the AEC is rarely held accountable. While India’s atomic energy programme is an economic failure and an environmental disaster, its very functioning, undermines the democratic ideals of a country like India.

Inherently, nuclear energy is a technology that is anti-democratic. It creates layers of secrecy between itself and the ordinary citizen. The AEC is never judged by the standards of profitability and accountability that the market imposes on other industries. Nor, like other government-owned and managed firms, do they have to report to the parliamentary committee on public undertakings. In fact, by an act of Parliament they have been made exempt from the scrutiny of the Parliament itself. During times, when corruption is surfacing in almost every sector – from mining, to power, to telecom – can we really trust a body which is inherently unaccountable and lacks transparency?

Kaiga, built on demolished rain-forest, in the event of a disaster, alone has the potential to destroy the rain-forests and ecosystem of the western ghats. The miners and nearby residents are continuously exposed to radiation which can cause numerous health hazards, including cancer. Then there is the ever-present threat of nuclear accidents. Finally, there is the question of the disposal of the wastes, which remain radioactive for thousands of years. Coming to economics, Amulya Reddy, a prominent scientist, has used official statistics of AEC and proved that nuclear power in India is more costly per unit than coal, hydel or solar. Despite contributing a mere 3% of the country’s energy needs, more than 60% of India’s total research budget on energy goes to this sector.

All of this happens when AEC continues to remain a black box. You won’t find much about AEC on Wikipedia. Media won’t cover these things due to it’s structural compulsion to lie. Media having integrated itself into corporate spirals, is no more in a position to take sides with the people and their rightful protests. In-spite of the known and unresolved issues, why the government is adamant on starting the Kudankulam plant forcibly, is something we will never understand. Maybe we suffer from short memories. Maybe we have forgotten Chernobyl? Fukusihma? Bhopal? Corporate over wellness? Power over people? Does that sound democratic?

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4 responses to “Nuclear democracy

  1. You end up confusing me.. What is the problem?
    You are blaming a government owned department, bring corporate over wellness, calling nuclear energy undemocratic all at once. I’m very confused!

    Please can I request your opinion on following issues:
    1. Should India seek nuclear energy?
    2. What is the exact problem with AEC?
    3. What do you mean by undemocratic energy?

  2. 1. Should India seek nuclear energy?
    For general wellness, yes. But when a scientific studies have proved based on AEC data that nuclear power in India is more costly per unit than coal, hydel, solar or other available options (http://www.amulya-reddy.org.in/Publ_427_E_NE.htm), then why do we continue to seek nuclear power? With repeated accidents and claims of sub standard equipment and safety measures in almost every nuclear reactor of India, with workers getting exposed to radioactivity, with examples of Bhopal, Chernobyl and Fukusihma infornt of us, with nuke bill passed a continuous risk of corporate involvement and with the credibility of the given government, I have all the reasons to be skeptical.

    2. What is the exact problem with AEC?
    That they are a black box. Their wiki page is blank. That they are not subject to the scrutiny of elected legislators. That they refuse even to submit themselves to the peer-review of the scientific community. In response to public pressure exerted over a number of years, the government set up an Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, only to staff it with former employees of the AEC. I agree that Nuclear sector of India has had it’s heroes (Bhabha, Sarabhai and in a way Kalam), whom we worship, but with rampant corruption in almost every sector of India, can we afford a unaccountable and non-transparent sector?

    3. What do you mean by undemocratic energy?
    Here undemocratic means biased, uneven. Firstly, we are exposing workers to such threat to illuminate 3% of India. With half of Indian villages with no electricity, the situation seems even more biased. Secondly, billions of crores of taxpayers money has been thrown into an industry that has consistently under-performed. After six decades of pampering, it still produces 3% of our energy requirements, at a higher cost and at a far greater risk than the alternatives. The same amount of money could have been invested in alternative sources of energy, or general well being.

  3. Pingback: Oh, meltdown! | Sourav Roy

  4. Pingback: India’s atomic energy programme an economic failure and an environmental disaster « nuclear-news

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