Letter to PM [on Koodankulam] - from Atul Chokshi
March 27, 2012
Dear Shri Manmohan Singh:
I am writing to express my deep concern and sorrow at the recent
developments in Kudankulam and Idhitikarai. While there can be vigorous
debate and disagreement on nuclear energy, as a country formed with
democratic ideals India surely cannot allow repressive action against a
group of non-violent people who oppose the nuclear plant at Koodankulam.
The use of massive police force to intimidate villagers, and the reported
blocking of water and food to the village is unacceptable.
Although new nuclear plants are perhaps safer than those constructed
decades ago, it is impossible to rule out a catastrophic accident at a
nuclear power plant, despite the considerable attention devoted to
reducing risk in such complex and large-scale engineering designs. This
is tacitly acknowledged by all Governments that try to locate such plants
in regions away from "large" population centers. Furthermore, the
understanding of potential risk and damage is implicit in the continuing
push to limit liability by corporations and countries wishing to sell
nuclear power plants. It is important to note that the single nuclear
accident in Fukushima is estimated to cost $250 billion, or more. These
large estimates of damage pale in comparison with the Rs. 1,500 crore
($300 million) limit of liability in India which the foreign providers
find unacceptable, and whose objections the Govt is apparently trying to
As citizens, a group of villagers who are concerned about potential risks
with nuclear power surely deserve at least the same, if not more, courtesy
as foreign providers of nuclear power plants whose demands appear to be
attended to with alacrity.
The concerned citizens near the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, and
others near future planned plants, deserve your serious attention.
Without meaningful discussion, a significant number of citizens who are
directly affected by such projects are feeling left out of the democratic
process. Note that several countries are now moving towards local
consent-based approaches to nuclear power and related issues, and this
seems appropriate also for India.
The large scale and dramatic increase in nuclear power over the next
several decades envisioned by the Govt appears to have been planned
without broad consultation and serious consideration of recent
developments in other energy sources. The Koodankulam imbroglio, together
with the Fukushima disaster, provides an opportunity to pause and initiate
a greater public debate on energy needs and possible means of satisfying
these needs in as benign a manner as possible, so that citizens can
participate meaningfully in the process, without feeling alienation caused
by policies being rammed down on their lives.
Thank you for your consideration.
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
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