Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Listen to Jaitapur

As Japan grapples with the nuclear crisis at the plant in Fukushima, apocalyptic images of death and devastation conceived in fear have prompted the people of Jaitapur, in Maharashtra, to protest against the decision of France’s Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to build a nuclear plant there. Their anxieties will perhaps be stoked further today, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which killed thousands, devastated some two lakh lives and caused widespread environmental damage. To ascribe these protests only to the machinations of a spoilsport Shiv Sena is to underestimate the fears and genuine doubts experienced by the people of Jaitapur.

For long, France has been caught in the nuclear debate. In 2002, a French government report had described the nuclear industry as a “monster without future”, engendering hopes among activists that a reversal in nuclear policy would follow. Such expectations, however, were belied as oil prices rose and the spectre of global warming prompted a clamour for clean energy. (Though nuclear power doesn’t emit carbon, nuclear waste remains radioactive for generations.) The opposite happened: France established itself as a leading exporter of nuclear power technology, which President Nikolas Sarkozy began to deploy as a diplomatic tool. However, there’s far greater transparency in France. Officials of Electricite de France, which is building two EPRS for Areva at Flamanville, Normandy, say that before they started setting up their plant, they had to secure approval from the French Public Debate Commission, which gave its nod after conducting 21 public hearings over four months. Such public hearings in India are, more often than not, farcical.

Areva, which is state-owned, hopes to sign the commercial agreement with India later this year. Till then, they expect queries from New Delhi on the safety standards of EPRS. Says a French diplomat, “We have chosen India as our key strategic partner. Jaitapur, and our cooperation in civil nuclear energy, are increasingly becoming the backbone of the two nations’ growing relationship.” India will keep its end of the bargain, not only because Paris helped New Delhi emerge out of nuclear apartheid, but also because this energy is considered vital to sustain India’s growth.

As India vets the answers to the queries about the safety of EPRS, it should perhaps emulate the French in adopting not only their technology but also their best practices. This includes taking into account the opinion of Jaitapur, allaying its fears and anxieties, and ensuring that support for the nuclear plant is won through dialogue, not by teargas, lathicharges or firing.

Source: French ‘Reactors’ [the pros & cons of Jaitapur]


  1. Yesterday, as though to mark the day, the Jaitapur project got cleared by our experts and ministers. Makes me think...there must've been a day when Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island got their go-ahead too.

  2. I have a question: Where are we heading? need an objective one sentence answer from "Master oh sorry! Servants of people".

  3. I really feel there should be some stronger mechanism for people's referendum on major issues. EIA certainly doesn't seem to be working!

  4. Frightening future. :(( We must be the only species intelligent enough to know the hazards of our own actions and dumb enough to pursue them nevertheless!