Dr Ashwani Kumar
Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests
Parliament of India
Date: March 21, 2016
Subject-Request for probe into the nuclear leak at Gujarat’s Kakrapar Atomic Power Station
With due respect on behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), this is to draw your urgent attention towards the nuclear leak at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) on the fifth anniversary of the serial meltdown of atomic power plants at Fukushima, Japan and ahead of 30th anniversary of nuclear disaster in Chernobyl , Ukrain (former USSR). The leakage is continuing even after 9 days. This ‘incident’ at the 220-megawatt nuclear reactor in southern Gujarat merits your urgent attention.
We submit that the ongoing leak of a mixture of light and heavy water deserves your intervention to ensure that the root cause of the leak is ascertained.
We have learnt from newspaper reports that the first leakage of steam was detected visually on remotely operated cameras at 9 AM on the morning of March 11, 2016 at Kakrapar Unit-1 reactor and as pressure rose a plant emergency was declared. The nuclear chain reaction was brought to a halt. The plant though remains in a 'safe shutdown condition'. The reactor was loaded with about 100 tonnes of natural uranium. But quantity of heavy water which leaked in the accident remains to be ascertained.
We submit that the Parliamentary Standing Committee ought to take testimony of the 350 workers at the plant where the leak took place.
We submit that the newspapers have reported that a "feeder piper carrying heavy water leaked and all radioactivity was confined within the reactor building itself and no radiation escaped outside the plant" according to Atomic Energy Commission. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has been reported saying, "a small part of the cooling water is continuing to leak out of the coolant system". Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)’s Environmental Safety Laboratory did not find any increased levels of radiation or radioactive contamination in a 20 km radius of the KAPS plant. These official versions merit parliamentary inquiry.
We wish to draw your attention towards the reported statement of Chairman, AERB stating, "a leak of this nature in an actively running atomic station has never occurred in India", the Kakrapar leak was a "serious incident and a big surprise" and there was "no inkling for such an incident especially from such a young reactor" merits careful examination because similar statements were made in the matter of Fukushima nuclear disaster.
We submit that Shri Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission has stated that "There is no doubt that first level of safety was unfortunately breached but subsequently all other backup systems kicked in as designed."
We submit that we heard the testimony of residents from Fukushima, along with Japanese civil society activists on March 20, 2016 at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Youth Center. They shared their stories of more than 100,000 people who continue to live away from their home, while the nuclear accident in the crippled reactors is still unfolding. They underlined that the nuclear disasters are humanely insurmountable, even in countries that are technologically most advanced. They informed that the real beneficiary of electricity from nuclear plant in Fukushima was not the residents in Fukushima but the residents of Tokyo.
Mr Masami Yoshizawa, a cattle farmer who takes care of 330 cows which are contaminated with nuclear radiation gave his testimony stating how government refuses to take responsibility for accident related diseases and dismisses relationship between nuclear diseases and cases of 167 thyroid cancers and other diseases. Instead of addressing the environmental health implications of the disaster Government of Japan is busy in the preparation of Tokyo 2020 Olympics. He accused the Tokyo residents of practicing insensitivity. They think the disaster happened in some faraway place. There are thousands of black bags of contaminated soil but there is no place for their disposal. He said some 5 trillion Yen (Japanese currency) is required for their treatment and disposal. There are huge amounts of cattle fodder which remains contaminated even after 5 years of the disaster. He said that the Japanese Prime Minister is acting like a salesman of nuclear power. India is his foremost target. His Government is not repentant about promoting nuclear energy. His Government does care of the victims. He wondered as to why Japan is not giving up nuclear energy. This will lead to Fukushima like disaster somewhere. Such disasters will happen again. He runs a farm called “Ranch of hope”. He said that she will not comply with “kill all the cattle” order of Japan Government because Government wants to eliminate the evidence of its crimes. He said that he will not accept what the government says. Nuclear power companies control societies.
Ms Mizuho Sugeno, an organic farmer who runs a “Seeds of Hope” company 47 Km away from the site of the disaster informed that Japanese Government had termed their area as “safe”. She is doing organic farming in contaminated soil. She referred to the study of Niigata University, Japan stating that radioactive contamination is serious in mountains and forests. She stated that after the disaster super markets disappeared. Small farmers’ lifestyle is being adopted. Although rice and vegetables are being grown and are being tested as being 98 % safe but Fukushima products have a reputation that has lowered its price. Every single bag of rice is being screened at a huge cost. These food items are being used as cattle feed.
Mr Oshashi Masahi who has taken the onus of spreading the lessons from Fukushima disaster informed that upper limit of radioactive radiation exposure was increased by some 20 times prior to the disaster. This has made the TEPCO company which was running the nuclear plant immune from compensation. He underlined that the meaning of words “danger” and “risk” has changed. After the disaster Japan Government said that nuclear power will be phased out. Later, it said Japan will become free of nuclear power by 2030. Now it is being said that Japan will have 20-22 % of its power from nuclear energy.
Ms Emiko Fujioka from Fukushima city said that contaminated water is leaking every day. The number of containers which collect them is increasing day-by-day. There are “temporary” storage bags everywhere. Now there are temporary incinerators. These incinerator companies are same as nuclear companies. These incinerators are emitting gases. The farming and fishing is contaminated. The issue is how to provide “safe” food products.
We submit that the committee should recall the 1993 fire incident at the Narora Atomic Power Station, Uttar Pradesh and examine the Kakrapar accident in the light of global experiences.
We submit that the recommendations of the committee have not been incorporated in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CNLD) Act, 2010 and the Rules framed under it. It’s recommendations on Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill meant to replace AERB has not been incorporated as yet. It is noteworthy that the Rules framed under CNLD Act have gone beyond the mandate of the Act. This has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation in its reports. These findings merit serious attention because it renders the existence of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees irrelevant.
We wish to take the opportunity to draw the attention of the Committee towards India’s submission of the Instrument of Ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, 1997 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the depositary of the said Convention, at Vienna on February 4, 2016. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India, Shri Rajiva Misra handed over the Instrument of Ratification to Acting Director General of IAEA, Shri Juan Carlos Lentijo. The Convention will come into force from May 4, 2016. This marks a conclusive step in the addressing of issues related to civil nuclear liability in India, marked earlier by the release of FAQs on Civil Nuclear Liability in February 2015 and the launch of the India Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) in June 2015. We seek the examination of the Rules under CNLD Act, INIP and the external influence of nuclear companies and Nuclear Suppliers Group that persuaded Government of India to take such measures.
We submit that the present nuclear establishment is ignoring the recommendations of the PSC on Environment, Forests, and Science & Technology. The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was enacted, after repealing the Atomic Energy Act, 1948 to provide for a legal framework for the development, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people of India and for other peaceful purposes. This Act has not factored in the lessons of nuclear disasters across the world.
We submit that the considered opinions of at least eight secretaries of Government of India given to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests in the matter of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 is being disregarded by the central government and the concerned agencies.
The views of these senior officials revealed that the “use of atomic energy” is contrary to the “welfare of the people of India”. The Parliamentary Standing Committee had observed that these concerned secretaries were not consulted while drafting the Bill. It had recommended that they should be consulted in future. There is nothing in the NSRA Bill that reveals that these secretaries were consulted. This reveals contempt towards such recommendations of the Parliamentary Committees. In order to rectify such omissions, the Bill should have been referred to a conflict of interest free Parliamentary Standing Committee. The NSRA Bill has been referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, and Environment & Forests.
It germane to recollect that while giving testimony to this very committee on the subject of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, the then Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Mrs K Sujata Rao mentioned that “Since the response system to deal with any kind of emergency of such type, the hospitals are not well-equipped, it is natural that mortality and morbidity due to multiple burn, blasts, radiation injuries and psycho-social impact could be on very high scale and medical tackling of such a large emergency could have enough repercussions in the nearby areas of radioactive fallout. She also mentioned that in the entire Bill, there is not a single clause which speaks about taking health care during radiological emergencies. It reflects only about payment of compensation due to health impacts of such radiation. She suggested while setting up nuclear plants consideration may also be given to the fact that there should be hospital having trained doctors near such establishments and arrangements should also be made for free treatment of people who are affected by serious nuclear fallout.” She confessed that her Ministry is nowhere to meet an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies.
In such a backdrop, while a conflict of interest free nuclear safety regulator is required for existing nuclear installations but proposing it for future nuclear projects through Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill is akin to adopting ostrich policy.
We submit that on August 17, 2011, the West Bengal government ruled out the proposed 3000 MW nuclear power plant at Haripur in the State's Purba Medinipur district in the State Assembly stating that the proposal has been scrapped and the government had no plans for the present to set up nuclear plants elsewhere in the State. This was one of the promises of the last assembly elections in West Bengal. It underlines that democratic mandate is against nuclear plants.
We seek probe into the reason for the accident at Kakrapar plant, the handling of the situation by the operator of the plant as well as the nuclear regulators and the safety status of all the nuclear plants in the country.
We submit that given the fact that central government has planned to increase its nuclear capacity by 12 times in the next 16 years relevance of Parliament and Parliamentary institutions is of great consequence for safeguarding the interest of present and future generation of Indians.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has been working on the issue of hazardous wastes and ship breaking for over decade. It has been an invitee and participant in the UN Conventions. It is an applicant before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It has appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests, Parliamentary Petitions Committee, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and relevant UN agencies besides Inter-Ministerial Committee on Ship breaking. It was the applicant before Hon’ble Supreme Court wherein the order for creation of the Shipbreaking Code was passed. TWA had appeared before the Hon'ble Court’s Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, Court’s Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes related to Ship breaking and pursued cases involving famous ships like RIKY (Kong Frederik IX), Le Clemenceau, SS Blue Lady, Platinum II and Exxon Valdez and others. It has been an invitee to UN Meetings and training workshops of Comptroller Auditor General of India on environmental health. TWA had appeared before Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests to give its testimony in the matter of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010.
We submit that at present, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) cannot be trusted with sharing truth about the nuclear catastrophe in Japan and such imminent disasters India because of an old treaty between WHO and IAEA, which is heavily influenced by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), established in 1975.
NSG comprising of 46 nuclear supplier states including China, Russia, and the US, that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its requirement that recipient countries have in place comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all nuclear activities. US got exemption from NSG for three years to undertake nuclear trade with India. India is pursuing its nuclear energy path under the overarching guidelines of this very IAEA.
We submit that Wikileaks expose has revealed that India's nuclear program is not in the interest of Indian citizens even as the government has been compelled by the transnational nuclear companies to unleash propaganda about how no disaster will ever happen in India.
We submit that central government remains callous towards the recent recommendations of a fact finding team led by a former Union Finance Secretary. It reads, "There are plenty of credible and scientific studies by pioneering institutions and experts who have developed convincing models of a comprehensive "carbon- free, nuclear- free" energy policy with a mix of energy conservation, efficiency, R & D on renewable sources, and larger social social-political changes ensuring greater community and public use of resources" referring to report of Union of Concerned Scientists.
We submit that on 28th May 1959, the WHO 's assembly voted into force an obscure but important agreement with the IAEA founded just two years before in 1957. This agreement has given the IAEA an effective veto on any actions by the WHO that relate in any way to nuclear energy. This prevents the WHO from playing its proper role. The WHO's objective is to promote "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health". The IAEA's mission is to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world".
We submit that since April 2007 efforts are on to persuade the WHO to abandon its the WHO-IAEA Agreement. The protest has continued through the WHO's World Health Assembly. The scientific case against the agreement is building up, most recently when the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) called for its abandonment at its conference held in May 2009 in Lesvos, Greece.
We submit that IAEA is both the promoter and regulator of nuclear commerce. Thus, this agency is conflict of interest ridden and does not inspire even an iota of confidence.
WHO's Situation Report titled "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami" dated 25th March, 2011 noted that "A 9.0 magnitude earthquake (updated from the 8.8 magnitude, by Japan Meteorological Agency on 13 March) occurred 11 March 2011 in Japan at 05:46:23 GMT, hitting the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan. The worst affected area is the east coast of Tohoku region. Tsunamis have caused devastation in the coastal areas of Tohoku and southern Hokkaido. Based on official Japanese government figures (15:30 hrs, Tokyo time 25 March), 9 811 people are confirmed dead, 2 779 injured with more than 17 541 missing. There are now 245 394 evacuees." Clearly, WHO is just reproducing Government of Japan's version. The "Working together to support Japan and the global community:Joint FAO-IAEA-WHO statement on food safety issues following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear emergency" dated 23rd March, 2011 said, "Since the events of 11 March, thousands of lives have been lost, and many homes and buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Japan's transportation infrastructure has also suffered, and cropland and aquaculture installations have been degraded or wiped out. In this situation, damage to the reactors of a nuclear power plant, the resulting risk of direct human exposure to radiation, and efforts to bring the involved installations under control have also received priority attention. Food safety issues are an additional dimension of the emergency. Some food products sampled at sites both within the Fukushima Prefecture and in adjacent areas have been contaminated by radioactive materials." It is evident by now it has been underplaying and underestimating the catastrophe due to nuclear energy facility.
The question which remains unanswered is: Isn't India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) both the promoter and regulator of nuclear energy facilities on the lines of IAEA? Is it sane to ask the possible perpetrators of acts of omission and commission to regulate themselves? This is what both DAE and IAEA do.
We submit that a compelling logic has emerged for abandonment of proposed nuclear plants at Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu, Jaitapur, Maharastra, Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, Fatehabad in Haryana, Mithivirdi in Gujarat, Kovvada and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Haripur in West Bengal. It alsoseeks cancellation of new uranium mining sites proposed in Domiasiat in Meghalaya and Nalgonda in Andhra Pradesh. NNEF seeks a white paper from an independent team on existing nuclear power plants and uranium mining sites like the one in Jadugoda in Jharkhand.
We wonder as to when such time in future will come when public health concerns of the present and future generations and their human rights will be considered which creates a compelling logic against nuclear energy and in favour of non-nuclear energy options. Will it be after a nuclear catastrophe?
In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe Parliamentary Committee should recommend scrapping of IAEA-WHO treaty.
In view of the above, we seek Committee’s intervention to undertake safety audit of KAPS in particular and all the 21 Indian nuclear power plants in general. We demand a parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances which led to such emergency situations.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
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P.S: MS word version of the petition is attached