Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nuclear power Now

It is disasters that have made the human kind conscious about the importance of striking a balance between development and the environment.

One of them was an accident at Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania, United States) in 1979, apparently "the worst accident in US commercial nuclear power generating history". [See: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "fact sheet" -- note that this came out in 2004; and "What's wrong with the NRC factsheet"]

Seven years later, Chernobyl (Ukraine, then part of USSR) saw "the worst accident ever in the history of nuclear power". More than 30 people died on the spot, and the "Nuclear fallout" (the residual radiation hazard) spread to Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, Ireland and eastern North America.

After Chernobyl, the world has been going slow on Nuclear Power, that was once considered the final answer to all our energy worries. Many project proposals had to be shelved due to enormous opposition from the local people, scientsists and environmental activists. [There was one such proposal in Kerala about 15 years back].

Now we are turning to Nuclear Power once again. There has been opposion locally, but it is hardly making any news. The plan for the plant itself was kept away from media attention for quite some time, but the news is slowly coming in, thanks to Singur.

"West Bengal could be the site for eastern India's first nuclear power plant with a central committee recommending Haripur in coastal East Midnapore district as a possible location, an announcement which has already evoked protests by villagers there..", India e-News, Nov 20, 2006.

"The masses resist Haripur Nuclear power plant in Junput.." (Palash Biswas, on NDTV blogs).

Expectedly, the news is accompanied with anticipatory bails ["Scientist backing nuke plant project at Haripur", The Hindu].

The CPM seems to be confused. "Sitaram Yechury today said he was opposed to nuclear power stations as they were being eyed as potential customers by US firms that stand to benefit from the deal signed with the Bush administration.." (The Telegraph, Jan 8).

Even the country's safest reactors aren't so safe, according to its atomic regulations agency.

Can we afford another freaky accident? (We haven't recovered from that December Third yet..)


sudeep said...

Jyothish says.. (on orkut):

"In fact ppl should be aware of these facts..

1.Kakrapara Atomic Power Station (KAPS),may be India's prized nuclear plant, but radiation emitted from its reactors is three times as much as the international norm.

2. It puts the rest of the country's nuclear-power plants in grave perspective. "The main implication is that other nuclear-power plants are much worse than even Kakrapar

3. India's nuclear regulator acknowledges that reactors in India are not operated to the standards of reactors in the US and Europe.

4. the government releases no information about leaks or accidents at its nuclear power plants. Unsupported reports says- An estimated 300 incidents of a serious nature have occurred, causing radiation leaks and physical damage to workers.

so.. such information might have promptrd the villagers to express their concern in the form of the protest....

sudeep said...

Manickam says (again, on an orkut thread):

"I've read (local) news articles and surveys that point to issues with radioactive contamination in and around Kalpakkam Nuclear power plant.
In the surrounding areas(of about 20 -30 kms) numerous instances of children born with abnormalities have been found for the past 20+ years. (with distorted faces, numerous fingers, legless, handless, extra hands..)
And nothing has been done, Except for some local political noise.

Even a thick cement wall around the plant was being planned, but don't know the status it.

Just see this page for the list of installations...
Its already all over India.. and we could potentially have a disaster anywhere..
While I'am not against Nuclear energy ... I doubt Indian (official) commitment to public safety. Very often our foreign collaborators to make the extra money bring in cheaper/experimental technology that could be disastrous.

I did a detailed analysis(of about 50pg writeup) of Nuclear energy Pros and cons when I was in College. Learnt a lot that time..

We do need nuclear energy.. but unfortunately we do not have the barren lands that canada or US (alaska) have for experimentation.

sudeep said...

Musafir Hoon adds:

"The walls and other safeguards mentioned by Manickam are not additional feature, they are an integral part of nuclear plant design.

Hence I dont think any "constraint" is an issue here. If you cannot ensure safety of the plant, you have no business constructing it in the first place. An unsafe nuclear plant is no different from a nuclear bomb.

As for the link to CSMonitor, it is alarming that out of 14 nuclear power reactors, only 3 conform to IAEA safeguards. And very ironically, India is one of the 22 members of the IAEA's Board of Governors at this moment.

I wonder why this has never become a major issue, even in the wake of the recent Indo-US Nuke deal.

If I'm not wrong, the Nuke deal talks about placing Indian reactors under Intl scrutiny. If so, this maybe a good idea. Does anyone have any info on this?

sudeep said...

[The CSMonitor link Suhas (Musafir Hoon..) talks about in the comment above is a link given in the post itself, .]

sudeep said...

Manickam's reply:

"Ofcourse all reactors have minimum three layers around them.
(three solid cement + lead walls, each one multiple metres thick)

But I'am mentioning(not suggesting on my own BTW!) about a big wall not as a compound to the plant or a cover to the reactor. But to the entire facility(the deep waste disposal yard, water circulating areas, etc.). which would essentially isolate the civilian areas.

So that even the cattle grazers and village folks cannot come within a 2-3 km range of the plant.

When I searched for such a news piece I got this one relating to the tsunami wall planned just last year.

But I remember reading such a plan some 5 - 6 years back.
Ofcourse plans are plans. Never executed.

Even the above wall which they are planning is not for radiation prevention but for sea water blocking during tsunami.

I just got an idea.. instead of building solid walls on cement, would it not be cost effective to build walls that can maintain water inside.. (like a channel) all around the facility..?

-------- wall
~~~~~~~~~ water
-------- wall

Water is also an equally good radiation absorber.

Infact if its contructed neat it could serve as a good entertainment spot(channel boating like in theme parks) for the people working there and staying around.

sudeep said...

here is the link to the discussion thread on orkut.

sudeep said...

Sudipta updates: "Yes, sudip there is a great protest and resistance in Haripur, three times the protesting villagers have forced to go back the Central Team of the project who are wanted to visit the spot, over thousands of villagers are organized at Haripur and make a anti-land acquisition forum. It will be not so easy to suppress their raised voices…hope for the best…"