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Archives for : Koodankulam

Anti nuclear struggle in India was funded by people

‘Our struggle was funded by the people’

A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN S.P. Udayakumar.

Interview with S.P. Udayakumar, coordinator, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy. By T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

S.P. UDAYAKUMAR, coordinator of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), was consistently in the news from September 2011 to July 2013 for his opposition to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. His name is mentioned in the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) report titled “Concerted Efforts by Select Foreign Funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects”.

Paragraph three of the communication, dated June 3, 2014, signed by S.A. Rizvi, Joint Director of the I.B., says: “In 2011, anti-nuclear activism stalled the nearly commissioned Russian-assisted, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu. The protests were spearheaded by Ohio State University-funded, S.P. Udayakumar, and a host of Western-funded NGOs. The larger conspiracy was unravelled when a German national provided Udayakumar with a scanned map of all nuclear plants and uranium mining locations in India. The map included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists, revealing an intricate network aimed to ‘take down’ India’s nuclear programme through NGO activism.”

The role of NGOs in mobilising opposition to the KKNPP came under scrutiny in 2012 after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Science magazine that “there are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces”.

It was in this context that Frontline interviewed Udayakumar. While his reply to the first question is taken from his Facebook page, he answered the other questions over telephone. Excerpts:

The I.B. report talks about your “deep and growing connection with the U.S. and German authorities….” It insinuates that the money you received from an unsolicited contract as a consultant with the Ohio State University could have been used to fuel the anti-Kudankulam nuclear power project agitation.

It is a ridiculous and libellous claim that I was contracted through NGOs and I was submitting “fortnightly reports” to them. In fact, I worked as an off-campus Research Fellow in the International Programme of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, for several years. The Director of the Kirwan Institute was one Professor john a. powell [he does not use capital letters in his name], a reputed scholar in civil rights, who had been my employer at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, USA, between Fall 1997 and Spring 2001. I had worked with him there as a Research Associate and Co-Director of Programmes and that was why he chose me for the Kirwan assignment. I travelled to the Ohio State University campus, Ohio, a few times also. For the Kirwan Institute, I did several research and writing assignments on globalisation, racism, minority welfare, BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], etc. I never did any research and writing project on India’s development or India’s nuclear programme. I left that Research Fellow job in Spring 2011 when the Kirwan Institute reorganised itself under a new administration.

Similarly, Sonntag Rainer Hermann is not my “contact in Germany”. He was an acquaintance from Nagercoil, my home town in Tamil Nadu. He was a hippie-type, staying in a cheap hotel in Nagercoil, and participated in our anti-nuclear events. I did not receive any information or maps or monetary help from him, nor did I give him any. If he had done something illegal or dangerous, why did the Indian authorities deport him hurriedly without taking any legal action? I asked this question even when he was deported in February 2012.

In my humble opinion, the Indian authorities must begin to believe that “ordinary citizens” of India such as farmers and fisherfolk have a mind of their own and can take an intelligent stand on issues such as setting up a nuclear power park or other such dangerous projects in their backyard. Those who stand up, speak up and try to protect our illiterate people’s land, water, air, sea, food security and nutrition security should not be considered and insulted as foreign stooges, money launderers or smugglers.

The Indian authorities should acknowledge the simple fact that we do what we do because we love this country and its peoples. If this is how we—honest, responsible and law-abiding citizens—are treated, abused and harassed, this will only send wrong lessons to our youth and promote extremism and terrorism in the country. The I.B. report tends to blame all the hawala transactions, religious conversions, caste clashes… on the NGOs and their activities. This augurs ill for our country that has pluralistic ethos and democratic politics. I am afraid this fascist presupposition of the I.B. report is a precursor for stringent action against individuals, groups, people’s movements and minorities. As I have been singled out in this report and mentioned by name, I fear for my life and for my family’s safety and security….

The insinuation is that NGOs used the money sent to them from abroad for instigating the agitation at Idinthakarai against the Kudankulam project.

I have told you several times that no NGO money has been used for the struggle. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and V. Narayanasamy, then Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO], made similar allegations against us. If the allegations were true, why did they not take action against me? Why did they not arrest me? They are belittling us. They are humiliating us. They are playing a game. I have sent a legal notice to the Union Home Ministry. If there is no reply within a week, I will file a writ petition.

Soon after Manmohan Singh made the allegations in 2012, the Union Home Ministry revoked the licences given to three NGOs in Tamil Nadu for diverting funds from abroad for the anti-nuclear campaign at Kudankulam. Do your remember the NGOs’ names?

I do not know the names of these organisations. I read that they were taking action against some NGOs but I have never seen any government report or document, evidence and conclusions arrived at about the allegations against these NGOs.

The Centre froze the bank accounts of three NGOs—the Tuticorin Diocese Association; the Rural Uplift Centre, Nagercoil; and Good Vision.

I never had any contact with them. I had nothing to do with these NGOs. I never followed what they were doing. They never supported me in any of my activities.

You are running an NGO.

I am not running an NGO. I have a trust called SACCER [South Asian Community Centre for Education and Research] Trust. It is running a school. It is a legal requirement in Tamil Nadu to set up a trust to run a school.

Manmohan Singh said India’s nuclear power programme got into difficulties because NGOs, mostly based in the U.S., were working against it. Narayanasamy alleged that the NGOs, which were receiving money to do social service, were using it for anti-nuclear protests. You sent them legal notices because you said you were the convener of the movement and you assumed that these allegations were made against you. What happened to your legal notices? Did they reply to you?

Narayanasamy sent a reply to me, saying that he never made any such statement. The Prime Minister kept quiet. He never talked about this afterwards. There was absolutely no truth in that thing.

What thing?

That we received support from American and Scandinavian NGOs. I never had any help from Scandinavian NGOs…. My point is I never received even a single rupee from any Indian NGO or international NGO to conduct the struggle at Idinthakarai. For the past three years, they could not prove the allegations. If they prove the allegations, I am prepared to go to jail.

How have you been able to sustain the struggle?

First of all, it was funded by the local people. I have told you umpteen times that it was funded by fishermen, farmers, those who roll bidis, schoolchildren and people from many walks of life. Fishermen contributed 10 per cent of their income every two weeks. More importantly, ours was a Gandhian struggle, organised in a simple manner, in a frugal way. We did not raise any cut-outs, placards, banners or posters. You have seen the pandal and the frugal facilities we have at Idinthakarai. It was a down-to-earth, simple, people’s struggle. We did not have many requirements.

How do you plan to take the struggle forward?

I am doing anti-nuclear work as my duty. I see this anti-nuclear activity as the duty of an informed citizen in this democratic country. I do not have ulterior goals and hence I do not need any money from foreign countries or foreign agencies. India, being a highly and densely populated country, cannot afford to have a Fukushima-type of accident. So we are trying to prevent such calamities before they happen in India.

The third and fourth reactors are also going to come up at Kudankulam. Is this a setback to the PMANE?

We never started this struggle with the intention of physically stopping the plant. This is a democratic, peaceful movement, trying to raise people’s awareness about the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. We are hopeful this will happen sooner or later. We will change India’s nuclear policy. We do not expect results overnight. When educated and public-spirited people come forward and work for a public cause, they should not be insulted and hounded by the authorities. It is not good for our civil and political society.

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Anti-nuclear activist rubbishes IB’s claims on foreign connection

By Newzfirst 6/11/14

 

Nagercoil (Tamilnadu) – Noted anti-nuclear activist Dr. SP Udayakumar Wednesday rubbished the claims of Intelligence Bureau that he and his NGO receive the funds from the US, UK, Germany and other countries only to ensure that some of the developmental projects run into troubled waters.

It is a ridiculous and libelous claim that I was contracted through NGOs and I was submitting “fortnightly reports” to them, Dr. Udayakumar said in a press statement.

The IB in its recent report to the Union Home Ministry had said that many out of the total 85,000 NGOs operating in the country are using foreign funds to indulge into a lot of mischievous activities to hamper social and economic development.

The IB reportedly mentioned that the most obvious interference was from an NGO that was found at the Kundankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Udayakumar further said, “I am afraid this Fascist presupposition of the IB report is a precursor for stringent actions against individuals, groups, people’s movements and minorities. As I have been singled out in this report and mentioned by name, I fear for my life and for my family’s safety and security.”

The IB reports reportedly states: “An enquiry of Udayakumar had revealed a deep and growing connection with the US and German authorities. In July 2010, Udayakumar received an unsolicited contract from he Kirwan Institute for Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University USA as a consultant on Group, Race, Class and Democracy Issues through NGOs. He was paid $ 21, 120 upto June 2011 in a US bank account in his name and was contracted to earn another $ 17, 600 upto April 2012 for fortnightly reports.”

“As a result, Udayakumar’s contact in Germany, one Sonntag Rainer Hermann (German national) was deported from Chennai on February 27, 2012. Hermann’s laptop contained a scanned map of India with 16 nuclear plants (existing or proposed) and five uranium mine locations marked prominently. The map also included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists hand-written on small slips of paper with Blackberry PIN graph. The map was sent via email to five prominent anti-nuclear activists, including Udayakumar.”

Whereas, according to Dr. Udayakumar he was just working as an off-campus Research Fellow in the International Program of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, at the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA for several years.

For the Kirwan Institute, I did several research and writing projects on globalization, racism, minority welfare, BRICS etc. I never did any research and writing project on India’s development or India’s nuclear program. I left that Research Fellow job in Spring 2011 when the Kirwan Institute reorganized itself under a new administration, he said.

He also rubbished the IB’s allegation that deported German national Sonntag Rainer Hermann was his “contact in Germany”.

“He was an acquaintance from Nagercoil, my hometown in Tamil Nadu. He was a hippie-type staying in a cheap hotel here in Nagercoil and participated in our anti-nuclear events. I did not receive any information or maps or monetary helps from him, nor did I give him any.” he said.

If he had done something illegal or dangerous why did the Indian authorities deport him hurriedly without taking any legal action? Dr. Udayakumar asked.

Appeal to the authorities:

Further Dr. Udayakumar also appealed to the Indian authorities to believe that ordinary citizens of India such as farmers and fisher folks have a mind of their own and can take an intelligent stand on issues such as setting up a nuclear power park or other such dangerous projects in their backyard.

Those of us who stand up, speak up and try to protect our poor and illiterate people’s land, water, air, sea, food security and nutrition security should not be considered and insulted as foreign stooges, money launderers, or smugglers, he said.

“The Indian authorities should acknowledge the simple fact that we do what we do because we love this country and its peoples. If this is how we –honest, responsible and law-abiding citizens– are treated, abused and harassed, this would only send wrong lessons to our youth and promote extremism and terrorism in this country.” he said.

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I Fear for My Life – says Anti Nuke activist – S. P. Udayakumar

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[Backdrop]
One Vicky Nanjappa has written an article entitled “IB alerts government over ‘mischievous’ NGOs” in rediff.comon June 9, 2014. The following excerpts sum up the main arguments of the article based on the classified IB report:
Many out of the total 85,000 NGOs operating in the country are using foreign funds to indulge into a lot of mischievous activities to hamper social and economic development, the Intelligence Bureau has alerted the Union home ministry in a report.”
 
The most obvious interference from an NGO was found at the Kundankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. The protests that erupted against the plant had puzzled several intelligence agencies. The IB had then submitted a report to the then MHA about a US-based that was allegedly orchestrating the villagers’ protests. However, the home ministry under the United Progressive Alliance government at that time had made a statement about the same and left it at that. With a new government in place, the IB has once again raked up the issue and wants stringent action against such NGOs.”
“These NGOs have been set up with the help of funds from the US, UK, Germany and other countries only to ensure that some of the developmental projects run into troubled waters, the report points out.”
“Earlier these NGOs created rifts on the basis of caste discrimination, religion and human rights. Today they have been tasked to stall major projects by staging protests.”
“These NGOs work along with some unions who are paid a major chunk of money to stage protests, the report notes. The money on offer is so lucrative that these unions never come to the discussion table and this has been a very strange trend as more often than not one does not realise what they are protesting for, the report notes.”
“The report states that the conversion racket is immense and huge sums of money are being pumped in from the foreign countries through some NGOs to lure people into conversion.”
‘Such issues are bound to create a social divide as a result of which there is constant tension and this is very counter-productive to the growth of a region which is marred by conflict,’ the IB report states.”
[Part II]
Now Priyadarshi Siddhanta, Assistant Editor, The Indian Express, New Delhi, has emailed me saying: “we have read through a report prepared by an Indian government agency, which has referred to your role n anti-nuclear protests. …Specifically, we would like to seek your comments on the following paras excerpted from the report:”
[1] “An enquiry of Udayakumar had revealed a deep and growing connection with the US and German authorities. In July 2010, Udayakumar received an unsolicited contract from he Kirwan Institute for Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University USA as a consultant on Group, Race, Class and Democracy Issues through NGOs. He was paid $ 21, 120 upto June 2011 in a US bank account in his name and was contracted to earn another $ 17, 600 upto April 2012 for fortnightly reports.”
[2] “…As a result, Udayakumar’s contact in Germany, one Sonntag Rainer Hermann (German national) was deported from Chennai on February 27, 2012. Hermann’s laptop contained a scanned map of India with 16 nuclear plants (existing or proposed) and five uranium mine locations marked prominently. The map also included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists hand-written on small slips of paper with Blackberry PIN graph. The map was sent via email to five prominent anti-nuclear activists, including Udayakumar.”
My Response:
It is a ridiculous and libelous claim that I was contracted through NGOs and I was submitting “fortnightly reports” to them. In fact, I worked as an off-campus Research Fellow in the International Program of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, at the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA for several years. The Director of the Kirwan Institute was one Professor john a. powell (he does not use capital letters in his name), a reputed scholar in civil rights, who had been my employer at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, USA between Fall 1997 and Spring 2001. I had worked with him there as a Research Associate and Co-Director of Programs and that was why he chose me for the Kirwan assignment. I traveled to the Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio a few times also. For the Kirwan Institute, I did several research and writing projects on globalization, racism, minority welfare, BRICS etc. I never did any research and writing project on India’s development or India’s nuclear program. I left that Research Fellow job in Spring 2011 when the Kirwan Institute reorganized itself under a new administration.
Similarly, Sonntag Rainer Hermann is NOT my “contact in Germany”. He was an acquaintance from Nagercoil, my hometown in Tamil Nadu. He was a hippie-type staying in a cheap hotel here in Nagercoil and participated in our anti-nuclear events. I did not receive any information or maps or monetary helps from him, nor did I give him any. If he had done something illegal or dangerous why did the Indian authorities deport him hurriedly without taking any legal action? I asked this question even when he was deported in February 2012.
In my humble opinion, Indian authorities must begin to believe that “ordinary citizens” of India such as farmers and fisher folks have a mind of their own and can take an intelligent stand on issues such as setting up a nuclear power park or other such dangerous projects in their backyard. Those of us who stand up, speak up and try to protect our poor and illiterate people’s land, water, air, sea, food security and nutrition security should NOT be considered and insulted as foreign stooges, money launderers, or smugglers. The Indian authorities should acknowledge the simple fact that we do what we do because we love this country and its peoples. If this is how we –honest, responsible and law-abiding citizens– are treated, abused and harassed, this would only send wrong lessons to our youth and promote extremism and terrorism in this country.
The IB report tends to blame all the Hawala transactions, religious conversions, caste clashes, terrorism, impeding developmental activities, and crippling the national economy on the NGOs and their activities. This augurs ill for our country that has pluralistic ethos and democratic politics. I am afraid this Fascist presupposition of the IB report is a precursor for stringent actions against individuals, groups, people’s movements and minorities. As I have been singled out in this report and mentioned by name, I fear for my life and for my family’s safety and security. Please do the needful.
S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D.
Nagercoil,
June 10, 2014.

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What the accident at the Koodankulam nuclear plant tells us about its disastrous state

The accident last week, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and medical infrastructure incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

By Nityanand Jayaraman | Grist Media –

(Photo credit: Reuters)

For the operators of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP) and India’s secretive nucleocracy, the accident couldn’t have come at a better time. On 14 May, 2014, six workers were injured under still unclear circumstances and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the media’s preoccupation with the national elections took the spotlight off the accident and its ramifications after a day’s superficial coverage.

When I first got word of the accident, it was 1:50pm on Wednesday, 14 May. I received a terse text message on my cellphone: “Accident at the Koodankulam nuclear power plant 1. Six workers injured. Admitted to hospital.” I set about trying to confirm this news. Confirmation eventually came, but what I learnt and how I learnt it left me in little doubt that the KKNPP setup was not prepared to handle a disaster, and that its communications strategy is itself a disaster. Also, coming as it did less than a week after the Supreme Court declared that it was satisfied with KKNPP’s safety and emergency response, the incident raises doubts not only about the plant’s safety and its operator’s ability to handle emergencies, but also about the Supreme Court’s own appreciation of the hazards and how they play out.

The first information about the accident did not come from NPCIL. All I had was an unconfirmed report. At that time, even the almighty Google News’ search engine could offer no confirmation. NPCIL’s website was silent on the incident. At the time of writing, NPCIL’s website still has no mention of the accident or the fate of the six injured workers. NPCIL staff at Koodankulam remain as cagey today as they were immediately after the incident.

So I called up friends who were part of the ongoing agitation against this plant. They too had heard the news. But official statements from KKNPP’s operator – the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) – were conflicting, they said.

I spoke to V. Pushparayan, a senior activist from the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and AAP Lok Sabha candidate from Tamil Nadu’s southern coastal district of Thoothukudi. “First, they said six people were injured and needed only first aid. Then they said they are being treated at the township hospital and that they actually were able to walk by themselves,” Pushparayan said. “I don’t think they are telling the whole truth. People from Koottapully who have shops in Anjugramam called up to say they saw six ambulances rushing by in the general direction of Nagercoil [a town more than 30 km by bad roads from the plant]. That was about 45 minutes ago. And just about 15 minutes back, Mildred called to say she saw three ambulances at Myladi speeding towards Nagercoil. We don’t know what happened to the other three vehicles.” Anjugramam and Myladi are small towns that lie on the Koodankulam-Nagercoil road.

Another friend called by 2.30 pm to say that the injured six had been admitted to a Kumar Hospital. S.P. Udayakumar, another PMANE leader, a Nagercoil native and AAP candidate from that town, was in Chennai when I called him. He was unaware of any Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil. A quick internet search revealed a Krishna Kumar Orthopedic Hospital in Nagercoil. The telephone numbers on the website did not work. I did not want to disturb the KKNPP station director as he was likely to be busy handling the situation. But soon I was left with no choice. NPCIL’s website, then and at the time of writing this, had no news about the incident. Neither was there any point person at KKNPP who could be called in the event of such emergencies.

It was now well past 3 p.m. By this time, rumors were flying thick and fast. I hesitantly called R.S. Sundar, KKNPP’s site director. Sundar wasted a good five minutes of his valuable time explaining why he would neither confirm nor deny my question on whether an incident happened, and whether the injured were at Krishna Kumar Hospital. He finally palmed me off to a landline phone number. He could have done that at the outset if that is indeed the established protocol. Or was there even a protocol, I wondered.

Thankfully, the landline number, which was answered by a person who identified himself as “PA to Director,” yielded more information. “This is only a preliminary report,” he cautioned me. “Today, three department personnel and three contract workers sustained injuries in Unit 1, Turbine building due to spillage of hot water while working on the HP [High Pressure] heater inlet. That is the technical term – HP heater inlet. The injured persons were [treated] at the First Aid Centre and then taken to our hospital at Anu Vijay Township. From there, they have been referred to a specialty Hospital at Nagercoil. All injured persons are in conscious condition.”

Deny. Downplay. Delude

“Hot water spillage”? “Conscious condition”? What meaning do these phrases convey, and to what end? Describing the ejection of a jet of hot water or a burst of steam from a high-pressure heater inlet in a nuclear plant as a “spillage” is an understatement. And telling reporters that the injured workers are in “conscious condition” reveals nothing about the seriousness of their injuries and leaves the public no better informed about the prognosis for the injured personnel.

Globally, the nuclear industry has a curious choice of words and a penchant to euphemize. That is why an atom bomb is called a ‘nuclear device’, an explosion a ‘detonation’, and the Fukushima disaster a ‘Level 7 nuclear event’. The case at hand is no exception.

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam setup has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor, non-transparent and dishonest communications; lack of emergency response infrastructure; non-compliance with operating procedures; and lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel.

It is now more than 24 hours at the time of writing since the incident happened. I spoke to the PA to the Station Director again. “Any updates since yesterday on the incident or the status of the workers?” I asked. There was none. “Whatever we forwarded to you yesterday, that is all the information we have. There is no further update,” he said politely.

The cloak-and-dagger treatment of a common workplace hazard hints at a pathology; disclosure and transparency are viewed as a problem.  Most of the incidents, even serious ones involving radiation exposure, within Indian nuclear establishments go unreported – some forever, some for months or years. On January 21, 2003, six workers at Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, 70 km from Chennai, were exposed to heavy doses of radiation exceeding annual permissible limits. The incident did not come to light until June 2003, more than six months later when trade unions upset about lax safety conditions and the management’s lackadaisical attitude struck work. Strangely, the nuclear establishment is such that even trade unions wait six months to make public such issues of common concern.

A Minor Incident?

In the current instance, KKNPP management has admitted that the burnt workers are undergoing treatment in a specialty hospital in Nagercoil. This is a town about 30 km as the crow flies, and nearly 40 km if you were to take the pot-holed road from Koodankulam – at least an hour away even for a speeding ambulance.

The specialty hospital at Nagercoil specializes in orthopedic surgery and trauma care. The injured workers are reportedly suffering from burns. Indeed, it was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice that nowhere in the three districts contiguous to Koodankulam is there a facility to treat burns or radiation injury. “The National Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines for nuclear establishments mandate the availability of adequate medical treatment facilities in the vicinity of the plants and hospitals capable of handling radiation injuries just outside the 16 km zone,” says G. Sundar Rajan, the petitioner in all cases challenging the Koodankulam plant in the Supreme Court.

KKNPP’s director clarified to the media that construction of a super-specialty hospital close to the plant has been completed, but it is not yet functional because equipment is still being procured. When questioned, local people say that the hospital building is nowhere close to ready for occupation.

The current instance, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and a medical infrastructure that is incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

Curiously, the Supreme Court, with its faith that nothing bad will happen until everything is eventually in place, declared that it is satisfied that there has been no laxity by the nuclear establishment in implementing its various directives to ensure safe operation and timely and appropriate response to emergencies.

Must be the Workers’ Fault

The “hot water” accident could have happened due to worker error, substandard equipment or both. In the absence of any information from the authorities, some cautious speculation on the generalities may not hurt.

I spoke to Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Board, for clarification. “I suppose you realize that this is not a radiation incident,” he remarked. “But that said, the profile of the workers who were injured is curious – three department personnel and three contract workers.” Contract workers are unskilled or semi-skilled workers who are not necessarily trained for the jobs that they are asked to do. “They are usually brought in to lift this or turn that. This is not peculiar to Koodankulam. I have seen it in many other places. They do it to save money by not employing staff,” he explained.

The relationship between the use of cheaper, though inadequately trained, contract workers and increased workplace hazards and compromised worker safety is well established. Although the current incident occurred in a non-radiation area, it is not inconceivable that in complex systems like nuclear power plants, radiological emergencies can be triggered and/or damage exacerbated by human error – often by inadequately trained or untrained humans – working in non-radiation areas.

The deployment of casual labor in hazardous and high-radiation areas is an attractive option also because contract workers are a nomadic lot. The outcome of workplace exposure among these nuclear “gypsies” need not, cannot, be monitored. The absence of evidence is therefore used to suggest the absence of a problem.

In post-disaster Fukushima, numerous reports surfaced about the deployment of untrained daily wage labor picked up from labor lines in Tokyo and elsewhere for hazardous clean-up work, often involving dangerous levels of exposure. This, it turns out, is nothing new. A 1999 report in Los Angeles Times following the Tokaimura nuclear accident in Japan cites data from Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission which revealed that 89 percent of Japanese people employed in the nuclear industry work for subcontractors. “It is these employees who receive more than 90% of all radiation exposure,” according to the Los Angeles Times article.

Interestingly, just about a year ago, I was interviewing Mani, a 20-something fisherman from Panaiyur Chinnakuppam – a village about 20 km from the Kalpakkam nuclear plant – about what he thought about the coal-fired power plant coming up in Cheyyur near his village. I asked him what he thought about the promoters’ claim that the plant would be safe. He laughed away the question. “I used to work in Kalpakkam [nuclear complex] doing odd jobs. My mother kept nagging me to quit the job,” he recalled. “One day, a few of us were asked to do some work at a site. We were working there dressed in the clothes we wore from home. I got scared when I saw the supervisors who were giving us instructions wearing protective clothing. I never went back after that day.”

The contractualization of labor inside nuclear plants should be, but is not, a matter of concern. Safety depends not only on the integrity of machines but also the skill of mechanics. This is a consideration that has slipped the attention of all those who have given Koodankulam a clean chit.

Shoddy Equipment and Corrupt Deals

In January 2013, RK Sinha, chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission, clarified the reasons why KKNPP Unit 1 had failed a pre-commissioning performance test the previous month. Rumors were already doing the rounds by then in Idinthakarai and among anti-nuclear activists that there was something wrong with certain heavy-duty valves in the plant. Sinha’s statement offered some glimpses of the truth: “Essentially there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.”

Taken together with other statements that appeared in the media, the following picture emerges. During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened up, repaired, and some “minor” components replaced.

An ongoing investigation into corruption in the Russian nuclear establishment gives a new twist to the tale. In February 2012, the KGB’s successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Sergei Shutov, the procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary ZiO-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. ZiO-Podolsk, a machine works company, is the sole supplier of steam generators and certain other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide. The FSB has charged Shutov with sourcing sub-standard steel blanks. According to the Russian media agency Rosbalt, equipment manufactured with cheap Ukrainian steel was used in nuclear reactors built by the Russians in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India.

It is now an admitted fact that ZiO-Podolsk supplied equipment such as steam generator, cation and anion filters, mechanical filters, moisture separators and re-heaters, among other equipment, to KKNPP’s Unit 1.

While the nuclear establishment in China, Bulgaria and Iran have ordered investigations and summoned the Russians to clarify, the Indian nuclear establishment has done nothing more than conduct an enquiry of itself by itself. KKNPP has never adequately defended allegations about the substandard quality of equipment, including crucial valves and re-heaters, supplied to the plant by ZiO-Podolsk.

The Supreme Court, it appears, has issued its orders solely on faith – faith in the ability of the authorities; faith that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board will find in itself the power to be an independent regulator; faith in the technology that has reportedly been deployed.

At the end of the day, though, a lot can go wrong – negligence, human error and corruption can defeat the best defenses technology has to offer and conspire to concoct disaster even from “small incidents.”

Nityanand Jayaraman is a writer and volunteer with Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

Read mor ehere –  https://in.news.yahoo.com/what-the-accident-at-the-koodankulam-nuclear-plant-tells-us-about-its-disastrous-state-060712272.html

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#Goodnews – Tamil Nadu to drop 248 cases against nuke plant protesters

TNN | Apr 1, 2014, 05.45 AM IST

 

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English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Deutsch: Baustelle des Kernkraftwerks Kudankulam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NNAI: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to drop 248 out of the 349 cases booked against anti-nuclear protesters in an apparent attempt to woo the fishing community in coastal villages of three southern districts. But the partial withdrawal of cases is unlikely to win votes for the ruling AIADMK in the elections, with protesters saying they will step up their agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court last week, Tirunelveli district collector M Karunagaran said the remaining 101 cases cannot be withdrawn because they relate to serious crimes like laying siege through sea and violence against private individuals and government servants.

The climbdown on the part of the government, though to comply with an SC directive to withdraw all cases, is seen as an attempt to placate the fishing community, which is at the forefront of the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Most of them have, however, sworn loyalty to AAP, which has fielded prominent anti-nuclear activists in three coastal constituencies in the south.

All sedition charges against the protesters will stay. The three AAP candidates, S P Udayakumar, M Pushparayan and M P Jesuraj, contesting from Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli Lok Sabha constituencies respectively, have more than a dozen sedition cases against each of them, said G Sundarrajan of Friends of Earth, a forum which filed the petition on behalf of the protesters in the SC. He said in all, 8,950 people were charged with sedition and 13,500 were charged with waging war against the nation. Police had booked 2.27 lakh people in 349 cases, of which only 5,000 were named. In comparison, during the entire 150 years of freedom struggle across the Madras province, only 2,300 people were booked for sedition, said Sundarrajan.

Udayakumar, convener of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), flayed the government for the partial withdrawal of cases. “All the cases filed against our people pertain to the struggle against the nuclear plant. Chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who also holds the home portfolio, should clarify the grounds on which some cases are being dropped and the rest retained,” he said. Calling the move mischievous and aimed at cheating people, he said, “When the SC had asked the government to withdraw all cases against the protesters, how could it refuse to do it? We will step up our agitation with renewed vigour”.

There are six cases of laying siege through sea, 40 cases of attack on private people and 55 cases relating to violence against government servants, the affidavit said. If they are withdrawn, there won’t be any fear of law and government servants won’t have trust in government, the affidavit said. Karunagaran said despite strict vigil and vehicle checkup, on November 26 last year, country bombs kept in Idinthakarai, a hamlet abutting the Kudankulam nuclear plant, exploded killing five people and injuring three people.

The SC, while disposing of a special leave petition filed by Sundarrajan on May 6 last year, had given 15 directions, which included making an endeavour to drop all cases against the protesters. Of the 15 directions, five pertained to the state government. The collector said all of them had been complied with. They include taking steps to implement national disaster management guidelines, preparing a radiological emergency plan, discharging corporate social responsibility of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and setting up a district-level implementation committee for discharging corporate social responsibility.

     

    Read more here – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Tamil-Nadu-to-drop-248-cases-against-nuke-plant-protesters/articleshow/33046989.cms

     

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    #India – Koodankulam: An Unfettered Anti Nuclear Struggle

    By Anitha S

    10 January, 2014
    Countercurrents.org

    The first weekend of January 2014 was special for us living in Idinthakarai, the coastal village most affected by the ill famed Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Our village was the venue for the National Convention of anti-nuke movements for two days. This sleepy fishing village has for the past 870 days been the epicenter of the resistance of people against the Nuclear Power Plant close to us that came without consulting or informing us. All of this may seem like old stories to many of you.But for us here just 2 kms away from the yellow domes now believed to guzzle out electricity, the story is still new and painful. We have not accepted the fact that we are to live near this virtual bomb, with no assurance given about security, safety or environmental impact especially on the ocean which sustains us.

    This feeling of fear and anger is what made the two days special for us. It meant a lot to know that there are still many people and organizations in the country who care for us and our ongoing struggle. They all came to Idinthakarai and spent time with us to know more about our feelings and plans. The meetings were very serious and focused on the need to have a comprehensive Nuclear Policy for India that does not negate the democratic rights of people and communities. It shocks us that in countries like Germany a referendum is required from the local community before a nuclear facility is set up. And look at us, claiming to be the largest democracy in the world where communities and villages like us are still not informed about what is happening.

    The meeting where friends and supporters from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and many other parts of the country joined was made special by the strong presence of Admiral Ramdas and Lalitha Ramdas. The clarity about the ongoing nuke- colonization of India and the need to demystify the all pervading quality of nuclear energy was the baseline of all discussions. We have understood over the years as the KKNPP started invading our lives that the nuclear establishment is begotten with lies and corruption, with outdated technology and unreliable safety and security features. We have been asked to ignore Chernobyl and Fukushima, the Tsunamis and subsidence that occur in our land and sea and live as if blissfully unaware of the sea around us that will die with the heat and nuclear radiation. It is here that those who have stood with us over the years and who keeping coming to reassure us become important and dear. That is also why the past two days has been significant for us to reinstate our resolve to continue the struggle.
    We are ashamed, shocked and angered that the Prime Minister of India remarks that the greatest achievement in a decade is the Indo-US Nuclear deal. Does this deal assure the millions in our country of free and uninterrupted access to clean air, water and food/? Will it help us overlook the blaring truth that while Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla pays a monthly electricity bill of Rs 76 lakhs, 40 million people in India live in the dark? We find it ironical that the PM laid the foundation stone for Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership and the National Cancer Institute in the same venue at Jasuar Kheri village in Haryana on January 4th. While we write this, communities in Fatehabad, Haripur, Jaitapur, Kowwada, Mithirvirdi, Banswada, Chutka, Kalpakkam, Jadugoda, Thevaram, Madurai, Pazhayakayal and Manavalakuruchi are putting up tough fights to protect their right for a safe life and access to land, water, livelihood and amenities.

    In this context, the meeting resolved to support all the people in the thick of struggle all over the country. The need to put pressure on political parties to make clear their Nuclear Agenda was also debated. The cost of nuclear deals and proliferation would be paid by communities and people as it would be implemented by the most undemocratic and unfair means.

    We are glad that there has been so much discussions and exposure to new issues and people here- in our doorstep by the Samara Pandal in the courtyard of our Church. Our children now regularly take and read books from the library set up from the contributions received for the book “No: Echoes Koodankulam”. We are proud that our dear sister Sundari who lost many months in jail and on conditional bail away from home has penned her thoughts as a book : Unfettered Struggle (Sirai Paadal Porattam). She has lucidly written about her experiences with the Police, in jail and as a strong fighter for justice and life in this village.

    Yes, our fight and struggle is unfettered. As days pass, our determination to continue voicing our demands are getting firmer and clearer. For we know that this is the fight for truth and justice, for life and health, for pure air, water and soil.

    Anitha.S in conversation with Melrit, Sundari, Tamizh, Xaviearmmal, Mary, Udayakumar, Pushparayan, Milton. Reading Idinthakarai Resolution. 

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    PRESS RELEASE- Koodankulam leader barred from attending his father’s funeral by the police #WTFnews

    Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP)

    Displaying Pushparayan.jpg

    We express our sincere condolences at the sad demise of Mr. M Pushparayan’s father Mr. Mahiban Victoria. Pushparayan has been a leading activist of the people’s nonviolent struggle in Koodankulam against the ill-conceived and unsafe nuclear power project. It is heartbreaking to see Mr. Pushparayan not being able to attend his father’s last rites as he cannot move out of the Idinthakarai village, fearing immediate arrest by the police. It is shocking that over 200 police personnel were deployed at the funeral of Mr. Pushparayan’s father in Tuticorin to arrest him if he joins. Almost the entire village of Idinthakarai, which has been the centre of peaceful anti-nuclear protests, is declared criminal and people can’t move out.

    Mr. Pushparayan, Dr. S P Udayakumar and the large number of people in Koodankulam have led a heroic struggle in highlighting the callousness of the Indian government towards the villagers’s lives and livelihoods. In response to their absolutely valid questions concerning safety, transparency and accountability of the nuclear establishment, the government unleashed brutal repression on people. The police has filed fictitious criminal charges as serious as sedition and war against the Indian state against hundreds of people. On several occasions in course of the agitation, the police resorted to brazen violence on innocent people including women and children.

    Despite the order by the Supreme Court of India to take back false charges levelled against the people, the Tamil Nadu police and government have not complied. We demand that the criminal charges falsely leveled against participants of this consistently peaceful protest must be taken back immediately. We strongly condemn this continued violation of essential human rights of dissenting citizens in a democracy.

    For CNDP,

    Achin Vanaik
    Lalita Ramdas
    Abey George
    P K Sundaram

    Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP)
    124 A/6, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110016
    [email protected] | www.cndpindia.org | 9810556134

     

     

     

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    #India – Bomb blast exposes chinks in the security of Kudankulam nuclear plant

    Friday, Nov 29, 2013, 7:22 IST | Place: THIRUVANANTHAPURAM | Agency: DNA

    The blast which killed six persons, including a woman and two children, at a village near Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamail Nadu’s Tirunelveli district has exposed the chinks in the security agencies’ armour.

    It is generally believed that if the activities of personnel of various Central security agencies deployed at Kudankulam, situated at nearly 100km from Thiruvananthapuram, in view of the years of simmering popular protest to stall the installation of the mammoth Russian-built plant at the sea-front had been coordinated in a better and more imaginative manner, the blast would have been averted.

    More shockingly, that the incident took place hardly two kilometres from the live plant throws light on the possibility of making it a soft target for sea-born miscreants sent by forces bent on destabilising the country.

    The only relief for the agencies is that the blast of powerful home-made bombs was not the handiwork of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has been spearheading the agitation. Having realised this,  the Tamil Nadu police have dropped the names of PMANE leaders Uthaya Kumar, Pushparayan, Mukilan and their several associates from the case.

    Now the police have registered an FIR against a polytechnic student Vijaya, who was seriously injured in the blast and two deceased in the incident — Yahappen and Susaimariya — said district police chief Vijayendra Bidari.

    The country bombs went off at a colony set up for tsunami victims at Idinthakari village adjacent to Kudankulam. The deceased and injured have taken shelter along with several others here from the sand mafia which calls the shots at the village of Kuthenkuly which is nearly 10km from Kudankulam.

    The police say that the villagers lost a fierce fight with the mafia engaged in mining sand from sea shore and fled the village. They had been making bombs to hit back at the mafia.

    The villagers say that Kudankulam and neighbouring villages have been witnessing bloody skirmishes between people and sand mafia for the past several years. The Kuthenkuly villagers and mafia called a truce three years ago yielding to the pressure of police, but it did not last long.

    Authorities are aware that explosives are widely used in clashes between the people and mafia and the explosives are taken from one village to another through sea. Yet, the state police and security agencies have failed to clear the area of explosives despite the fact that the nuclear power plant is located at almost a porous shore and residents’ ire against the plant has been raging.

    Though the authorities at the plant have been shocked by the incident, none has openly expressed it.

    “It’s a security issue to be dealt by the police and other agencies. Let the board of directors
    of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd look into the issue,’’ plant site director RS Sunder reported to have told media

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    PMANE Statement on unfortunate incident near the Koodankulam nuclear plant

    • Nov 27th 2013

     

    English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

    English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

    • Leaders of the PMANE (People’s movement against Nuclear Energy) leading the struggle against Koodankulam nuclear power plant S.P Udayakumar and M. Pushparayan distanced itself from the unfortunate incident at Tsunami Colony, near the Koodankulam nuclear plant, in which at least six people, including three girls, were killed when country bombs exploded in a house around 7pm on Tuesday.

      S.P Udayakumar said, “A koothenkuzhi refugee group seems to have done a misadventure. Idinthakarai people and PMANE have nothing to do with it. Our nonviolent struggle continues”

      M Pushparayan told the Times of India that the country bombs had nothing to do with their movement nor were their supporters involved in bomb making.

      Accodring to TOI report, “the bombs were allegedly stocked by some villagers following a clash with another group. Three houses caved in due to the impact of the explosion. Fearing arrest, all villagers fled Tsunami Colony as soon as police personnel arrived. Fire and rescue services personnel put off the fire and started work to remove the debris. “We fear some villagers could be trapped under the debris,” a police officer said.”

     

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    #India – Case against S P Udayakumar, others over blast near Kudankulam plant #WTFnews

     

     

    CNN-IBN
    Nov 27, 2013 at 12:20pm IST

    Chennai: The police have filed a case against anti-nuclear activist

    English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

    English: Construction site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Deutsch: Baustelle des Kernkraftwerks Kudankulam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    and others in connection with Tuesday night’s explosion at Idinthakarai in Tamil Nadu, near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Six people were killed and two injured when a country-made bomb exploded on Tuesday night in a coastal village near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

    A Home Ministry spokesman said in New Delhi that the country-made bomb went off “accidentally” when some miscreants were making the explosive in their hut at around 1840 hours in Idinagarai Tsunami colony, about 15 km from the nuclear power plant. Among the dead were a woman and three children who were all aged below five, police said.

    A senior official of the Department of Atomic Energy said the plant is running fine and is safe. Two houses were razed under the impact of the blast, they said, adding rescue teams rushed to the pot to clear the debris and extricate people believed trapped under it.

     

    Bomb disposal squad and investigation teams rushed to the spot, along with DIG of Police Sumith Saran and Superintendent of Police Vijendra Bidari. People of Idinthakarai, the hub of protests against KNPP, backed by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, have been agitating for more than two years, demanding its closure.

    Unit-1 had attained criticality on July 13 this year following protests against the project by anti-nuclear activists in areas around the complex, citing safety reasons. Police had raided Kunthankuli village near Idinthakarai in 2012 and early this year and seized some country bombs from some huts.

    (With additional information from PTI)

     

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