ASSOCHAM Nukes meet – A Quasi Government sponsored event?
This would have been funny if it was not for the fact that this has the potential to adversely affect millions of Indians.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) held their 5th International Conference on Nuclear Energy of 2013 on 23rd August at The Park Hotel in New Delhi.
This was nothing but a self-back-patting of the industry event. Even after knowing about the disasters that are unfolding almost on a daily basis from Japan to US. Not surprising, given the propensity of the nuclear industry to treat every disaster as another profitable business by offering so-called “safer” alternatives!
In the first session of this conference, big names in the Government if India Nuclear Establishment shared the stage, along with L & T (Heavy Engineering co. ) the President and the Ambassador of Korea.
Mr. M. V. Kotwal of L&T sang praises of Homi Bhabha and the 3 stage nuclear program (which was effectively “sold” to Jawaharlal Nehru who was the first Prime Minister of India)
As per Kotwal, it was Indian talent that was responsible for building the Tarapur reactors in 16 months. Funny- as I always thought they were American and then Canadian turnkey models replicated here in India – just a copy paste job!
As far as the Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR), L&T also gloated about playing a key role in the development of India’s prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) -a key element of the Homi Bhabha plan – and he had no qualms about it even after considering that most other countries with extensive experience in FBRs like France and Japan have had to effectively abandon their FBR programs.
Well, HOW much can you pat your own back???
The joke was when
Korean Ambassador, Joon-gyu Lee
Korean Ambassador, Joon-gyu Lee, who spoke next, was on a massive sales pitch that included Korea’s “impeccable safety record” on nuclear reactors, completely ignoring the fact that even as he spoke, a large numbers of Koreans were sweltering through the summer because of the power shortages created by shutting down 7 of the country’s 23 nuclear reactors due to safety scams and other causes not detailed. (Reuters report here)
Another few gems were of course expected from the government end.
And they came in the form of the Secy., Department of Atomic Energy Dr. R.K.Sinha and they did not disappoint because what he said was blatant sucking up to the private sector.
He reiterated L&T’s Kotwals’ enthusiasm for indigenous talents, claiming that after Pokhran, India was deserted by all international nuclear cooperation and “we had to stand completely on our own.” Well, if these learning experiences were so great, then one wonders why India ever had to sign the controversial Civil Nuclear Deal with the USA and invite all and sundry to build nuclear reactors in India? But then, again no such doubt was expressed by Dr. Sinha who told us about the failsafe models that have been developed to build all the planned nuclear reactors at once… For him Fukushima is NOT a disaster, Chernobyl never happened and everything is a cakewalk.
File photo of Dr. R,K, Sinha
Dr. Sinha also dwelled upon DAE putting nuclear technology to supposedly improve food and agriculture as 41 mutant seed varieties have been developed which is helping livelihood security (can you believe that he calls mutated seeds as development!!!!) Water security and reverse osmosis technology is another issue the DAE is involved with which is very important because water is polluted with arsenic and…uranium. Once again it does not cross the distinguished Doctor’s mind that the DAE-NPCIL have caused the problemsin the first place!!! And then he of course, dwells on the medical uses of radiation, with a new cancer hospital coming up in Punjab. Again, it didn’t seem to occur to Dr. Sinha that in fact the DAE may actually be the cause of people’s livelihoods being robbed, of water being polluted and cancer case increasing…
Dr. Sinha ended with a pearl of wisdom that he said that he had read on the internet somewhere: “We fear things in proportion to our ignorance” …and vowed to end ignorance on all things nuclear so those people in Koodankulam will understand what a blessing they really have!!
Wow….how much can you grandstand Dr. Sinha?
What ignorance were you talking about? Have you seen the latest facts from Fukushima that is threatening the whole of Japan? Have you even bothered to see independent reports and documentaries from reputed broadcasters like BBC on Chernobyl lately? I guess NOT, else you would not be making such asinine statements which make sense only in your nuclear community. Neither Chernobyl after over a quarter of century nor Fukushima is controlled yet…
That is a fact Sinha misses completely and conveniently. He is also on a complete sales pitch!
There was no limit to this lying and deceit, until the Chief Guest for the Conference, Mr. V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State for the PMO, Government of India spoke and which was the final white lie. Narayanasamy focused on another theme – why the Indian nuclear programme is not progressing faster. This according to his “wisdom” is because of the many foreign NGOs – and surprisingly, even some Indian nuclear scientists who used to work for the DAE who have been spreading supposed “mis-information” since Fukushima.
File photo of V. Narayanasamy
Well, call it sour grapes, but if the ex-heads of AERB start to question the Koodankulam projects safety, where can poor Mr. Narayansamy hide anyway? (details here)
But yet Narayansamy plodded on ahead saying that despite all these agitations, the Indian Government is committed to nuclear energy as the most important solution to our energy needs of the future, as not much progress has been made with solar for example, so the government will forge ahead with its nuclear programme in the best interests of the country, in order to bring back our growth rate to around 8%, nuclear is the only option.
Well, Narayansamy needs to take a look at what the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) may have to say to THAT statement!!
Narayanasamy – with his usual foot-in-the-mouth also claims that India must take on foreign hands and provide “proper information” to the people who will be living near the nuclear reactors so that they realize there is nothing to fear or be misled by foreign NGOs. In his own “analysis” Narayanasamy, cites a social media survey which apparently showed that 97% of people in Koodankulam now believed that the nuclear reactors are safe and that they also had been convinced by the DAE’s ample and clear information on this plant. Obviously and unsurprisingly, there is no reference to who did this study or what questions were asked etc. Tarapur had been running with absolutely no safety issues for over 40 years, so according to him Koodankulam would be fine as well.
It was obviously just blatant lies in a series……For all you know, the “survey” probably might have polled some NPCIL/DAE employees??
“Someone must have insured Koodankulam—that was a condition of starting it up…who was that?” – Rajendra Shrivastav, Managing Director of Nuclear Business at Alstom India even as
he pleaded for someone in the government to explain in normal sentences what CLND actually means.
But unfortunately, all the illustrious speakers of the first session had already gone home and no one was able to answer this question…Probably they knew that there are no easy answers to lure the foreign money.
One is then left with the burning doubt that probably, no one is insured Koodankulam and the government of India has started it uninsured – as this seems to be the only way by which the nuclear industry will solve all its self-admitted problems.
The pro-nuclear advocates were quite capable of revealing the problems in their industry to themselves pretty quickly because the bankers and CEOs in the audience are much more likely to listen to their own kind.
I would like to add here that in fact, if anti-nuclear activists had participated, then they would probably have just been dismissed just as rabble-rousers. The two worlds are perhaps too far apart and the languages and concepts just too different for a meaningful dialogue to be able to take place. The second session, however, allowed the pro-nuclear lobby to slip the noose over its own head.
On the agenda of discussion was CLND.
Well, THAT is a HUGE disaster for the nuclear industry and they know it and that they are really scared of it showed clearly at the ASSOCHAM conference.
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act which was passed in 2010 but is now being
sought to be diluted by the government to favor suppliers of nuclear reactors. This is because the foreign nuclear suppliers will now have to seek re – insurance for their projects and which will in turn push up their costs leading to lesser profits for these companies.
CLND was quite competently addressed by Mohit Abraham, a lawyer from PVX Law Partners. He admitted that the law as it stands is indeed ambiguous and we can’t expect corporations to enter into deals, at least nuclear deals where the stakes are so high, when there is a possibility that the law allows any citizen of India to sue them in the event of an accident.
This fear was very much echoed by Mr. Rajendra Shrivastav, Managing Director of Nuclear Business at Alstom India who pleaded for someone in the government to explain in normal sentences what the Liability Laws actually mean…at present, he quipped, even someone who makes sandwiches in the power plant canteen may be held liable. He assured all present that his company remains interested in doing nuclear business but for 5 years (since the Nuclear Deal) they have been sitting around twiddling their thumbs and all they get is more negotiations, when what they really need, if they are to prepare for this nuclear expansion properly, is more or less firm timelines.
Mr. Anil Kumar, the Inspector General of Security at the DAE, hit the nail on the head when he suggested that the veil of secrecy that this industry works under is the reason people think that they were doing something bad and he too suggested improved PR (AND THIS from the head of security!!!). He even suggested that DAE needs to come clean with true costs such as decommissioning and said the public remains unconvinced that nuclear waste can be kept safely for half a million years, even if there is not so much of it. He himself assured the audience that all storage of high level waste is not a problem, but storage of large amounts of material that will eventually be ‘recycled’ in the FBR and may have to be stored for quite a long time until it is used, and keeping this secure, will be “a challenge.” Indeed, if experience of other countries is anything to go by, this so-called recyclable material may have to lie around for a very long time until the FBR is commissioned, if indeed Indian scientists manage to achieve what no other scientist ever has—a viable FBR.
Uranium ore carried in open trucks
Mr. Kumar sent out a practical call for help to Assocham, admitting that as of the present there is no dedicated company that can provide secure vehicles for transporting radioactive substances. One wonders how they have been doing it for the last 50 years, although Mr. Kumar did mention something about normal trucks transporting radioactive materials in steel containers!!!!!
Well, this was a conference that was all about shooting oneself in your foot.
That is because some pro nuclear industry jokers simply don’t see the end and will go on pressing their own agenda. They are ably assisted by the Government of India and Defence Establishment to set up more nuclear plants – all for their own benefits. Yet their biggest fear is PUBLIC OPINION which Narayansamy et al let it be known publicly.
The Establishment may call it “ignorance”, but we call it “Empowerment”