MAC: Mines and Communities

Nuclear power project in India is "anti-people"

Published by MAC on 2004-04-15

The radical Indian weekly, Frontline, has over many years adopted uncompromising positions in support of Indigenous and community rights, and against destructive mining. Imagine the surprise of many, therefore, to discover that its latest issue (April 23) includes a chunky illustrated supplement wholly in favour of nuclear (ie "uranium") power.

The costal area of Tamil Nadu targeted for a new nuclear station is already blighted by Vedanata/Sterlite's copper smelting (see Vedanta - the panto! A London Calling special), unchecked coral blasting (for the cement industry), ruthless exploitation by the "sand mafia" and the exploitation of mineral sands. Just to the north of Tamil Nadu lies the state of Andhra Pradesh where government plans to open a new uranium mine have temproarily been put on hold, following widespread opposition.

Posted below is a protest letter sent to Frontline's editor last week by S.P. Udayakumar, a prominent peace and anti-nuclear campaigner who has vigorously tried to highlight the dangers posed by the upcoming Koodankulam Nuclear Power project.

Also it's not only India which is racing to build more and more nuclear power plants with lucrative contracts for multinational companies, as a recent survey, reproduced here, in India's Business Standard" points out".

An anti-people project

Letter to Frontline (replying to article on 23rd April 2004)

Dear Sir:

I write with reference to your special feature on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in the April 23, 2004 issue of Frontline. I, for one, am quite astonished that the approximately 25-page-long report does not have even one line about the opposition to the plant and the serious questions that the local people have about this project.

The local people and anti-nuclear activists in Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts of Tamil Nadu have been demanding the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Government of India to respect our Right to Information and to release the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the Site Evaluation Study, and the Safety Analysis Report that are claimed to have been done for the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project back in 1988. Even though these studies are now outdated and many changes have been brought about in the project, the public has a right to know what the government and the Indian nukedom really argue. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has been sidestepped by the DAE in getting proper permission for setting up the Koodankulam project. The mandatory Public Hearing has never been conducted to this day.

Some of us in southern Tamil Nadu have been trying to assert our right to know the impacts of this anti-people project on us and our childrenís health, safety and environment. Although the original plan is to have two 1000 MW reactors, the DAE authorities keep adding the number of reactors in Koodankulam as if they were running a state within the Indian state. Government officials and elected public representatives are being kept in the dark by the DAE about their actual plans in Koodankulam. Keeping the civil and political societies in the dark, the DAE is acting with no transparency and accountability whatsoever.

The recent Supreme Court judgment that information relating to nuclear installations in India could not be made public in the national interest has been quite a blow to our struggle. This only shows that the authorities are in reality not willing to distinguish between the so-called peaceful use of nuclear energy and military purposes. This outrageous Supreme Court decision has only reinforced the anti-people and anti-democratic tendencies of the DAE.

Surprisingly and quite sadly, this gross democratic deficit of the Koodankulam nuclear power project does not seem worth reporting for Frontline. It is also quite shocking that Frontline turns a blind eye to the facts that the southern tip of the peninsula is already reeling under high incidence of cancer, that Koodankulam area is seismically vulnerable and a hazard in times of the so-called war against terrorism, and that the local environment is so systematically damaged by sea sand mining (for bauxite, monosite, thorium etc.) and the consequent sea erosion.

The Koodankulam nuclear power plant coupled with the sand mining operations of the Indian Rare Earths Limited and other private parties on our shores is threatening our fisherfolk's lives and livelihood. Our agricultural land, our water resources, our air, and our food chain are all going to be contaminated by the additional burden of radiation that will emerge from the Koodankulam nuclear power plants. It is important that "journalists" like T. S. Subramanian see all sides of an issue and not simply forward the offcial press releases to his editor from the luxurious lap of their rich and powerful hosts.

We, the local people and anti-nuclear activists in Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts of Tamil Nadu, demand that the DAE and the Government of India respect the Right to Life and Livelihood of the farmers, fisherfolk and others of southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala and cancel the Koodankulam project forthwith.


Dr. S.P. Udayakumar

Contact: SOUTH ASIANS AGAINST NUKES (SAAN): An informal information platform for activists and scholars concerned about Nuclearisation in South Asia.

SAAN Web site URL:

Asia's upcoming nuclear power plants spark fierce competition among global equipment makers

Business Standard (India)

12th April 2004

Asian nuclear market up for grabs

From India to China, energy- deficient Asia is spending billions of dollars to build nuclear power plants, sparking fierce competition among global equipment makers for the bonanza.

The blossoming of nuclear power in Asia, where 18 of the world's 31 units under construction are located, is dubbed by some as a renaissance of the sector and has become a massive magnet for European, Canadian and Russian suppliers.

The lure is so strong that the United States may relax this year its curbs on the sensitive technology transfers to select Asian nations as China has other sources of nuclear expertise.

"Nuclear power will certainly continue to increase as a share of the region' s capacity and that's mainly driven by activities in China and India," said Charles Chang, Asia power and gas analyst at rating agency Fitch.

Nuclear fuel makes up 1.4- 3.7 percent of the power output in Asia's two most populous nations, below the 35-40 percent for Japan and South Korea and 78 percent for France.

Few projects have broken ground in the West in the past few years as environmental and health and security concerns have persisted since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. A growing number of aging nuclear plants in Europe are reaching expiry their dates and it has not been decided if they would be replaced.

To clinch the lucrative contracts in Asia, nuclear equipment suppliers have focused on their safety records as well as competitive investment and production costs, analysts said.

Suppliers also have to convince their own governments to let them export such sensitive technologies. The governments must also build good ties to win such deals, industry experts said.

The suppliers include Framatome ANP, a venture between France's Areva and Germany's Siemens, Electricite de France, and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, an unlisted global nuclear equipment maker, and Russia.

Framatome said on its Web site it "is ready to take part in the new development phase of the Chinese nuclear programme" and "is ready to issue the most suitable proposal to allow the Chinese Industry to become more and more self sufficient."

Washington bars firms such as Pittsburgh- based Westinghouse Electric Co, a unit of state-owned British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, and General Electric, from building reactors in China.

But industry sources said Washington was expected to ease its control on China in September.

"US firms are not allowed to provide a whole set of equipments to China, let alone signing contracts and providing loans to build the plants for us. But this September the restrictions is expected to be lifted," said Liu Changxin, deputy secretary general with Chinese nuclear Society in Beijing.

China is about to build four 1000- megawatt (one million kilowatt) plants costing $ 6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple nuclear capacity to 32,000MW between 2005 and 2020.

Beijing plans to tender the projects in 2005, said the World Nuclear Association (WNA)

Westinghouse would bid to supply its latest reactors, known as AP 1000, scheduled to get design approval in September, will be $1000-$ 1200 per kilowatt.

Framatome would also make a bid, said the WNA, which represents nuclear companies and organisations.

Gilbert Vaughn, a Westinghouse spokesman, said the use of " a series of AP 1000s in China" could support as many as 5000 skilled jobs over the course of construction.

" These jobs would help to load Westinghouse design-and-manufacturing facilities as well as those of US-based suppliers, including major architectural, design and construction organisations," Vaughn said in an email to Reuters.

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