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Home > Environment, Health and Social Justice > Nuclear Power: An Open Letter to India’s Left Parties

Nuclear Power: An Open Letter to India’s Left Parties

by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, 4 October 2008

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People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
- 42/27 Esankai Mani Veethy
- Parakkai Road Junction
- Nagercoil 629 002
- Tamil Nadu

October 2, 2008

To

The National Executive Members
- Communist Party of India
- Ajoy Bhavan
- 15, Kotla Marg
- New Delhi 110 002

The Central Committee Members
- Communist Party of India (Marxist)
- A.K.. Gopalan Bhawan
- 27-29, Bhai Vir Singh Marg
- New Delhi 110 001

The Central Committee Members
- All India Forward Bloc
- 28, Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road
- New Delhi 110 001

The Central Committee Members
- Revolutionary Socialist Party
- 17, Firoz Shah Road
- New Delhi 110 001

The Central Committee Members
- Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation
- U-90, Shakarpur
- Delhi 110 092

Dear Comrades:

We, the members of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, would like to congratulate the Leftist parties and leaders in India on your principled opposition to American imperialism that seeks to dominate our national life. We would also like to thank you for problematizing the India-US nuclear deal and popularizing the issue across the country among all sections of our society. The Leftist parties and leaders are the only hope of India to create awareness on people-friendly development paradigm; alternative energy generation; elimination of war and weapons of mass destruction; and transparency, accountability and popular participation in our national affairs.

It is our humble submission that only the Leftist parties and leaders can shift the course of our national economy, politics and history in India and pave a new way for our collective salvation and freedom. After all, human society is based on “production of products” and “production of life.” Humans act on Nature with the help of instruments to get products. Such a production of products must be based on needs; but now it is all done with greed damaging the Nature irreparably. Should humanity continue on the Earth, Nature should be protected! For the “production of life,” Nature should be pristine so that future generations could thrive on our planet.

However, the contemporary world operates with a wrong understanding of “development” that has its focus on indiscriminate industrialization, liberalization, privatization, globalization, monetization [and Americanization] with complete disregard for Nature, future, the interests of the labor, the safety and well-being of unborn generations, and other such externalities.

India’s ruling class says that if India has to achieve and sustain the desired growth level of 9-10 percent, the country has to have energy security, or as some nationalist leaders put it, energy independence. In India, electricity has always been considered to be a development input but now it has come to be regarded as a tradable commodity. Of the 593,732 villages in India (1991 census) 474,982 have been electrified with the remarkable 80 percent electrification. But if we look at the electrification of rural households, we see a different picture. There are some 138.3 million rural households (2001 census) in India but only 60.2 million of them have access to electricity and the electrification percentage is only 44 percent. So it is not that electricity is not available in their villages for these rural households but they simply cannot afford it. It is poverty that prevents them from accessing electricity.

Although India has more or less sufficient quantity of electricity today, a considerable portion of our electricity is said to be wasted because of technical and commercial factors. Some 40% of electricity is lost in transmission because of energy dissipation in conductors and equipment used for Transmission and Distribution (T&D). Pilferage, defective meters, error in meter reading, error in estimating unmetered supply are other reasons for this huge wastage of electricity. So the challenges India faces today include reducing and eliminating T&D loss, improving the quality of supply and delivery systems, providing electricity for all at affordable price, and improving the economic lot of all the people across the country.

Ignoring all these socioeconomic-political intricacies and complexities, India’s ruling class seeks a scientific-technical solution for the energy issue and keeps chanting the nuclear mantra. They completely overlook the facts that there have been no new nuclear power stations built in the United States for the past 35 years and in Russia for almost 22 years, and that many European countries are phasing out their nuclear power program. There is hardly any debate about the enormous amount of dangerous nuclear waste we will accumulate from the nuclear power plants, the need to safeguard this “hazmat treasure” for 48,000 years, huge amounts of heavy metals discharged by light and heavy water reactors, radiation blues, shoving around fissile material, nuclear weapons proliferation, and Armageddon on the Earth.

In fact, American, Russian and French capitalists try to dump their nuclear technology on India for their own survival and profit. Global capitalism turns any calamity to its advantage, and it puts forward nuclear power as the answer for climate change. If we look closely, mining and processing of uranium, building nuclear power stations with so much cement and steel, the long construction process, the decommissioning of the plants, and handling the radioactive waste - all cause considerable climate-changing pollution.

Just as nuclear power is not an answer for climate change, it is not a panacea for our energy needs. As the People’s Democracy and many of the Leftist leaders have pointed out, the contribution of nuclear power to the national grid has been so small and will continue to be so even after the India-US nuclear deal comes into effect. Nuclear power is also more expensive than any other mode of electricity generation.

Global capitalism promotes nuclear power as the single solution for all the world’s energy woes and its economic development. In India, so much money has already been wasted on nuclear power projects that are expensive, inefficient and troublesome. Since the current cash crunch is mainly due to nuclear power being very expensive and capital intensive, Indian nuclear establishment has expressed interest in inviting private investments and amending nuclear laws to facilitate privatization. What all this means is that while private companies make money with no responsibilities whatsoever, Indian taxpayers and the “ordinary citizens” will bear the cost of dealing with all the liabilities such as nuclear waste, possible accidents, public health issues and other dangerous consequences.

The international and Indian capitalists will thrive at the cost of India’s poor. National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector reveals that 320 million Indian workers live on less than 20 rupees a day. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has recorded 1,66,304 farmers’ suicides in a decade since 1997. There were 17,060 farmers’ suicides in 2006 alone across India. All these mean that there has been one farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes since 2002 (The Hindu, January 31, 2008). When our people lack basic food security, water security, sanitation security, job security, and human security, energy security is bandied about to promote the interests of the rich and powerful.

Nobody except the Leftists dares to challenge any nuclear activity in the country. In fact, the present pro-military-industrial-academic-complex-thinking considers uranium mining, nuclear power plants, nuclear weaponization, nuclear deals with Americans, Russians and the French, and strategic partnerships with them as integral parts of being a patriotic Indian. Nuclearism has been part and parcel of the Northern capitalist development paradigm and the UPA government is underscoring this aspect to gain an upper hand in the national political game. An unequivocal problematization of this mainstream understanding of “development” has become the need of the hour.

A highly populated country like India does have an increasing need for energy. But that energy has to be economical, sustainable and environment-friendly for the same reason of having over- and dense- population. The country needs to spend less on energy because there are other pressing needs such as health, education, housing, transportation and so forth. India cannot afford the “use and discord” strategy as in nuclear power projects for obvious reasons of limited land availability, reliance on the sea and sea food, future generation’s interests and so forth. Its energy projects have to be environmentally-friendly because even a small incident can harm, hurt or kill a huge number of people.

Nuclear power is beset with threats and dangers that can encompass the most improbable meteorite fall to the commonplace terrorist attack. For instance, The Hindu newspaper (September 6, 2006) reported that a meteorite fell at Kanvarpura village near Rawatbhata, where Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant is situated, on August 29, 2006. The [Geological Survey of India Deputy Director-General (western region) R. S. Goyal] said the meteorite could have caused devastation on an ’unimaginable scale’ if it had fallen on the Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant. Presiding over a crucial day-long meeting of the Chief Ministers on Internal Security, the Indian Prime Minister said terrorist outfits planned possible terrorist attacks on vital installations including nuclear establishments (The Hindu, September 6, 2006). In fact, two armed men were reportedly seen moving in the inner fencing area around the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in Gujarat (The Hindu, August 23, 2006). The plant was declared safe later without much elaboration.

Most importantly, nuclearism is a global political ideology that cannot stomach any transparency, accountability or popular participation. It snubs dissent, denounces opponents and creates a political climate of fear and retribution. With the India-US nuclear deal, and the deals with Russia and France and the private participation in nuclear energy generation, the situation is going to get out of hand. The combination of profiteering companies, secretive state apparatus and repressive nuclear department will be ruthless and this nexus of capitalism, statism, nuclearism and communalism does not augur well for the country. These forces gaining an upper hand in our national polity will mean a death knell for the country’s democracy, openness, futures and sustainable development..

When the beginning of the 21st century provides India a historic opportunity to be a world-leader by building on our traditional strengths such as sustainable development and appropriate technology, our elites are forcing us to be American stooges with war-based values and wasteful lifestyle.

The way out of this capitalistic and imperialistic quandary is to be progressive and being progressive does not necessarily mean going back to the days of pastoral simplicity. We need to strive for Green alternatives for our modern needs. The Leftists with Green values would be a boon for the country at this hour of crisis.

We would like to present you with a concrete example. We are sure you have heard about the Koodankulam nuclear power plant that is being constructed in the Koodankulam village on the Gulf of Mannar in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. The Government of India is constructing two 1000 MW light water VVER nuclear power plants with Russian technology and loans. They have not released any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, or the safety analysis report or the site evaluation study for the first two plants they are constructing. Nor have they conducted any public hearing to hear what the people of southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala have to say about the construction of these two nuclear power plants. We in southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala are very concerned about this undemocratic and anti-people multimillion dollar project that is thrust down our throats in the name of “development” and “energy security.”

Neither the Government of India nor the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has shared any information about the Koodankulam plants or anything about the overall nuclear energy plans with any kind of transparency, democratic spirit or civic responsibility. They spread rumors and gossips about their plans and intentions and when these “unconfirmed reports” circulate among the public for sometime and gain some negative acceptance, they confirm the hearsays. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has decided to increase the number of reactors at Koodankulam to eight (The Hindu, September 25, 2006). The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) also has proposed to establish nuclear power plants in or near Koodankulam with the generating capacity of 2000 MW power (The Hindu, September 6, 2006). So, as a recent newspaper report confirms (The Hindu, September 11, 2008) Koodankulam will be the largest mega nuclear complex with almost 10,000 MW generation capacity.

Some of the RTI enquiries to the district collectors of a few southern Tamil Nadu and southern Kerala districts reveal how woefully inadequate they are about the nuclear safety arrangements and emergency preparedness. The India-Russia agreement on Koodankulam stipulated first that Russia would take the nuclear waste but now it has been decided that the waste will remain in India. There is hardly any discussion or consciousness among the political or bureaucratic circles about the nuclear waste issues, decommissioning questions, radiation hazards, future impact on our seas, fish and so forth. Nuclear waste management is going to be a major headache for our people. That is why D. D. Kosambi branded nuclear power as a “menace that even the unborn generations have to deal with.” He further said, “only opportunists and third rate scientists spend their time and energies on nuclear power.”

Our people in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are taking a clear and bold stand that these nuclear power plants are not in the best interests of us and these projects should be stopped for ever. The Koodankulam mega nuclear complex will have disastrous consequences for all of us, the Tamils, the Malayalees, and even the Sinhalese and the Maldivians in the neighboring countries.

Friends in Kerala have had such a fine record of fighting for the Silent Valley, against the soft-drink companies’ stealing their water resources etc. They took such a courageous stand in not having any nuclear power plants in Kerala because of the over and dense-population in the state. But the Government of India has pushed the plant just a little outside their state boundary and set up the plant right across their front door.

When 10 nuclear power plants release the coolant effluents into the sea on daily basis for the next four to five decades, one can think of the impact and repercussions that will have on all our air, our land, our water, our sea, our fish, our cattle, our children, our fathers and mothers, our health, and our future. The vested interests are trying to set our common home on fire in the name of energy security and national security. How about our human security? Our food security? Our air security? The security of our children who speak and sing in Tamil, Malayalam, Sinhalese and Divehi? Their songs and dances and their dreamy futures?

This corner may be the "End of India" for the rest of India! But for us, this has been the beginning of India, the beginning of life, the beginning of everything! This place, this little corner of hills and high seas, rivers and forests, and ponds and paddy fields, is full of beginnings for us. This is where our life began, our history began, our culture began, our speech, our memories, our meanings, our dreams and desires – all began. But what will come off this beautiful place?

Almost all our political parties, politicians, bureaucrats, religious leaders, and many NGOs have turned a blind eye to the nuclear issue. When people ask some uncomfortable questions about the nuclear project, we are often branded as unpatriotic, anti-national, and even CIA agents. It is quite ironic that the Indian elites call the people who oppose the nuclear program CIA agents when they themselves are selling the country to the Americans.

Only the Leftists can and may tell us that we, the working class of India and the neighboring countries, are all human beings, that we all have a common home, the south of South Asia, that the sea is part and parcel of our home, and that fish is the most important food for us all. In short, the people of the south of South Asia share the same destiny of nuclear agony and only the Leftists can see this at the larger international picture and offer us a way out. Some Leftists tend to think that it is only the United States we should oppose and not nuclear energy per se or nuclear cooperation with Russia or France.. Russia, like America, is also a capitalistic country and is interested in selling their nuclear technology to India in order to make some quick bucks.

It is high time the Left all over India took an unambiguous stand against expensive, inefficient, dangerous waste-producing, weapons-proliferating, Nature-harming, future-hurting, children-killing, colonizing and enslaving nuclear energy without riders and exceptions and ifs and buts! Nuclearism is no more an energy issue or a scientific matter but a life-threatening political issue. The Left parties and leaders can and must make a difference in the nuclear issue just as you have done in the ongoing global financial crisis. Hoping that you would take this appeal seriously and lead us to better futures, we send you our best personal regards and all peaceful wishes.

Cordially,

S. P. Udayakumar, George Gomez, C. Boaz
- Coordinators
- People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
- Ph: 04652-240657; 9865683735