July, Japan and Jaitapur

Question in my mind is whether I should express regret over what happened at Fukushima in Japan or display disgust at how our two main national parties have been exposed as indulging in just about everything during July 2008 but debate this game-changer of a nuclear deal offered by Uncle Sam or may I protest the brazenly irresponsible manner in which we are marching towards another disaster (not just in nuclear terms) under the aegis of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district? Even as I ponder my pick, it dawns to me that it will be all three at once, unfortunately.

I feel scared about Fukushima because the killer came from the unexpected quarter. As programmed, the reactors, which were operating at the time of the earthquake-induced tsunami, observed a shutdown. What made Fukushima the most dreaded place to be in today are the failed back-up diesel generator sets which were tasked with ensuring power supply to perform the cooling operation.

While going through one of the media briefs handed out by the Nuclear Power Corp (NPCIL), I saw a FAQ which spoke about emergency measures to cool the reactor in case of a complete power failure and the answer was the same: set of battery sets backed up  by diesel generators!

The Politics

Our Prime Minister has been rather candid about most things. From ‘compulsion of coalition politics’, that phrase which reverberated innumerably on the day of his press conference with television news editors, to his being ‘simply not aware of PJ Thomas’ credentials’ (actually the lack of it) despite the Opposition Leader going to the extent of dissenting IN HIS PRESENCE. So when he wishes to curtail the Wikibomb aftermath by offering that ‘he had not authorised anybody’ to collect votes by exchanging notes for the passing of the nuclear deal in the Lok Sabha, we must understand and let the man be.

Naturally, this debate will no longer rock the house and there won’t be a re-probe despite emergence of fresh evidence, because the main opposition party too has been caught naked in the act. The BJP’s farcical opposition to nuclear deal once again highlights the deep fissures within our polity. It is dangerous because it exposes (in this case, even to our enemies) that no matter how grave the issue may be, India’s highest legislative body can never build a consensus in national interest. Unless of course it is about the salaries of our esteemed Parliamentarians!

Enter the American

Given the manner in which the custodians of our nation actually handled the Indo-US nuclear deal, it is making me nervous about all the apprehensions which were raised about it by voices from all quarters.

Wikibomb has also allowed us a peek into the level to which we wish to achieve ‘convergence’ with the American establishment. From blindly signing strategic deals to vetting our cabinet appointments, the Americans have indeed proved that their reach exists even where one hoped it wouldn’t.

Interestingly, despite this apparent sellout at the highest levels, India’s continuing opposition to signing comparatively minor agreements with the Americans like Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) & Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) arouses curiosity.

Jeopardy in Jaitapur

Coming to the final leg of this outburst, the very thought of a 10,000MW power plant in a power-starved region is enough make you become an ardent supporter of it (imagine the complete obliteration of the dreadful phrase ‘load shedding’!) So anybody’s desire to see the same materialise is very natural. But when the 10,000MW plant is a nuclear power plant of the kind, size and scale never handled by the country before, it calls for a little caution.

Personally, I am for it. But what has made it difficult for me to retain my position is the haphazard implementation of the same till date.  

As I have had the privilege of reporting on Jaitapur project for my channel, subsequent posts will inform on how government agencies have done a pathetic job of investigating the environmental impact of this plant. Data, maps, research, the very pillars of an in-depth study are adulterated. Add to that, governmental arrogance and intimidation and the unneccessary hurry in which land was acquired (an emergency clause was invoked in this case) and you have Jaitapur of the present day!

One is not discounting manipulative politics and motivated protests which need to be weeded out and exposed by a determined government. But if an agency’s project is likely to bring about the amount of good that NPCIL believes the JNPP will, then whose job is it to convince the ‘beneficiaries’ about it? And who needs to rethink and relook if the convincing is inadequate? Answer is obvious but actions are not. More on Jaitapur for later.     

One man’s tragedy is another man’s opportunity. And it is precisely that which the Fukushima crisis has given to India. A chance, a window to reset, relook and proceed.

I hope in the years to come, history will never have to use the tittle of this post to describe India’s tryst with nuclear power.


6 thoughts on “July, Japan and Jaitapur”

  1. Yes,recent happenings in Japan is a wake up call for entire humanity!
    Do we allow Nuclear Power merchants to sell it at the cost of Environmental & consequent human degradation under the cover of cheap power? NO.We must revisit & develop Energy from natural sources in harmony with environment.Our pet plans to on Nuclear energy including Jaitpur, needs to be re- evaluated with out OVER REACH of Uncle Sam and our PM’s personal interest/stake(leaving out “cash for vote”)

  2. Dear Jugal,

    Thanks for putting it all so succinctly, with exceptional candour and honesty! I couldn’t have said it better myself.


  3. Its believed the disaster at Fukushima took place coz the plant is a cheaper design offered by GE. Now just imagine the mess that takes place in India when the govt. is offering contracts for construction/maintenance. We can safely assume the plant wont be safe.

  4. I don’t intend on being sarcastic or simplistic, but while it’s a human trait to mourn over death and tragedy; it’s indisputable that catastrophes will occur and people will lose their lives. But people will go on reproducing and for those new born, there will be more buildings, roads, electricity, water and the works While alive, these facilities can be considered undeniable. More electricity/energy will demand nuclear plants, more buildings will demand the destruction of buffer zones. Nature will retaliate occasionally, and rightfully so. But we take it as a price for living with everything that we desire. Since we have mandated against frugality, we must be willing the repercussions.
    This is not to imply advocacy of the unsafe or the unregulated, but the necessity of our needs and their means. What happens to those who would rather live frugally- in a democratic world, we allow majority to dictate. Besides, frugal or not, they too reproduce.
    How much one lives, how far can one go, is not in our hands to decide. Death needn’t be as dark as it’s made out to be. It’s mournful but necessary.

  5. In recent years China has challenged nature in many ways like constuction of roads up to Mt.Everest,longest link road in sea ……. America has thrust many nations in war,may be this tsunami and all these..a result of sheer frustration of nature.. This is high time to contemplate about Neuclear Weapons.Japan’s case may be an alarm to neuclear disaster.

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