India’s Policy on Nuclear Waste Hypocritical: Letter to PM Modi

While mountains of nuclear waste just keep growing (ISA summit), PM Modi suggests turning to Vedas to combat climate change

Image Courtesy: Greenpeace

Power analyst and expert Shankar Sharma has seriously questioned the NDA II government’s policy on nuclear waste given the emphasis on opening 12 new nuclear reactors in the country
Here is the Text of the Letter:
The Prime Minister, Govt. of India, New Delhi
Dr  Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office, Govt. of India, New Delhi 
 Dear Dr Jitendra Singh,
Greetings from Mysore.

May I draw your kind attention to the news article, as below, on the serious issue of the safe storage of nuclear waste as being experienced  in many countries? 
Mountains of Nuclear Waste Just Keep Growing

I​n this context, there is an urgent need for the Union govt. to take the people of this country into confidence and provide clarification on some of the vexatious issues as below, before going ahead with the works on the additionally approved twelve nuclear reactors in the country.
1. Since none of the countries, including US, France and UK, which have been in the nuclear power business for longer periods than India, have not been able to find a suitable way of safe disposal of nuclear waste or to find a safe geological depository even after more than 70 years of efforts, what are the Indian plans in this regard?
2. Can our country afford to be concerned about safeguarding plutonium and other by-products in spent fuel that may take few thousand years to decay?
3. Few credible reports indicate that UK may be spending about £3bn (US$4.2bn) a year just to keep the spent nuclear wastes safe.  Can India afford to spend even half of this amount every year for decades, if not for centuries?
4. Can India afford even to think of the horrendous costs of an unfortunate nuclear accident, which in the case of Fukushima is reported to have already crossed few hundred Billion Dollars? 
5. And why should India take all these costs and risks, since the nuclear power capacity can never be more than 2 or 3% of the total electricity capacity, if we also take into account the few hundred thousand MW of renewable energy capacity being planned by 2030?   
6. Since the potential for renewable energy capacity in the country, especially the solar power capacity, is projected to be more than the total energy needs of the country in future (even beyond 2100), why can it not be fully harnessed with the help of different energy storage technologies such as battery technology?
7. Why the genuine concerns of our country on the nuclear power policy have never been effectively addressed?
It is an irony that the proposed nuclear power project at Mithivirdi in Gujarath was junked recently due to strong and sustained local opposition. Does this not indicate that the nuclear power policy in the country has not enjoyed the public support, and that local opposition in the other proposed locations will cancel the proposed projects?  If the authorities have failed to convince the people of  Mithivirdi, why should they even consider other locations for additional nuclear reactors?
N-power project junked due to Fukushima disaster: Gujarat CM
In a democratic society it is also imperative for the governments to be sensitive to the concerns of its people, as per the much touted slogan of the present government ‘sub ka saath, sub ka vikaas‘.  With the assumption that the present govt. really believes in this slogan, I forward below a recent article published in a Bangladesh news paper on how nuclear power policy is a serious concern for not only to India but also to Bangladesh.  
Toxic tango in Rooppur needs rethinking

When the PM invokes Vedas to make tall claims about India’s values in balancing the human greed with the nature’s limits, and also when he clearly states that solar energy has the potential to meet India’s energy needs on a sustainable basis, any person should feel elated that the govt. is embarking on a highly sustainable path.  But the harsh reality is that the present NDA led govt. has never in its 4 years rule given the indication that the role of conventional technology power projects will decrease in favour of the renewable energy sources.
The recent approval for twelve additional nuclear reactors against all sane advises, and the large number of coal based and dam based hydel power projects, which are being planned/ implemented, gives away the dichotomy in the present government’s thinking.   Whereas, diligent planning and adequate policy initiatives can make the renewable energy as the primary and sustainable source of electricity within a decade, the ghastly and conscious mistake to invest massively in the nuclear, and other conventional technology projects, without any satisfactory explanation to its people, will lock our communities into unimaginably high costs and pollution impacts for decades and even centuries.  Under no stretch of imagination such a wantonly ill-conceived policy can be viewed by the civil society as in its interest. 
​The massive ​amounts of public money and natural resources, which the govt. has already committed and continuing to commit into these nuclear reactors and other conventional technology electricity sources, if wisely invested in the renewable energy technologies, energy storage technologies and the associated infrastructure (such as strengthening the electricity networks, micro/smart grids, regulatory mechanisms, skill development, R&D etc.), the country can be assured of a sustainable and green energy future, which has also become critically urgent in the context of Climate Change.   
If the PM’s invoking Vedic wisdom in balancing the human greed with the nature’s limit is not be viewed as just a glib talk or an empty rhetoric by the national and international audience, various ministries and authorities should put honest efforts in charting out such sustainable pathways for the country; but not with the business as usual scenario of benefiting few companies through conventional technology power projects such as nuclear reactors.

ISA summit: PM Modi suggests turning to Vedas to combat climate change

​​It is a matter of great concern that despite massive oppositions across the length and breadth of the country, a large number of conventional technology power projects, such as nuclear power projects, are being imposed on our communities as a continuing policy of benefiting few corporate houses and vested interests. No govt. which claims to have the people’s mandate should ignore very many credible reports/analysis/studies from within and outside the countries on the techno-economically much better options to meet our energy needs on a sustainable basis.
The social, economic, environmental and intergenerational issues so intricately associated with the conventional technology power projects will take our country on a steep slope of ecological and social disasters.  It will be a serious letdown of its people for the present NDA led govt. to continue to ignore such genuine concerns of its people.
Hence, I request that the govt., through your office, should make its intentions clear: whether its tall claims in public on such related issues are just for the consumption of the international audience, or whether there is the absence of any clarity in the minds of its bureaucrats and ministers?.

Can the civil society groups in the country expect adequate clarifications urgently in this regard before the country’s natural resources are committed to such ghastly and risky projects?
Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst, Mysore

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” – Thomas Edison in conversation with Henry Ford, 1931
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”



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