India’s operational nuclear reactors, those under construction and the proposed new plants, superimposed on a map of earthquake zone/Graphic IBN Source: dianuke. org
One of the under-reported stories in the Western media is the anti-nuclear protests in India which threaten to derail the country’s ambitious nuclear expansion plans. Even before Fukushima, there was deep concern about the possibility of a nuclear Bhopal. That chemical disaster was the biggest industrial accident in the world, whose effects are still being felt. A nuclear accident would be far worse in a country that has a poor industrial safety record.
Dow Chemical has consistently refused to accept financial responsibility for cleaning up the Bhopal factory site. Despite this still contentious issue, the Indian government passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act in 2010 which capped the economic cost to nuclear plant operators in case of an accident and absolved them of liability. Potential nuclear equipment suppliers think this Act is still too stringent; opponents feel it should be strengthened.
(Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)
Here is a good summary of the background story by Janjit Devraj of InsideClimate News
‘When India's central government passed the long-delayed Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement in 2008 and implemented plans to add 40 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020—10 times its current capacity—it certainly didn't foresee what would happen next. A rare grassroots uprising led by farmers and fisherman took shape in three major states to block atomic megaprojects that locals say would threaten their traditional livelihoods.
Nor did national leaders expect India's intelligentsia—led by retired judges, military leaders, scientists, bureaucrats and academics—to get behind the farmers and fishers and build up such a wall of resistance that some fear it could scuttle billion-dollar deals to import reactors and quash several nuclear projects.
But that's what has happened. Their grievances have now made their way to India's Supreme Court, which is considering a petition to put a stay on nuclear construction until safety reviews of existing plants and those planned along the peninsular coastline are completed.
If the court sides with petitioners it could drive away crucial foreign investment in the rapidly growing nuclear program, local experts say.
Currently, the country has 19 nuclear reactors producing about 4,000 megawatts, only about 3 percent of the country's electricity needs. India, which has refused to sign the 189-nation Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, found itself subject to decades of isolation in the international nuclear trade following its 1974 nuclear weapons test. The Indo-U.S. deal reversed a 34-year-old U.S. ban on supplying nuclear fuel and technology to India.
For American reactor builders like GE and Westinghouse, and foreign investors generally, the pact opened a market for nuclear equipment estimated at $175 billion. For India, the third-largest economy in Asia, it meant the promise of a vast new electricity supply needed for economic growth.
But both sides' expansive ambitions are running up against Indian political realities.’
HARJIPUR: The Chief Minister of West Bengal told the central government in August that the state is scrapping plans to allow this Russian-built 6,000 MGW facility to go ahead in the face of mounting resistance.
Hunger strike protest/dianuke.org
Several hundreds of people led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and belonging to the coastal villages around the KKNPP are staging a relay fast, demanding the project’s closure. It began on October 13th and is ongoing.
KOODANKULAM: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadhu is urging the central government to put plans on hold for adding six new reactors to the existing plant – two reactors constructed but not yet operational – until local concerns are addressed. If it goes ahead, this facility will be double the size of the Fukushima complex. The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy have been campaigning against the plant since it was initiated in 1988. A total blockade of the plant by local people has been in operation since October 13th
More stories here on IBN Live.
Commissioning of India Kudankulam nuclear plant delayed/BBC News Asia/10th Nov 2011
Citizens protest the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project/ Credit: Greenpeace
JAITAPUR: Opposition is growing against the 9,900-megawatt Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in the state of Maharashtra on the western coast, to be built by French power developer Areva SA. The plant will cost upwards of $12 billion.
Source: Nuclear Power Daily
Local villagers have been opposing the plant for three years. Clashes between protesters and police in April killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site. Protestors are planning a relay hunger fast in mid- November.
Daunting Road ahead for Nuclear Power by M. Somasekhar. The Hindu Business Line