Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nuclear projects and the demise of common sense

I really really hope the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam never starts functioning. I know its wishful thinking at this stage, what with crores of rupees already pumped into the project. I don’t know why the community was so dormant while the plant was being setup, why didn't anyone create a furore during the initial groundwork phase? I guess, like me no one really knew the real dangers lurking behind this massive nuclear power undertaking, until Fukushima brought it to our notice… even today, almost a year after that mind boggling tsunami catastrophe, the people in Fukushima live in constant dread and anxiety. Of course, there is no physical manifestation of that fear yet, but we all know it’s only a matter of time. As in the cases of Chernobyl and  Three MileIsland, it is an undisputed fact that exposure to radiation causes cancer and after reading Siddhartha Mukherjees’ award winning book The Emperor of All Maladies, the completely debilitating effects of cancer are revealed, bringing home the point that there is no cure yet. What more justification and validation do these people who commission, authorize, approve and install such deadly nuclear power plants require?

I understand many learned and scholarly people (not to mention the ones with vested interests) are at the forefront of this project, but did they pause to ask to what extent. I know the benefits and advantages are numerous, but are they worth generating power at the expense of human life? Is there any way to guarantee that this plant won’t face mishaps in the future? Unless he is God, I don’t think anyone on this planet can ascertain what is going to happen in the future. I mean look at the Japanese, wouldn’t they have considered and re considered every aspect before installing a nuclear power plant and wouldn’t safety be their utmost priority, considering that they were the first to be affected by a nuclear explosion the likes of which the world has never seen before. And still, when the massive tsunami of 2011 struck, their safety measures did not hold up. Do these people responsible for the Kudankulam reactor seriously think they can do better than the Japanese? I read an article recently about how life has changed in the regions surrounding Fukushima, people are scared to venture outside. Even drying clothes outside is not advisable, doors and windows remain perpetually shut. And mothers are advising their daughters to avoid having children after marriage, how disheartening is this. Imagine the quality of life there, all because of some radioactive material that had no right to be among humans in the first place. Is this the quality of life we have to look forward to, the constant fear of genetic abnormalities and slow cancerous deaths due to radiation? I’m sure the current situation of studying by candle lights, hanging out with neighbours, playing board games, forgetting the TV and the computer and picking up a book are far better prospectives than languishing on your deathbed without the time or the inclination to enjoy the uninterrupted power supply from the nuclear power plants that were setup in the first place to make life better. How can the authorities, the scientists and the others who favour nuclear projects not see the irony in this!

The major problem faced by such nuclear projects is the safe disposal of nuclear waste, and so far no such guaranteed waste disposal system exists. The half-life of nuclear waste is known to be tens of thousands of years and why would seemingly intellectual beings (so called higher authorities) want to generate nuclear waste that they know they have no way of disposing permanently? Why spoil life on earth and destroy our beautiful planet in the process? Sometime I wish a place like Azkaban really existed where people who go about destroying everything good in nature and humankind can be thrown together. They would be at home in that joyless place, feeding on the fears and festering greed of each other, after all they seem to have mastered that role. Meanwhile we the people who strenuously oppose any kind of nuclear projects can live a beautiful normal life picking out names for our children and grandchildren, who are going to inherit this world.