August 22, 2012
The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) &
Private Equity & Venture Capital Association of India (PEVCAI)
ASSOCHAM Corporate Office
5, Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi- 110021
Ph: 011- 46550555
Dear Mr. Sharma,
I am sending this letter to register my protest against the way Assocham is organising its International Conference on Nuclear Energy on August 23rd 2013, and to say why I won’t participate in the panel discussion.
I had initially accepted the invitation with the hope that this platform might bring into debate something inherently flawed in the path the government and the corporates have chosen for the country. But several recent developments as well as the programme you sent me have made me re-think my decision. In particular, after noticing the complete silence of the Government on the nuclear accident in Fukushima taking a turn for the worse, my earlier doubts are now confirmed that inviting me to this discussion as the only dissenter was only to create the pretence of a democratic debate.
If you have been following the news it is reported that on Japan, the danger level has been raised further after TEPCO’s admission that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean. In the beginning of this month, the Government of Japan took the clean-up work in its own hands after TEPCo proved inefficient and complacent.
But on August 7th, the Minister of State in the PMO Mr.V Narayanasmy, who is also the Chief Guest at your conference, shocked many of us with his callousness when he said in Rajya Sabha that the impact of radiation on the affected population around Fukushima is ‘practically insignificant’.
The Minister should have seen the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on Fukushima which underlines the unimaginable horror that the accident has unleashed on the people of Japan. Japan has failed to decontaminate the site and rehabilitate more than 2 lakh displaced people, who have lost all hope of returning. But then, the Minister has overlooked many things in his own backyard in Koodankulam where protestors have brought to light shoddy deals with the Russians, whose representatives are also at your conference.
Looking at the day’s programme you sent me, I can easily see the lop-sidedness of the so-called debate you are purporting to initiate. The first half of the programme is filled with people who have always touted a biased view- and also have vested interests- and refuse to acknowledge serious issues which are now debated even in the mainstream media. This makes it likely that this conference would just be an extension of that and the jaundiced vision of the government.
That Assocham has constituted a Nuclear Energy Group to study the sector is a welcome move but it requires much more openness towards understanding both sides of the debate. The NEG is chaired by a former head of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Boar. This itself is a conflict of interest. This conference could have been organised in a more democratic manner by involving representatives of people’s movements, independent experts, members of civil society and other stakeholders. As now planned, it appears set to perpetuate the farce that the Indian government inflicts on the people through various committees which don’t really listen to dissenting views.
I would be glad to provide you a detailed dossier on the overlooked facts about nuclear energy and its operation in India and the issues raised by the grassroots people’s movements opposing proposed reactors, fuel fabrication and mining projects. But more broadly, Assocham and Indian industry in general should ponder over recent developments in Niyamgiri in Odisha where the Adivasi people have unanimously thwarted an ecologically destructive mining project which was being pushed at the gun-point. This should occasion rethinking of India’s current model of business.
The industry must decide whether it wants to work in line with people’s aspirations and ensure sustainable profit by respecting people’s real and long-term concerns, or it wants to be part of India’s nuclear expansion plans which will put Indian people’s safety and livelihoods in jeopardy to please foreign nuclear corporations whose business is in constant global decline.
The industry should also take on board the people’s perspective on this issue. This is reflected in massive popular protests against unsafe nuclear projects in various places like Koodankulam, Jaitapur, Mithi Virdi, Chutka, Kovvada, Gorakhpur and Mahi Banswada.
Indian nuclear expansion is taking place in complete denial of the real and insurmountable risks inherent in nuclear technology, as revealed by Fukushima. Besides, democratic dissent and even official safety norms are being violated by the government’s anachronistic nuclear obsession.
Last week, the Department of Atomic energy demanded exemption from the Right to Information Act. Interestingly, it said that its ‘international commitments’ require strict confidentiality! The DAE has refused to share the Site Evaluation Report with the people of Koodankulam and dodged questions on the liability of its Russian suppliers in case of an accident. Supplier company Zio-Podolsk is facing criminal investigation in Russia and one of its directors has been jailed for supplying sub-standard equipments. But brazenly ignoring this crucial development, the Koodankulam reactor has been given the green light.
Besides the safety issues, the Government of India has completely overlooked the steady global decline of nuclear power which predates Fukushima but has significantly accelerated since. Worldwide, the nuclear industry reached its peak in 2006 with a total installed capacity of 2,660 TWh before dropping by 12% in 2012 to 2,346 TWh. In terms of its share in the overall electricity generation, nuclear power crossed its global peak in 1993 (17%). Its contribution in 2012 was a little more than 10%. Adverse economics of nuclear power is the main reason for its decline in the developed countries. The nuclear industry is pegging its hopes on countries like India and China which can subsidise both reactors and nuclear accidents from the public exchequer.
Not surprisingly, scores of eminent policy experts and independent scientists have come out in support of people’s agitations in various parts of India against proposed nuclear power projects. Last month, all the grassroots protest groups assembled in Ahmedabad in a National Convention and adopted the Indian People’s Charter on Nuclear Energy (copy attached). The charter raises some very important and urgent issues that India must not ignore.
The social activists and independent experts with whom I work, and I personally would be happy to cooperate with you and have a meaningful dialogue if Assocham takes the lead in questioning the eco-destructive and anti-poor model of industrialisation that prevails in the country.
With best regards,
P K Sundaram
Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP)