Written By NAFSO on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 | 8:04:00 AM
By Niranjala Ariyawansha
The generation of electricity from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in the Thirunelveli District, build despite protests from thousands of Tamil Nadu citizens, is to begin soon and according to Minister V. Narayan Samy, the ‘final touches’ to the project are being done to begin the power generation in early December. While an Indian court has declared that steps would be taken to shut down the plant if proper international standards are not maintained, at a court in Madras, there are several cases are being heard against the nuclear power plant. Almost all environmental organizations in Sri Lanka are also protesting against this nuclear power plant. Meanwhile, Indian authorities are making hasty preparations to begin the generation of power. What really are these protestors – both in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu – trying to convey with their repeated protests? What is the objective of these protests? Rev. Rayappu Joseph, Archbishop of Mannar, expresses his views on the protests…
“It’s only a very short distance from this nuclear plant to the north east areas of Sri Lanka. About 225 kilometers. In the event there is an accident or a blast in the plant, it is possible that we in Sri Lanka could be affected by the spreading nuclear pollution. We already are aware of the disaster a nuclear accident could cause. It will affect the human life, environment, fishing industry, etc. In such an event, it could affect the humankind for several generations,” said the Bishop. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant has a capacity of One Gig watt and in 2008, a memorandum of understanding was signed between India and Russia to add four more reactors. When put into operation, this power plant would be the most powerful nuclear power plant in the region. Meanwhile, there are several serious allegations against this power plant. Allegations: There is the possibility of letting the cooling liquids and other pollutants into the sea resulting in serious harm caused to the ocean environment system, bio diversity of the sea, fishing industry, etc. With the harmful pollutants being released into the sea, in addition to sea pollution, these nuclear radiations could get deposited in the plant and animal species. The pollutants could affect ground water making it poisonous and also could destroy plant life. The harmful effects on plant life are the harm caused to sustenance of plant life due to the distortion of its genes, reproduction processes, etc. Human life will be threatened with the affect on thyroid glands. The radiation will cause various forms of cancers. Jagath Gunawardena, Environmental Scientist and Attorney at Law describes the harm, nuclear accidents will cause to the environment: “The radiation could enter Sri Lanka in some unimaginable ways too. This nuclear power plant is located in the path the migratory birds take when coming in this direction from the north. Billions of birds use this path to fly into Sri Lanka . These birds land in the north east areas. As such the threat is mostly to those areas. “During the 2010 bird migratory season, the number of ducks alone amounted to more than 1.32 billion. Even if these birds bring only a fraction of radiation, it could cause severe harm. Also as the nuclear power plant is located on the path of the Monsoon that too could bring in radiation. According to Duminda Nagamuwa of the Peratugami Socialist Party, the technical equipment supplied by Russia for the nuclear power plant is old. “After the 2005 tsunami disaster affecting Asia, a new continental plate is forming close to India. In such an environment, if another tsunami occurs causing an explosion in the nuclear plant, the disaster will be unimaginable. The area in which the nuclear plant is located was also affected in the tsunami. As such the possibility of a nuclear disaster is very high. In addition to the usual direct exposure to nuclear radiation, the ash and dust exposed to radiation are released into the atmosphere and later comes down and are deposited on the land. This will very badly affect the whole environmental system.” A nuclear accident will cause damage to coral reefs around Sri Lanka. It will also affect the agricultural land resulting in the agricultural land being laid waste for several years. This will directly affect our food production,” says Duminda Nagamuwa. The world has experienced very unpleasant experiences due to disasters at nuclear power plant at Walk River in Canada; Chernobyl power plant in Russia and Fukushima power plant in Japan due to human and equipment errors. According to Nagamuwa, no guarantee could be given on how safe the nuclear power plants are. In addition, the affects of the disaster could extend to areas miles away. After the Fukushima disaster on March 12, 2011, small particles of pollutants were spread all across the globe and the pollutants had been deposited vegetables, tea, milk meat, fish, etc. produced in areas more than 200 kilometers away. Meanwhile, Attorney at Law Jagath Gunawardena is of the view that India is maintaining a haughty attitude with regard to the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant. “There are three agreements for nuclear energy in the world. Sri Lanka and India have also signed those agreements. Clause 14 of the International Agreement on Nuclear Security clearly states that security should be assessed. As such, India should document all the needed requirements and send them to relevant international agencies. So far, India has refused to comply with all those requirements. India simply cannot stay doing nothing. India is bound by those treaties to provide us with information needed to ensure our safety.
No Guarantees: Champika “There are nuclear power plants in many countries. One country cannot object to a nuclear power plant constructed in another country. For example, if we construct a nuclear power plant, India cannot object to it. However, such projects should be done in accordance with the guidelines and supervision of the International Nuclear Energy Authority. This is not the first nuclear power plant India is building. They built the first in 1969 and by now they have 9 such plants. As such, I could state that they are building the Kundankulam plant in accordance with the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Authority. We simply cannot object to this project. However, if there could be a threat of a disaster, we already have taken all measures. In May 2011, we presented our proposals to India for a memorandum of understanding. However, they have still not signed it. We have set up equipment to assess the damage in the event an accident occurs. In addition, we are discussing with the Disaster Management Ministry on the measures to be taken during such a disaster. However, one key factor should be stressed. That is no one can ever guarantee that there will not be any radiation leakage from a nuclear power plant.” Champika Ranawaka Minister of Power and Energy