The incidents in Japan have shocked the world. Every time the television flashes images of destruction, I wonder how long and how much will this country have to suffer? The rise of Japan, since it was struck 66 years ago, is legend and we support the people of Japan as they rebuild their lives again.
The tragedy in Japan has suddenly thrown light on the quaint village of Jaitapur in Maharashtra. In the past few days, Jaitapur has travelled from being a small brief somewhere in the newspaper to a full page story. The change is because of its very close and scary resemblance to Fukushima in Japan. A nuclear plant, near the coast on an earthquake zone. The only difference being the quality of technology.
Jaitapur lies in an area susceptible to earthquakes. According to the authorities, it falls under seismic zone 3 category. In 20 years the village has seen 92 earthquakes, the most recent one took place two years ago. The authorities are downplaying this risk. They have even lowered the risk level from four to three.
For more than a year, the people of this village have been protesting against the government’s plan to build a nuclear reactor park here. They have been brutally suppressed, and arrested by the authorities for expressing their right to be safe. The government as usual, has been dismissive about these protests. They want to go ahead with their plans to make a nuclear park.
Location is not the only concern for the Jaitapur. The technology being used is also under cloud. The EPR reactors procured from the French nuclear corporation Areva, don’t have a good reputation. Independent nuclear assessment bodies in Europe have rejected their design. Areva itself has a bad track record of nuclear contamination. Also, there are reports which show that the Instrument Control System, or the system that will run the entire unit in the Jaitapur plant is defective.
Technological and location incompatibility can cause a lot of problems in Jaitapur. The lives of millions and the environment are at stake here. Japan has the most advanced technology in place and in spite of that they are struggling. By now we know our leaders well enough to imagine their response to a Japan like situation in India.
Like I said in the mail, India has a lot of lessons to learn from Japan. All the nuclear plants planned in the country, especially Jaitapur, need to be reviewed. Two German banks Commerhaz and Deutsche bank have already refused to invest in Jaitapur.
Countries all over the world are halting and reviewing their nuclear power plants. India has the opportunity to make a timely shift to clean and safe renewable energy. It costs less than nuclear and does not harm anyone.
Natural phenomena don’t stick to levels set by humans. This tragedy in Japan is yet another reminder of the inherent risks of nuclear power, which will always be vulnerable to a potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster.
Fukushima image: © DigitalGlobe.
Jaitapur image: © Pal Pillai / Greenpeace