‘…the possibility, however remote it may be, of human error, systems failure, sabotage, earthquake and terrorist attacks leading to the release of radioactive matter in the public domain, cannot be entirely ruled out.’
Guidelines on Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies
National Disaster Management Authority
Govt of India
All nuclear power plants are inherently dangerous. They are vulnerable to any combination of natural disaster, human error or design failure. In India, institutional faults make that risk a little bit greater. Yet these dangers are routinely and emphatically downplayed by the nuclear establishment.
There’s a myth propagated that nuclear power has become safer in recent years. It’s now toted as the answer to climate change – an “environmentally-friendly” option that guides us away from the looming crisis of peak oil. The truth is that even a significant increase in nuclear power would only lead to a negligible CO2 reduction 1, and that nuclear reactors are no safer than they were in the 20th Century. If anything, as they become more powerful, the possible consequences of an accident become even more terrible.
Mistakes do happen. The nuclear sector is replete with chilling stories of incidents, accidents and near misses. There’s a story or more for every day of the year - all 365 of them.2 Accidents happened before Chernobyl. They happened after Chernobyl. Only the explanations and excuses get tailored anew each time. The industry is known to have manipulated safety and inspection data, in certain cases, in order to avoid costly repairs and lengthy shutdowns.3 The secrecy that blankets the Indian nuclear power sector shields it further.
Yet even under normal operations nuclear power plants regularly discharge radioactive materials into the air and water. Nuclear waste, the deadly by-product of nuclear power for which there is no real long-term solution, remains radioactive for generations.
Proponents of nuclear power want it discussed and evaluated on the same factors as other methods of power generation. This can only be done if the risk factor is set aside altogether as being irrelevant, if the horrific, long-lasting consequences of an accident on huge populations is considered an acceptable price to pay. At Greenpeace, we don’t think it is.
Alternative power sources exist, such as solar, wind or micro-hydro energy. They can be combined with energy efficiency to deliver India’s electricity needs, fast. They won’t exacerbate climate change like fossil fuels, and nor do they leave a radioactive legacy or carry the unacceptable risk of a radiological accident, like nuclear energy. India needs to stop gambling with the health of our children and our land by investing in nuclear power.
1 Energy Technology Perspectives 2010, IEA/OECD, June 2010
3 “Complacency, negligence threaten nuclear industry, WANO warns". Nucleonics Week, vol. 44/ Issue 42, Oct. 16,2003