Nuclear accidents in India

An independent regulatory board is supposed to be protecting the health of people and environment, not the nuclear establishment.  So why isn’t it?

The secrecy that shrouds the civilian nuclear industry in India makes it almost impossible for citizens to know accurately the details of accidents that have occurred, or indeed sometimes whether accidents have occurred at all.  Yet the sector teems with rumours and eyewitness accounts of near-misses, leaks, cracks, radiation exposures and safety violations.

The costs paid by Indian citizens, in both health and environment, seem to be far greater than the meager 2.7% of electricity currently provided by India’s civilian nuclear sector (1).  An even greater injustice is that it is often the same factions of society - the nameless day labourers who are not educated in the dangers of radiation - that are brought in to clear up the mess, as are then overlooked when it comes to distributing reliable supplies of electricity.

The frequency and similarity of many of these incidents and accidents is disturbing.  It discredits the Department of Atomic Energy as the head of a nuclear industry, and the ability of the AERB to ensure safety in that industry.

Read about some accidents at nuclear power plants in India dating back to 1991 here.

In addition to all nuclear power facilities the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) must also ensure the safety of India’s 52,000-plus radiological facilities.  These include medical institutions, industrial uses, and research facilities, and safety violations happen at them, too.  The most serious incident to date is Mayapuri in 2010, in which a cobalt-60 source was sold and taken apart in a scrapyard, killing one man and hospitalising seven others.


Notes
1 As of April 2011. Central Electricity Authority http://www.cea.nic.in/

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