Two days ago, Peter Löscher, Chief Executive of Siemens said in an interview to Spiegel magazine that the chapter for nuclear technology is officially shut for Siemens. He said that their answer was a result of ‘the clear positioning of the German society and politics for a pullout from nuclear energy’. [1]

The Kudankulam nuclear power plantPost Fukushima, Angela Merkel was forced to concede to popular demand to phase out nuclear energy and make Germany’s intentions for renewable energy clear. With clarity comes confident decisions and the choice made by Siemens reflects that clarity. The pullout from nuclear energy opens up more room for renewable technology. This translates into more jobs, clean energy and a better chance to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels. In the end it’s a win-win situation for all.

But often in many countries, politics ignores public sentiment. Instead of listening to the people and their concerns, they block, deprive and push them under the carpet. Away from international gaze, the concerns rot until a tragedy strikes and then they resurface.

Recently, 60,000 Japanese citizens marched on the streets demanding a phase out of nuclear technology. Sixty thousand protestors in a country where discipline and respect for authority is embedded in their culture are by no means to be taken lightly. This could have been avoided; safety concerns at Fukushima were raised time and again. [2] It was only when those concerns were not addressed and the tragedy struck that the people were forced to protest.

People gathered to protest against the proposed nuclear power plant in Kudankulam

People come together to protest against the proposed nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. © Greenpeace/Nathan G

Thousands of people in a remote village in the southern part of India are opposing the Kudankulam nuclear plant. Their protest made the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu write a letter to the Prime Minister of India demanding immediate closure of the plant.[3]

Post Fukushima, the lesson which India fails to learn is the need for a clear political intent. Unlike the German government, the Indian government believes it can term inherently dangerous nuclear power plants as safe and manageable. The lesson that Fukushima teaches us is lost within this debate.

Human error (Chernobyl) or a natural calamity (Fukushima) can disrupt the normal functioning of a nuclear power plant and hence the technology is inherently dangerous. The only other alternative is safe and unlimited renewable energy option. This is what the Indian government needs to understand and implement with a clear political intent.

The government could listen to its people now or choose to wait till a tragedy strikes and then address these concerns. The only problem is that it will be a bit too late. Hence the government needs to listen to its people and their concern. They can address them now rather than wait till it’s too late.