Friday, 29 April 2011

Desperate to Nuclearize?

The above clickable image shows the earthquakes in the vicinity of Jaitapur, Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra. The red bar is a 50 km line. The largest circle on bottom right is a 6.0 quake, while the smaller circle near Jaitapur, on coast, refers to a 4.3 magnitude quake. Note that the epicentre of the Sendai earthquake that created the Tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima disaster was 130 km east of Sendai. The above image was created using google earth with the earthquakes layer on.

Now, my question is , if we are so very desperate for nuclear energy, shouldn't we at least cover our behind first? 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Nuclear Expansion and Human Costs: Part 2

Even as we talk about population densities and affected populace, here is an interesting link (via Atul) that talks about evacuation radii for Fukushima. Now putting this on Figure 1 of the previous blog.

Jan Gan Man and Jingoism

Last Sunday I went to the movies with my family. After a barrage of sleek, fast paced ads selling everything from love, car, condoms and food, from a mind blowing display of the theatre's latest sound technology and comfortable, reclining seats, food and beverage service inside to trailers of future movies, suddenly....

there is.....

Jan Gan Man Adhinayaka Jaya Hai ...

shuffling, fumbling, awkward off-loadings of Cokes, popcorns, masala chips; stopped mid-way mobile chats and sms queues,furtive glances at the neighbors to figure out how to respond, and by first stanza the assembly is up; quickly swallowing the last pop-corn mouthful or a long secretive slurp from the tall, cold, paper-jar of Pepsi. Then in various stages of ADD (attention deficient disorder), in nonchalance of discomfort, or slouched
uncaring disarray - a few erect old men in attention - the assembly of mainly rich youth, and a few middle-aged-older-people, like me, make it through a media show that was played out in front of us on a giant screen, Dolby surround sound and flitting images...

cold, white, towering mountains, snow blizzards, men in uniforms, tanks pointing to skies, guns, a solitary figure struggling to erect a flag - tri-colored, luminescent,  in a hostile, gray, cold peak against a gray brooding sky...flag erected, men salute, a tiny smile, music throbs, files of tanks again...Jaya Hai, Jaya Hai, Jaya Hai!

I watch and understand and hurt...who is doing this to all the foolish, young and naive that stare at it? what signals is this sending and what is getting manufactured inside to allow consent to all the horrors outside? outside the INOX cinema halls? outside on streets? in jungles where many men in fatigues and better guns hunt out few men, also in fatigues and other guns? within and across borders all over our northern to north-easterns to again in similar fatigues to the brave heroes on screen gun down children, rape women, destroy generation after generations of youths, middled aged, old, itself. Men like men on screen, kill. They are trained to kill - for us - the whole nation of the comfortable, privileged class who buy out buggers like these so they leave their homes, hearths, hearts, wife, children, parents, communities, to go plunge a flag on a solitary mountain top and then run wild, amok, mad with their trained-hate that and a life that they have been trained to give up. I wonder and I grieve and I wonder again, at what the Jan Gan Man really means - what was the intention of this national anthem, what composts of ideals, dreams and hopes lead to flowering of this song? Historical context of its origin seems irrelevant, compared to its later choice to represent a new nation and its aspirations as the national song...I suppose the song (whose meaning and intention I am now exploring for the first time) is addressed to the Thou - the Nation? Here is an official english translation:

Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Dispenser of India's destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind,
Gujarat and Maratha,
Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is
chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Thou dispenser of India's destiny.
Victory, victory, victory to thee.

What does the above have to do with the immense and tough show of chauvinism to which we all stood in mute inattention? What does it have to do with anything?
My daughter turned to me at the end of it as said "Cool - that was nice". Nice?? NICE??

I turn to her as we sit down and say "lets talk about it later" and the movie begins....

Nuclear Expansion and Human Costs

The recent Tsunami wrecked havoc in Sendai, Japan, only to be overshadowed, apocalyptically, by the subsequent nuclear episodes in the reactors of  the Fukushima's power plant. Fukushima is still not fully under control today, more than five weeks after the incidence, and it will take a further nine months for its complete shut down.

Meanwhile India continues, undeterred, with its expansionist nuclear policy to increase the nuclear energy generation almost five fold over the next decade, and almost fifteen fold over the next forty years!

With the provisional results of the Census 2011 trickling in, this is a good time to assess the extent human damage, in case of an Indian-Fukushima, and ask whether India is really capable or willing to risk the burden of a similar nuclear incidence. The figure below shows the most conservative estimate for evacuation numbers within a 20 Km radius around each of the power plants, in operation (red) or proposed (blue), using the population density estimates for districts using Census data. Of these, for Kaiga, Kakrapar, Rawatbhata, and Jaitapur, Bhavnagar, Mandla only 2001 data were available. So given an average population growth of 17.64%, one might expect a similar rise in number of evacuees for these power plants. 
The Figure shows that even in the least populated districts of Kaiga in Uttara Kannada, Rawatbhata in Chittorgarh and Mandla of district Mandla in Madhya Pradesh, a minimum evacuation of 20 Km would require evacuating more than one lakh people, while most are require evacuating more than five lakhs to a maximum in Tarapur of fifteen lakh evacuees for this radius. Note that the US recommended radius for evacuation is 50 miles (or 80 Km) which changes all the above numbers by an additional factor of 16!

In Fukushima, evacuations have already commenced from the 20-30 Km ring around the radiating plant. According to a Greenpeace study, towns even 40 Km are showing dangerously high levels of radiation that require evacuations.  As is being increasingly experienced in Japan,  the population at risk increases many folds in presence of towns and cities near with the many times higher increase in population density. The figure below shows the current (red) and future (blue) nuclear power projects on a population density map (2001) for India. Large urban cities and metros are also marked on this map. The image clearly identifies  areas of population concentrations, and their proximity to the nuclear facilities.

So, the questions clearly are as follows: 

Are we willing to, directly and deliberately, endanger such large populations, in case of a potential nuclear mishap? 

How many generations would then pay such an enormous price? 

What else do we choose to loose in terms of water, air, soil, environmental contamination? 

What,  if any,is the time scale and cost of the recovery process? not just human, but also environmental, developmental?

And, why are we willing to risk so much??? 

At 4780 MW (2010), nuclear energy contributes only 4.2% to India's total energy consumption. The plants currently under construction are expected to add another 3900 MW. All the risk calculations are based on  current and proposed plants. However, our mad nuclear aspirations are to achieve 63,000MW by 2032 .

Just for comparison, remember that wind and solar energy generation are clean, green, and do not carry the enormous threat posed by nuclear energy. The total generation capacity from wind alone, in 2007, was 6270 MW, far exceeding the 2010 nuclear generation, and this rose to 12009 MW in 2010, amounting to 6% of India's total installed power. While the current solar energy capacity is only 3 MW, India holds a potential for generating 200,000 MW by 2050 from solar alone - far higher than India's current total energy capacity! 

So, back to the questions: Why such apocalyptic nuclear aspirations? at what or whose cost? and to whose benefit? And who is willing to buy such 'development' at such costs? Please Raise your Hands!


I thank Sudhir Vombatkere for inspiring this exercise.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Individual Interests and Mass Uprising

Last week a bizarre and an unexpected drama played out on our national stage. Anna Hazare, a Gandhian of some repute and a definitive following, started a fast-unto-death to push the government into drafting a rigorous anti-corruption bill - a Jan Lokpal bill had already been drafted as a guideline. Both the tactic and timing were shrewd; the many middle-east uprisings had stirred hope in people's power and the recent spate of wiki leaks had exposed the gigantic and corrupt collusion of corporate and political nexus, funded by the national tax payer.  People, primarily the middle class, and especially the youth, reacted on an unprecedented scale, pouring into open street, parks, open grounds around the nation in thousands, and tens of thousands in support of Anna Hazare and his call for anti-corruption. A simultaneous fury of protests in support, rose across the nation, and lasted but four days; then the government capitulated accepting most demands.

Now, here's the thing: many people have fasted longer, protested more passionately, for rights even more fundamental than corruption..for example, say, right to life, right to not be raped, repressed, displaced; fundamental right to own property and a share in national's natural resources; right not be caught in chemical or nuclear disasters, right to seek one's own freedom, of different forms. I agree, corruption is a vile, pervasive evil that permeates the very pores of our nationhood and it should be eradicated...but what about one's right to life, livelihood, land and freedom? Surely, these are staggeringly more important to human life and society than a 2G scandal. So...what caused our middle class, besotted with malls, TV and cricket to suddenly pour into streets? Which Pied Piper's call were they answering?

Only one answer stands out, above every other possibility. Self interest, or more simply, pure selfishness. I have been struggling with what causes revolutions or rather who causes revolutions. It seems increasingly clear that battles for changes arise from the losing side, by those who have suffered, joining arms to fight against tyranny - together. In cases of the ten year and longer fast of Irom Sharmila for ending the draconian and unbearably repressive AFSPA, or Himanshu Kumar's fast for the causes of tribals in Chattisgarh, or the huge and decades long Narmada Bachao Andolan, for a right of people to not be forcibly displaced, or the killings of children and youth in Kashmir, last year, the same middle class sat and watched all this and more, on TV, as they would a sitcom in comforts of their own homes and their own apathies. These were battles of the 'others', in which the Indian middle class was a winning beneficiary. As Bush once said " we fight wars for preserving a way-of-life" - of constant avarice and greed or 'development'. We fight these wars by our government, in our name, against our fellow nationals, not ready to face the wrong of it, since we benefit by it.

I want to know, when will we ALL, enter the battlefield, at the sacrifice of our own comfort, greed, and capital, because it is the right thing to do? When will we fight for the right and the righteous, because we cannot bear so much wrong? When we will ALL do this and thereby win?over wrong?