Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Cycles or Schools

Recently, a friend was looking for a cycle for her domestic worker's daughter. I told her of the govt. scheme that gave free cycles to girl kids in schools. But this apparently comes with a caveat. The offer is only open to girls that attend the govt. schools. Now, even my friend's help knew that the govt. schools don't help much by the way of teaching. Her daughter goes to a private school, while she toils away in many homes,  as a domestic help, so that her girl-child might have a chance of a better future.

So, whats this business of supporting govt. schools, or getting supported only-if with a govt. school. Why a package deal? Why does any parent have to choose between a cycle or a school?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Nuclear Numbers and Statistics of Disaster

India's current capacity is 4,385 MW from its 20 nuclear reactors in five locations. It proposes to raise this contribution to 20,000 MW by 2020 and to a further 63,000 MW by 2032 - greater than twelve fold increase in a 21 year period. It will achieve this by an accelerated growth of its civil nuclear program, increasing both the number of sites and also the number of reactors per site. According to the World Nuclear Association, this increase is planned as follows:
                             Reactors    Power               Date  
Under Construction       5       3650 MW          2012        
Planned                       18      15,700 MW        2021        
'Firmly' Proposed          39      45,000 MW        2023      
With the increase in number of nuclear reactors comes the associated increase in risk of nuclear incidence. These have been calculated globally, but can also be done for the Indian scenario. Following the methodology given here, the probability of a severe nuclear accident (INES greater than 5) is got by assuming, conservatively, that there have been 4 such nuclear events over 15000 reactor-years for the 433 reactors operating world wide.  We get probability of one severe accident per reactor year as q=4/15000. The mean(m) number of accidents for any reactor number(N) over a duration (y) is then


Mean number of accident, m, expected over a 20 year period (y) is given below; p(>1) is the probability of atleast 1 severe accident in percentage over the same 20 years, following the method outlined in the reference.

For India Reactors             N              m             p>1       Yrs(m=1)
Existing                            20             0.1           9.5%        187
+under contruction             25             0.13         12%         150
+ planned                          43             0.23         20%          87
+ proposed                        82             0.44         36%          45
Thus the chance of a severe nuclear accident in India over a twenty year period is about 10% right now and increases systematically to a substantial risk  of 20% in the next 10 years, to high risk of 36% when all those proposed are operating, by 2023. Another way of expressing the same is to calculate, how many years it would take, on average, for one severe nuclear accident in India (i.e. for m=1, y=1/Nq). Currently, on average, we expect to have one such accident per 187 years; this number drops rapidly as we increase our arsenal of nuclear reactors, to an expectancy of once every 45 years, if all the proposed nuclear power reactors were to be built.

There are two caveats to bear in mind. The expert proponents of nuclear power would claim that the new generations of nuclear reactors come with advanced safety provisions and the number used of 4 accidents per total history(15000 reactor years) of all nuclear generators is an overestimate for future generation reactors. True; but accidents like Fukushima take place, not due to lack of safety features, but because of the unforseen that occured. In case of Fukushima, it was the failure of all 13 backup generators. Accidents happen not due to lack of preparation for the imagined, but because the un-imagined also occurs. Statistics, when used in risk analyses, give us an average estimate of most likely events.

Secondly, it is necessary to be aware that the cumulative risks for nuclear reactors grouped together in a particular location, increases the likelihood of simultaneous multiple event as in Fukushima. This has not been included in the calculation.

To summarise, India runs an ever increasing risk of a major nuclear disaster, as it seeks to foolishly exploit the potential of nuclear energy. This, when we have an almost infinite solar potential of 6000 million GWh of energy of every year shining freely upon us!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Digging Nuclear - Figures from a Stats Site

Looking for probability calculations for nuclear accidents, I stumbled upon these - made post Fukushima. The calculations are based on 19 nuclear incidences of various INES levels over 59 years and assumes a poisson distribution of events. Detailed explanations are given in the site itself.

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Note that the above are already 'wrong' to the extent that we have had 4 INES 7 accidents in 25 years, or at least 2 such accidents (if we call all three related Fukushima events as 1 accident) in the last 25 years. So, the above can at best be taken as a conservative and a minimum event estimates.

Meanwhile, "The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has ruled out the probability of the calamitous events at the quake and tsunami-ravaged Fukushima nuclear power plant getting replicated" (ref).

For me, the question no longer is "Should India go nuclear?" This seems the right time to ask" Can the world afford to go nuclear?"

Nuclear Expansion and Human Costs: 10% of India at Risk

Continuing an order-of-magnitude calculation for India based on population densities around nuclear plants, I can estimate, roughly, the population at risk due to proximity to a nuclear plant. For a 50 mile (ie 80km) evacuation radius around the current and proposed nuclear power plants in India, I essentially get an identical plot as in the first post on this issue except each number is 16 times larger ( from a squared area factor between 20 and 80 km radius). A sum total of all these amounts to a whopping 122 million  i.e. 10%  of India's current population. This is the population living at risk of a nuclear incidence.

Are we willing to risk so many?

Open Letter to PM, EM,CM

Re: Police Destruction for Forced Land Aquistion in POSCO Affected Communities

Dear Mr. Minister,
It is a matter of utter shame that I write to you as a citizen of this nation. I am referring to the large scale destruction of beetle vines by police in Polang village under supervision by district administration of Jagatsingpur. This after State's assurance to media that there would be no land acquisition on 18th May.

Are we reduced to this, that those we elect to govern us, trample individual rights in favor of a profiteering, corporatised development? What and who determines the right to life and livelihood of our poor and or its sacrifice? and can lives lost and communities destroyed be compensated by any national, financial aspirations like increasing our GDP?

As a citizen, I only require this of you: that you uphold the constitution and respect the individual human rights written into it, as your primary sacred duty. That you solemnly consider , in brotherhood, that the poor also have a right to life and choice; our national needs of development can then be tackled collectively, without demanding too large a sacrifice from a few. With urgency I demand that you remove all police force from the Balithutha area, and revoke the section 144  imposed on the area, immediately. Forceful land acquisition, without the approval of palli sabha, constitutes a violations of FRA 2006 and is condemned.

You have the authority to set right, the series of ills set into motion by you personally. I request you to urgently do so.

Arati Chokshi

Dr. Arati Chokshi

Monday, 16 May 2011

Yellow Yellow Dirty Fellow

Gugi, or Gogi as it is usually referred, in Gulbarga district of Karnataka, lies in the Bhima river basin, surrounded by hillocks on three sides. 75% of the district's area is used for agriculture with Krishna and Bhima rivers draining this district. The main agricltural products of the district are Jowar, Bajra, Tur, Gram, Sunflower, Groundnut,and Sugarcane. The above 'clickable' image is created using Google Earth; red line is 1km scale.

In this verdant food bowl, around Gogi, man has found Uranium. Aerial surveys and follow up mining explorations have revealed a deposit of 4000 tonnes of high grade Uranium ore. Of this, every year, 1.5 lakh tonnes of the ore will be trucked to Hyderabad 250 km away to yield 150 tonnes of uranium from the region. 

Two things are to be noted - that even in case of a rich deposit, every kilogram of ore gives you just 1 gram of uranium; which means that 4 million tonnes, or 4 billion kilos, over the lifetime of 15 years of this reserve will be trucked through the fields, across rivers and basins, forests, hills and living, thriving agricultural communities for processing. In its wake will follow ground water contamination, radiation pollutions, exposures, deformities, cancers and deaths..all well documented side-effects of uranium mining.

Local residents in Gogi are fearful and oppose the plant, as they should, given the poor safety directives and implementation record of UCIL( Uranium Corporation of India Ltd.) Future plans include exploiting Uranium from the entire Bhima belt between Sedam to Muddebihal, about 200 km apart. Yet, these reserves are likely to remain but drops in our nuclear energy bucket. Currently India produces 450 tonnes of Uranium per year.
It needs 7000 tonnes per year for its nuclear rollout. While India claims uranium reserves of 115,000 tonnes, a realistic estimate is more like 73,000 tonnes. That is, if we were to exploit ALL of India's uranium reserves, it might keep us going for about 10 years..only 10 years. So we are looking towards going from oil dependency to nuclear fuel dependency over the coming decades. Yet, none of this is preventing our government from its grandoise predictions, plannings and active implementations towards a very bright nuclear future to cover up the vast environmental destruction, human havoc, irreversible wreckage that it promises to leave in its wake.

I have now taken to singing a ditty from my childhood " Yellow, Yellow, Dirty fellow.." for the yellow uranium cakes, yellow cesspools, yellow jaundiced greed..dead yellow, dirty yellow, to cover green fields, clear rivers, forested hills, blue skies..I sing this ditty and I fight!

God Save My Country.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Who Needs more POWER

Here is my basic premise. India's energy consumption, like most of its other resource utilisation, is to a very large extent decoupled from meeting the needs of its masses. In India, as many as 400 million people have no access to electricity. And while the 8.8% growth in our GDP is celebrated and closely linked to a correlated growth in energy demands, it derives from active 'consumption' by the rich and the middle class,leaving the masses mostly outside its reach. Yet it is the poor who most often are forced to sacrifice for the country's inflated development needs and aspirations.

When the State uses force and fires on its own citizens to enforce compliance of the proposed national goals, it is time to review what drives these goals, who benefits and who pays. It is still with me, that within India's democratic framework, police - under state's authority - have a right to fire, on people protesting against an upcoming nuclear facility in their region; I am speaking of Jaitapur - although this holds for POSCOs, Green Hunts, and other developments, MoUs and projects that mandates a democratic state to eliminate democracy and shoot down its own citizens who are not willing to sacrifice quite-so-much for national good.

So...lets look at some numbers and figures.

The figure below shows the sector wise usage of electricity in India, with a largest consumption by industrial, followed by the domestic sector.

The source of this figure is given here. Lets bear in mind, to a large extent India's industry, and the 'questionable' fruits of this industry, remain outside the scope of rural India and its masses.The next set of figures show the predicted growth in each sector, and the total projected increase in the demand for electricity. It is seen that industrial growth far exceeds in total consumption and growth the total electricity demand made by any other sector. The figure is taken from here.

The above figures further show that due to the steeper rate of the industrial growth, this sector will form an increasing component of our energy requirements versus the domestic or the agricultural sectors. Thus the large power projects, nuclear, hydro, thermal or otherwise seem to be largely and a growing requirement of the industrial sector in India. Another way of seeing this effect is that the projected increase in total electricity (by just under a factor of 4) over a 40 year period is dominated by the projected growth in the industrial sector by a factor of 4.

The MoEF document (Fig 6) shows that while the ratio of urban to total population in the country for 2011 is about 30%, the GWh/year usage of electricity in rural sector is at least 2.5 lower compared to the urban consumption. The same document gives a breakup of the urban usages where the largest growth in the domestic electricity consumption is projected to be from air conditioners and heaters, compared to lighting, microwaves, televisions.Thus all our key markers, the GDP, its growth, electricity consumption, are preferentially stacked to benefitting the industrialised, urban and upper class, consuming communities.

Now the question is 'Why should those least benefited by development pay for the most benefited class?' , especially when this payment required, in the name of the larger common good, is with individual and community life, livelihood, land, water, health? Just so that the  rich and needy-others may have more cars, air conditioners, glitzy malls, wider roads, airports...to name but a few? By whose rule is this right or fair? And when will the benefits to our larger, democratic numbers dictate the path of development chosen by the those 'elected' to govern - on all our behalf?