Atomic Power Station in western state of Gujarat
Nuclear Mafia Needs an Urgent, Ruthless Purge as Catastrophe Lurks
N M Sampathkumar Iyangar
Special to the South Asia Tribune
India, June 28: Pundits in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)
in New Delhi would have the general public of India believe that
the country is about to become a Superpower entrusted with the
role of leading and guiding the other countries of the region.
probably believe that the Bush administration in its second term
has launched negotiations with the Manmohan Singh Government as
well as the US Congress on facilitating India to play a more significant
role as a big power.
Indians brainwashed by this megalomania think the country’s
claim of having become a "legitimate" nuclear weapon
power has been vindicated with the recognized nuclear weapon powers
of the world lining up to have nuclear energy cooperation with
Promoting "Civilian nuclear
cooperation" is touted to be among the top priorities in
the agenda of Dr. Manmohan Singh during his forthcoming visit
scheduled for July. Similar optimistic noises appeared and were
carried in sponsored stories in Indian newspapers when Singh visited
Russia two months ago.
the clan of desk-bound strategic analysts of New Delhi who make
a living by promoting a false sense of euphoria and déjà
vu among willing takers by projecting larger than life role for
New Delhi in international affairs are to be believed, the US
proposal, is part of a broad new strategic initiative towards
India unveiled by the Bush Administration. The National Security
Pundits have gone to town with the theory that it signals a major
shift in American nuclear policy towards India.
Ambassador David Mulford has, on the contrary, underlined the
"many legal and other difficulties" that have prevented
such nuclear cooperation over the last three decades "have
not gone away" and the proposed talks are only aimed at sorting
out those difficulties. He however affirmed that President George
W. Bush’s offer to help India develop the nuclear energy
option is a "serious one".
is worth noting that India’s first nuclear power plant at
Tarapur was built by US-based transnational General Electric under
an agreement signed in 1962. Even though it had completed safe
operational life of 25 years, the creaking plant has been kept
operational for the last 15 years. It is not a great technological
feat as made out to be by the mandarins, but only because the
country does not possess the technology to safely decommission
and encapsulate it.
continued running beyond the designed safe life, according to
the former Chief of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, constitutes
a grave risk of hydrogen explosion that may devastate Western
India anytime. Since New Delhi conducted its first nuclear test
in May 1974, the idea of nuclear cooperation with India has been
a taboo in Washington. "We are now moving in a different
direction," Mulford said.
Affairs Minister Natwar Singh had reaffirmed the importance of
nuclear electric power in India’s energy mix and the role
of international cooperation in accelerating the nation’s
atomic energy development. India’s recent attempts to buy
additional nuclear power reactors from Russia and France had come
to naught. Both Moscow and Paris had to defer to American opposition
to such sales to India.
Singh avers that India has "repeatedly said that every cooperation
project in nuclear power would be open to international safeguards".
Natwar Singh called on the international community to "discard
the old mind set" and acknowledge the record of India that
has proved time and again that they are reliable partners in the
global effort to ensure non-proliferation. Singh also declared,
"While India may not be a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, our conduct has always been consistent with the key provisions
of the treaty as they apply to nuclear weapon states."
the typical Indian rhetoric may be enthusiastically welcomed by
the thoroughly brainwashed semiliterates of India, it is unlikely
to find any takers in a rapidly globalizing world order. The US
Administration would need broad support from the US Congress before
it can come up with a legislative mandate waiving the requirements
of the current American concerns on international cooperation
in nuclear energy. That is tall order going by the record of belligerence
on the part of New Delhi all along.
makes it clear that barring the five recognized nuclear-weapon
states, the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, others will
have to open all their nuclear facilities to international inspection
if they want outside help for nuclear civilian programs.
Indian mandarins have refused
to accept this. Delhi maintains that while Indian nuclear military
facilities developed indigenously (with clandestinely smuggled
in components, to be precise) will not be open to inspection,
it was willing to accept scrutiny by the International Atomic
Energy Agency of its civilian nuclear projects that have been
developed with (formal and open) outside help.
"Article I of the NPT obliges
a nuclear-weapon state not to transfer nuclear weapons to any
other country or to assist any other country to acquire them.
India’s record in this regard is impeccable….,"
the Indian Foreign Minister declared recently in Geneva. He was
obliquely self-recognizing the country as a "nuclear weapon
state". Although he did not mention Pakistan, Singh did not
miss the opportunity to draw a distinction between the nuclear
twins. India’s impeccable credentials were "in contrast
to the poor record of some of the nuclear-weapon states"
that have been either active collaborators to illegal proliferation,
including sale of nuclear components and technology, he said.
This is like the willingness of
an Osama Ben Laden to subject only selected portions of his dreaded
organization for compliance with international regulations against
terrorizing and harming civilians!
Delhi is apparently hopeful that a bill to be tabled in the ongoing
session of the parliament to prevent nuclear proliferation and
tighten controls on nuclear facilities in the country will pave
the way for further cooperation in this key sector.
Does the country really deserve
"civilian nuclear energy cooperation" to generate enough
power to sustain an absolute minimal quality of life for one-sixth
of the world’s population, with oil prices touching $60
a barrel while indigenous production remains much below a third
of the soaring needs? What exactly are the ground realities in
the nuclear technology scenario in India?
A look at the yesteryears of India’s
nuclear energy establishment would demonstrate the urgent need
to rescue the Indian population from the clutches of a Mafioso
that has held them hostage for too long.
The architects of India’s
nuclear program Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and Jawaharlal Nehru
were aggressive peaceniks who were firmly opposed to a repeat
of Hiroshima or Nagasaki anywhere on the earth. Sarabhai had formulated
the mission of the program of harnessing the atom as "availability
of abundant quantum of energy that would be too cheap to meter."
That indeed was a possibility as India earnestly embarked on the
mission in collaboration with Canada much before China, Korea
or Japan in the continent.
their successor Raja Ramanna who became Atomic Energy Commission
Chief during the tenure of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi turned
out to be an out and out sycophant. He connived with the tyrant
with dictatorial ambitions to become a "Durga" (Hindu
goddess of power) in the eyes of the gullible masses by blasting
an "Atom Bomb" in 1974. This was in breach of solemn
sovereign commitment to Canada, a country that firmly stands by
nonproliferation despite its high nuclear technology capabilities,
of not diverting fissile material for weapon proliferation. This
betrayal earned a junior ministership to the sycophant in the
government but cut India off from international cooperation in
the field as the country earned pariah status.
atmosphere in Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has remained hush-hush
ever since the 1974 misadventure of conducting the "peaceful
underground nuclear implosion", a contradiction of terms.
Decades of isolationism has erected a thick veil of secrecy around
goings on in DAE. The financial and other affairs of DAE, which
directly reports to the Prime Ministers Office, are beyond the
scrutiny of the courts and the Parliament in the so called largest
democracy of the world.
the Kafkaesque secretiveness thrives a deadly Mafioso that has
continued to keep successive Prime Ministers under their domination.
After all, no PM under threat of uncomfortable disclosures about
sleazy deals by his office would be willing to sacrifice his career!
nepotism and fast breeding of corrupt bandicoots on a mass scale
plague the establishment. As a result, hundreds of dreamy eyed
technologists and scientists attracted to the establishment in
the hope of achieving something great languish as desk-bound babus
(clerks) . The bright brains are forced to grope in darkness,
sans any meaningful support for advancing the technology while
fine-honing their knowledge.
when the damage done by the 1974 misadventure by Indira Gandhi
and sycophant Raja Ramanna was about to be condoned by the world
in appreciation of the country refraining from conducting further
nuclear tests, and as there existed a possibility of meaningful
cooperation in the wake of economic reforms, the Mafia forced
another proliferation misadventure to scuttle any meaningful reform
in the sector.
1998, the then Chief of DAE Dr R Chidambaram tendered an "advice"
to the hotch potch coalition government of 24 parties led by hardline
Hindutva obscurantists that fresh nuclear tests had become necessary.
Incidentally, this scientist narrowly missed being crowned with
"Bharat Ratna" award and perhaps the ceremonial post
of President as well.
who were ruling India at that time were not so naïve not
to realize that pursuing a program to acquire Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) would in fact weaken the military strength of
the country; any nuclear proliferation would sure provide a justification
to Islamabad’s friends to arm it with nuclear weapons as
well. Turning Pakistan nuclear would snatch away from India its
superiority in terms of size in conventional warfare. It would
also nullify the advantage of India’s strategic depth geographically.
Yet, Atal Behari Vajpayee did have to bow to the dictats from
the nuke Mafia.
Tsunami that swept the Southern coast of India and flooded DAE’s
Kalpakkam complex in December last year demonstrated the shocking
state of incompetence that plagues the Mafia-controlled set up
and consequently the threat to the safety of the environment entailed
by leaving the inherently dangerous technology in the hands of
After days of being casually dismissive
about anxious queries following monstrous tidal waves on, the
mandarins came out with a Press release on Tsunami damage. It
contained more of philosophy and less of technology in an attempt
to rationalize the officialdom's insensitivity to the grave risks
the nuke facilities pose to the environment: "Man has to
live with natural calamities. Wisdom lies in effectively meeting
the challenges of such situations and ensuring safety of human
life and property."
of the wisdom these wise ones possess can be had from a paper
published by Reactor Safety Analysis Group in November 1986. "For
coastal sites, flooding may be due to tropical cyclones, Tsunamis,
or seiches. In India Tsunamis or seiches do not occur. Hence,
cyclones alone have been singled out for detailed study."
oceans were apparently untutored and ignorant of the DAE "reasoning"!
While most of the structures in the nuclear complex lay at five
to six meters above mean sea level, tsunomic waves towered 10
to 12 meters tall. The waves claimed more than 300 lives in the
area; 61 people perishing in the residential colony of DAE itself.
One of the two 220 MW reactors forming part of Madras Atomic Power
Station (MAPS), commissioned in 1984 and 1986 and operated by
Nuclear Power Corporation of India, was operational at that time.
It promptly tripped as seawater inundated the tunnel leading to
the pump house supplying cooling water to the condenser. Providentially,
no online fueling was taking place and a critical accident in
the reactor that could have contaminated vast portions of Tamilnadu
and the Indian Ocean was averted.
other reactor remains shut down since a long time for ‘rehabilitation’,
to replace coolant channels suspected to have turned brittle and
degraded beyond safe limits due to excessive sagging of pressure
tubes. A former Chief of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Dr. A Gopalakrishnan described the MAPS reactors as the worst
examples of ticking suicide nuke bombs in the guise of power reactors
due to the prevalence of "chalta hai" (everything's
OK) culture in the establishment toward safety deficiencies.
Kalpakkam complex houses seven other nuke facilities. Spent fuel
pools, reprocessing plants, waste management repositories, laboratories
and a research center working on advanced materials for fast breeders.
A small 15 MW fast breeder was built in the complex in mid 1980s.
It has been operating at 10 to 30 per cent capacity, producing
not-insignificant quantities of plutonium. Presence of stockpiles
of the fissile material for fabricating WMDs in the complex at
that time are not available, as the program is not under any credible
Only the naïve would rule
out damage due to entry of seawater into any of these other facilities,
dispersing radioactive materials into the environment. It is just
impossible to assess the extent without the facilities being opened
to independent inspection. However, thanks to the unlimited propaganda
budget DAE possesses, barring very few exceptions the Indian media
meekly bought the establishment line ruling out any radioactive
escape. That the township has a lot more inherently dangerous
nuclear powderkegs than MAPS reactors was tactfully repressed
from public view. DAE maintains that the complex has escaped the
tidal wrath unscathed thanks to its "safety culture".
nuke Mafia is keen to push ahead with Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor
(PFBR) project that aims to build a bigger, and potentially more
disastrous, plutonium-producing 500 MW reactor. Expert advice
on the futility of the initiative has been falling on deaf ears.
Even former AEC Chief Dr. MR Srinivasan has argued how heavyweights
like the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan "encountered
various technical and control problems" with fast breeders
and abandoned the idea after sinking billions of dollars. He is
on record stating: "As of now, only Russia is operating some
FBRs successfully and is building some more -- DAE has indeed
taken a bold gamble in embarking on the PFBR at this time."
the gaucherie of not factoring in seiche or Tsunami that "do
not occur in India" while siting nuclear facilities. Outrageous
flouting of safety codes that relate to fundamental structural
engineering practice is no less unusual in DAE. These are indulged
in in order to curry favors to pliant business houses friendly
to the Mafia. Shocking as it may seem, the calandria of the dud
MAPS1 reactor is now being rebuilt knowingly incorporating flaws
that invite calamitous pressure tube ruptures. The reactor is
scheduled for recommissioning later this year, compromising elementary
safety norms. Consequences of pressure tube ruptures rendered
quite probable due to the compromise could make the massive Tsunami
devastation to the State pale into insignificance.
the blunderous compromise are nepotism and currying favors to
chosen vendors that are rampant in the establishment. What lapse,
pray, is not serious in a reactor? The worthies have no use for
the counsel of Dr Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist
who served on the presidential commission on the "Challenger"
disaster, "That the same risk had flown earlier without failure
cannot be an argument for the safety of accepting it again."
this is the extent of cover up that spineless scientists can indulge
in for the sake of shielding bandicoots, can the world rest assured
about the safety and quality aspects of the technologically advanced
colossal program, where any mishaps could have catastrophic consequences
transcending national borders? DAE's resistance to agree to independent
survey of escapes of radioactive poisons into the environment
simply proves that India’s N-program is not vested in competent,
responsible and safe hands. Stalling incorporation of essential
safety upgradations could turn out potentially calamitous not
only for Tamilnadu but the whole Indian Ocean region.
Transparency and accountability
are the absolute preconditions to safeguard public interest of
the whole planet. Unfortunately, these are awfully absent in the
case of DAE possessing an outdated concept of "development"
that has no place for the ordinary people's interests in the so
called democratic republic of India. The nuke establishment exploits
to the hilt the anarchic attitude of the media that swears by
narrow "national interests".
misplaced patriotism of thoroughly brainwashed semiliterates has
encouraged "fast breeding" of bandicoots steeped in
the triple evils of unscrupulousness, incompetence and above all,
towering arrogance of power. The bandicoots flourish unhindered
and have become refractory to elementary ethics. Almost the entire
posse of accomplished scientists happen to be creeping crawlies
in DAE, which suffers the very same ills that plagued the scientific
establishment of the now-defunct Soviet Union.
is time for Indians to recall what Mikhail Gorbachev had to on
the Chernobyl disaster: "It left us humbled with lessons
on how disasters can occur as a result of denials and obfuscations
and a callous and selfish attitude toward dangerous technology."
is going to be sixty years since the Americans sent a "little
man" and a "fat boy" to Hiroshima and Nagasaki
to end the fanatical aspiration of imperial Japan to dominate
half the world. Whatever the justification, the devastation had
shocked the world so much to make recognized nuclear power to
vow a "never again".
avert the horror of a "little man" or "fat boy"
devastating some of the most densely populated parts of Asia,
this time as a culmination of greed and corruption of an unscrupulous
axis, a ruthless purge of Indian nuclear establishment must precede
any "civilian nuclear cooperation" from the civilized
world. Till then, the only acceptable "civilian nuclear cooperation"
between India and the US must be limited to assistance in decommissioning
and encapsulation of the polluting Tarapur complex.
writer is a technocrat who features in the Directory of Experts
in Technology Acquisition compiled in 1990 by Dept of S&T,
New Delhi. He specializes in the development of components for
nuclear and aerospace applications