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20 years, 92 quakes: Ground trembles beneath Jaitapur’s feet

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Viju B in Times of India

March 16, 2011,

MUMBAI: Fukushima has become part of the local lexicon at Jaitapur. As news of the apocalypse-like situation in Japan reaches the far corners of villages in and around the area, residents have increased their agitation against the proposed 9,900 mw nuclear power plant.

Jaitapur area falls in the seismic zone 3 category, and data from the Geological Survey of India shows that between 1985 and 2005, there were 92 earthquakes.

The biggest earthquake in Jaitapur, recorded in 1993, measured 6.2 on the Richter scale. The ground is unstable, say activists and geologists, and there is no guarantee that the government’s safeguards will protect the people and ecologically sensitive Konkan coast from a nuclear disaster should there be another earthquake.

Environmental activist Pradeep Indulkar said: “The third explosion at the Fukushima plant in Japan on Tuesday confirms that in the event of an earthquake, precautionary measures and safeguards will not avert a disaster. It is better not to have a nuclear power plant in this seismic zone region.”

At Shivane village, 20 km from Jaitapur, Chandrakant Padkar remembers the day the earth shook and the road outside his house vanished. The unreported earthquake took place two years ago, and the village still bears the scars. Now, with the government’s plans to set up the nuclear plant here, the gorge has taken on a more ominous avatar.

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Radioactive Jaitapur

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Praful Bidwai in Hindustan Times

Feb 16, 2011

Environmentally conscious citizens have been shocked at the conditional clearance for the Posco steel project in Orissa, in flagrant breach of the Forest Rights Act. But a bigger, more flawed project, was cleared two months back with equally vacuous and irrelevant conditions. Jaitapur, in Maharashtra
’s Ratnagiri district, is expected to be the world’s biggest nuclear power station and generate 9,900 MW (India’s current nuclear capacity is 4,780 MW).

It will be based on the untested European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), not approved anywhere — including in France, where the nuclear company Areva designed it.

The project is being imposed on a beautiful ecosystem, a segment of the Sahyadris where the Krishna and the Godavari originate, with a flourishing farming, horticultural and fisheries economy. It lies in one of the world’s 10 greatest biodiversity hotspots.

Only an irrational mind would want to risk degradation of this region to build nuclear reactors that will displace 40,000 people, disrupt water flows and uproot fruit-yielding trees.

Seismicity is also of concern. Jaitapur is an earthquake-prone area, with a rating of 4 on a 1-5 scale. This violates an official committee’s recommendations against locating hazardous industries outside Zone 2.

Yet that’s what Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is doing. It zeroed in on Jaitapur in 2003, assuming the site would be approved; the DAE always prevails.

Consider another irrationality. Four years after the project report was made, the state started acquiring 2,400 acres for the reactors, six days before French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to India. In deep financial trouble, Areva has long eyed India’s nuclear market and was the first to seize the opportunity offered by the India-US nuclear deal.

Jaitapur’s six proposed EPRs were cleared in an extraordinarily sloppy Environment Impact Assessment by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute that has no competence in seismic or nuclear safety-related matters. It evades biodiversity issues and one of the greatest problems with nuclear power — generation and storage of large quantities of radioactive wastes.

The EPR’s safety design is problematic because of its large (1,650 MW) size, complexity, and high neutron density, which will produce seven times more toxic iodine-129 than normal reactors. The world’s first EPR-under-construction, in Finland — western Europe’s first post-Chernobyl reactor — has been delayed by at least 42 months and is 90% over budget.

Finnish, French, British and US nuclear regulators have raised 3,000 issues about its safety. A French government-appointed expert suggests several modifications to ‘optimise’ the design. The Finnish fiasco has entangled Areva into bitter litigation and losses.

The NPCIL has now decided to import six EPRs, ignoring the generic problems with nuclear power. Reactors are high-pressure-high-temperature systems in which a barely-controlled fission chain-reaction occurs. Controls can fail. Minor malfunctions get quickly magnified.

The EPR produced power will be costlier than the disaster called Enron, also located in Ratnagiri. Design modifications will further raise the EPR’s already sky-high capital costs — R21 crore per MW, compared to R9 crore for Indian reactors and R5 crore for coal-fired power. Its unit generation costs, R5-8 could ruin downstream industries.

The Jaitapur project earns another black mark. The area’s highly literate people are dead against it as it will destroy livelihoods and expose them to hazards. They oppose it not out of ignorance, but know the dangers of nuclear power. More than 95% have refused to take compensation for forcibly acquired land, despite it being raised from R1.6 lakh to R10 lakh an acre. Ten villages pointedly did not hoist the national flag on Republic Day.

The government has unleashed savage repression against the resistance by arresting and slapping trumped-up charges and externment notices on hundreds, and prohibiting peaceful assembly. Eminent citizens were banned from Jaitapur.

Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane recently threatened to ensure that ‘outsiders’ who enter Jaitapur ‘won’t return’. None of this has broken the people’s resolve. Suppression of fundamental rights is the price Jaitapur will extract, besides ecological devastation, if the nuclear juggernaut is allowed to roll. It must be halted.

‘Uranium not needed for 2030’

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

From the Times of India

February 6, 2011

ALLAHABAD: The nuclear treaty was needed because the uranium deposits in the country would not last beyond 2020, but now we would have many new nuclear reactors, by the cooperation of the French and Russian. This will increase the nuclear power generation by over 10 times as compared to the present level, said Prof JP Mittal from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai.

Prof Mittal was a visit to the Allahabad University on Saturday. He was the chief guest in a seminar organised by the chemistry department.

Speaking to TOI, he said, “After 2030 India would not need any uranium as the nuclear fuel as by then it would be able to use thorium as the nuclear fuel, research for which is being carried on for the past 25 years. The deal would help the country bridge the gap of uranium, needed for nuclear power generation after 2020.” He added that since India has the biggest Thorium deposits in the black sands of Kerala coast, we would become self-reliant in producing nuclear power.

How could you match the GDP growth, as predicted by the government, without having the needed power and if the country goes with thermal energy, it will again result in increasing the carbon emission, Prof Mittal said.

About the recent controversy regarding the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra, Prof Mittal said nuclear power plants are located at least 200 miles away from the coal mines and the potential areas are not just picked up randomly. There is a site selection committee which suggests names of a place after taking into account various factors like flora and fauna, number of people that would be displaced, etc. The same was done in terms of Jaitapur, which is a new proposed 9900 MW power project of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district where six nuclear reactors would come up with the help of France. It will be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net electrical power rating once completed, he added.

CNDP Fact Finding Report on Jaitapur

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

CNDP Report on Jaitapur titled, “Courting Nuclear Disaster in Maharashtra: Why the Jaitapur Project Must Be Scrapped”

link to local copy

Jaitapur plant will block Yashwantgad, Vijaydurg

January 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Pune Mirror
January 30, 2011

Locals say that once the nuclear plant comes up, the two Shivaji-era forts will be out of bounds for tourists and researchers, plant will also affect the Western Ghat ecology

Even as the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri is being opposed by villagers and fishermen for its negative impact on the social and environmental development of the area, there are other apprehensions among nature-lovers. Yashwantgad and Vijaydurg, the two forts from the Chhatrapati Shivaji era, will go out of reach of tourists and researchers once the plant starts functioning.

Sachin Joshi, professor of archaeology, Deccan College, said, “The Impact Assessment Report of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board did not take into account objections of archaeologists. The plant will put the two forts out of bounds for tourists and researchers.”

The restrictions

After the plant starts functioning, at least two km area from Jaitapur will be declared a restricted zone. Yashwantgad stands on the opposite side of the creek, while the aerial distance between Vijaydurg and Jaitapur is about 2.5 km. Thus, both the forts will fall under the restricted zone.

Joshi suggested mapping and documentation of the forts can help the future generation in their research work. He cited an example of the mapping of forts at Latur and Ausa, which were destroyed in the massive earthquake on September 30, 1993.

Yashwantgad, the last fort on the 720-km-long coastal belt in Maharashtra, is at Redi village, 20 km from Vengurle town. Originally belonging to Adilshah of Bijapur, the fort was won by Shivaji during his military campaigns and later by the British in 1818. It stands in good condition and many historical relics are preserved there. Interestingly, it neither falls under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India nor the state archaeological department.

Local opposition

Local villagers and activists have opposed the nuclear plant saying it will destroy the flora and fauna as well as create large scale pollution in the Arabian Sea. The plant falls in the Konkan region, which is adjacent to the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats and close to Mumbai.

Pradeep Indulkar of Konkan Anti-Nuclear Project Committee (KANPC) said, “The opposition is so widespread that not a single villager has taken monetary compensation for the land to be acquired for the plant.”

The KANPC and Konkan Bachav Samiti (KBS) are spearheading the movement for scrapping of the nuclear plant.

Alka Joshi of Lokayat, which is part of KBS, said, “The chief minister is under the impression that increased compensation will ease the land acquisition problem. But we are not for more compensation. We want the plant to be scrapped.”

Joshi said that before the nuclear power plant came up at Tarapur, over 500 boats used to catch fish in the area. Now the number has dwindled to five or six. She said this time the locals vented their anger against the government by skipping the flag hoisting ceremony on Republic Day. “Even the schools remained closed,” she claimed.

The project

The 9,360-MW nuclear project will be run by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in association with Areva, France.

It is the first major international power project in India after the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement took place in October 2008. Despite stiff opposition, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had publicly announced last week in Sangli that the plant will come up at any cost.

Why We Oppose the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

A Letter to the Chief Minister by social activists in Maharashtra
Copy from SACW website

Janahit Seva Samiti, Madban

Reg. No.: Maharashtra (3456) / Ratnagiri, Dt. 10.08.2007
Reg. No.: F 3444
At Post: Madban, Tal.: Rajapur, Dist.: Ratnagiri [India]

January 17, 2011

To,
Mr. Prithviraj Chavan
Hon’ble Chief Minister
State of Maharashtra
Mantralaya
Mumbai 400 032
Re: Decision to Abstain from Attending the Meeting Called by you on January 18, 2011 – Our Position

Dear Sir,

The newspapers have reported that you have called a meeting on 18th January 2011 to address the ‘misconceptions’ and ‘apprehensions’ in the minds of the local residents. We wish to clarify at the outset that ever since the land acquisition process commenced in 2006 we have deeply studied the issues relating to the nuclear power project and our opposition to the project is firmly anchored in these scientific studies.

In the past four years we have carefully read the writings of Dr. Kakodkar, S.K. Jain, Dr. Ravindra Kale and other proponents of the project. We have held discussions with NPCIL and AEC. We have discussed with nuclear scientists Dr. Surendra Gadekar and Dr. Sanghamitra Gadekar. We have studied the writings of nuclear experts Zia Mian, Elliot, Solomon, Flavin and Dr. Helen Caldicott, the discussions in ’Anuvivek’ by Dr. Dilip Kulkarni , and ’Anuurja: Bhram, Vastav aani Paryaya’, by Dr. Sulabha Brahme, and the writings of many other authors in the media before arriving at our conclusions. On the basis of all these materials we have arrived at the conclusion that Nuclear Energy is an unaffordable and unacceptable option whose costs far outweigh its benefits. Nuclear power has inherent safety, security and large scale environmental risks including extremely long term risks. It is extremely costly when all the costs are calculated. Due to the high cost and radioactive risk new nuclear plant construction has been halted in the US and most of Europe. Public opposition to nuclear power in Europe and the US has also been growing. This is why the western countries are trying to sell their reactors to India, China and S. Korea.

Despite years of research, there is no satisfactory technology even today for eliminating the high level radioactivity produced by nuclear reactors. There is no geological repository in existence anywhere in the world which can reliably and safely confine and contain these high level nuclear by-products for the enormous time period necessary to reduce the radioactivity to acceptable levels. Till today there is no scientific answer to the problem of disposal of nuclear waste and radioactive by-products of nuclear reactors.

Despite precautions numerous smaller scale accidents and incidents resulting in radioactive release have occurred in NPPs. The recent incident at Kaiga is just one example. Due to the possibility of accidents or incidents with extremely widespread damage the western power plant suppliers are demanding exemption from civil liability for the consequences of nuclear incidents.

Nuclear power is neither cheap, nor clean, nor safe. The irreversible long term damage from radioactivity will be a real risk for thousands of years. Therefore we have come to the firm conclusion that we cannot allow a nuclear power project at Madban/Jaitapur.

All four gram panchayats in the area have used their authority under the 73rd amendment to pass unanimous resolutions against the proposed JNPP. At the public hearing on May 16th 2010 objections were forcefully articulated by scientific experts. We along with the Konkan Bachao Samiti have had detailed discussions with the Minister of Environment and Forests, and technical experts of the NPCIL, NEERI and the AEC. These discussions have only confirmed and reinforced our conclusion that nuclear power is unaffordable, unacceptable, and fails a scientific cost-benefit analysis test.

Till today there has been no disclosure in the public domain about the capital costs of the project, nor the electricity tariff, which can be the basis of study and scrutiny. Most important till today there has been no consideration, leave alone approval of the design, operational safety, security and environmental risks of the project, its likely impact on the ecology and the livelihoods of the area by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and other authorities. The project is not shown on any development plan for Ratnagiri. In these circumstances we have decided not to participate in the proposed meeting on the 18th January 2011.

In addition to our fundamental opposition to nuclear power on the above grounds we have specific objections to the site selection. The Madban plateau is continuously experiencing numerous seismic tremors. Cracks have developed in several places. Water availability is the only criterion which is satisfied according to the criteria of the Vengurlekar Committee. The project will be in substantial violation of the CRZ restrictions, though technically exempted. While selecting this sensitive plateau scientific realities appear to have been ignored. The environmental consequences on the Konkan region of the network of high tension transmission towers needed to evacuate 10,000 MW of power have also not been considered.

Most importantly, the Madban plateau is an unique biodiversity ecological hot-spot, which is has to be preserved as a global natural treasure. “To describe this ecological treasure as a barren plateau is unscientific and a blatant lie, which however is digested by muddleheaded experts from Mumbai- and Delhi”- in these terms Dr. Madhav Gadgil has expressed his criticisms in an article which has appeared in Sakal 12th Nov 2010. The BNHS has also in its report stated that the JNPP will have an adverse impact on the biodiversity and the marine life due to the hot water discharges. The adverse impact on the marine life has also been acknowledged by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Mr. Jairam Ramesh.

The construction of the jetty for building the JNPP will destroy the mangrove forests in and around the creeks. This will destroy the fish breeding grounds and reduce the fish populations. The passage of large sea vessels will destroy marine ecology. The daily intake of 5200 crore litres of water by the project will adversely impact on fish resources. The discharge of the same at a higher temperature will damage the prawn, mollusc and fish resources. There will be a 500 meter no fishing zone all around the project. Security requirements against possible terrorist attacks for the project will place further restrictions on the movement of boats and fishing vessels. All this will have severe adverse impact on the fishing communities in and around the project. There are nearly 7500 persons whose livelihood and survival directly depends on fishing will thus be immediately adversely affected even destroyed. To the south, the livelihood of around 5000 persons directly dependent on fishing for living in fishing villages of Katli, Ingalwadi, Jambhari will be adversely affected. The livelihoods of thousands more who work in the local fishing industry and trade will be devastated.

The current requirement of power of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts is a mere 180 MW, against which 4663 MW of power plant capacity is currently already being exported from these two districts with a further increase of 600 MW in one or two months.

Since shortage of power is cited as the justification for this project we are enclosing a booklet on the alternatives before the country for electricity generation for your perusal.

You are aware that Konkan is the Kashmir of Maharashtra. Substantial employment can be created in industries based on the rich natural resources which do not destroy but preserve and develop the natural wealth. If fish resources are protected, fishing and industries around fish reprocessing can flourish. The working people of Konkan can live with dignity. The farmers, workers and fishing community of Konkan desire a nature conserving, viable and people-oriented development in the Konkan. What kind of development is desirable and what is not is outlined in the booklet that we are enclosing with this letter.

If the government is serious about having a frank dialogue with the activists and the people, certain minimum requirements should be observed. The discussion should take place not in Mumbai but nearby the project site. The organizations opposing the project should have the prerogative to choose their spokesmen and representatives. There should be sufficient time for preparing the discussions on a mutually agreed agenda. The common people should be allowed to participate in the discussion. The issues involved require a discussion of a full day or two days- they cannot be dealt with in a short 2 hour meeting. Only if these minimum requirements are met will it be possible to have a serious and meaningful discussion which is open and unbiased.

If the only purpose of the meeting is to clear our doubts, there is no need for such a meeting. If the meeting is called for any other reason, it is still not possible for us to participate in the current environment of police and state repression. Since the commencement of land acquisition in 2006 ban orders under sections 37(3) (1), 144 have been continuously promulgated in the area, to prevent our exercise of democratic rights. False cases have been foisted on activists. The whole area has been converted into a permanent police camp. Our daily life and livelihood has been rendered difficult, in fact impossible. Mr. Praveen Gavankar, who is a leader of the agitation, has had false cases registered against him and his bail applications have been opposed by the government, to keep imminent arrest as a hanging sword over his head. Peaceful citizens of Maharashtra are being treated as criminals. It is not possible to have a dialogue in these circumstances. We cannot think of discussions if the ban orders and false cases are not withdrawn.

However, if the government is prepared to reconsider the project with an open mind and announces so publicly, we are prepared to meet you for discussions anywhere and at any time.

Your government is trying to impose the project on us. We are determined to oppose it by a mass movement peacefully and democratically. We request you to recognize this democratic opposition, stop attempts to crush it by force, declare that the JNPP project is cancelled and allow us and the people of Maharashtra to live in peace and security.

Our demands:

1. Cancel the Jaitapur Nuclear Project
2. Return the lands which have been forcibly acquired from us.
3. Withdraw all police cases filed against the movement activists and also the ban orders and create a suitable environment for dialogue.

Your truly,
For Janahit Seva Samiti, Madban

Sd/-

Praveen Gavankar, Shyamsundar Narvekar, Surfuddin Kazi, Amjad Borkar, Dr. Milind Desai, Rajan Wadekar, Ramesh Kajve, Shrikrishna Mayekar, Mangesh Kaskar, Bala Gavankar, Malik Gadkari, Sadat Habib, Ms. Manda Wadekar, Mrs.Ranjana Manjrekar

And

Konkan Bachao Samiti, Konkan Vinashakari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, Maharashtra Macchhimar Kruti Samit, Ratnagiri Jilha Jagruk Manch Ratanagiri Dist, Madban-Mithgavhane-Jaitapur Sangharsh Samiti

2010: An action-packed year for Environment Ministry

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Hindu Businessline

New Delhi, Jan. 5

The Environment and Forests Ministry was in news throughout 2010 — be it for Vedanta Resources, Posco and Lavasa — or for the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh’s aggressive green activism.

While the Ministry rejected the green signal to Vedanta for its $1.7 billion project to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa noting that the company violated the environment and forests rules, it put the $12 billion project by South Korean steelmaker Posco under scanner.

The Posco project seeks diversion of 1,253.225 hectares of forest land for the establishment of Integrated Steel Plant and Captive Port in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district.

The Ministry was also in news for holding up the Rs 3,000-crore Lavasa project in Maharashtra.

Lavasa has challenged the Ministry’s directive in the Bombay High Court.

Two mega projects which got conditional clearance last year are Navi Mumbai International Airport to handle 60 million passengers annually by 2030 and 10,000 MW Jaitapur nuclear plant in Maharashtra.

The Ministry invited the wrath of some other ministries particularly coal for its objection to mining activities in forest areas.

Mr Ramesh was forced to agree to increase the “go zone” for coal mining in forest areas, following intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office after the Coal Minister, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, expressed his unhappiness at the Environment Ministry’s decision to declare 40 coal blocks under nine collieries as “no go area” where no mining will be allowed.

“Go areas” are the designated zones in forest areas where coal mining is allowed in case they meet the environment clearance. Mr Jaiswal had complained to the PMO that dividing coal fields into “go” and “no go” areas would result in a massive 600 million tonne annual shortfall in production.