ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Courage to Challenge the Nuclear World Order

In July 2017, 122 countries adopted the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. To mark this historic achievement, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in recognition of its work over the past decade to make this treaty possible. This article reflects on the nuclear disarmament activism that led up to the formation of ICAN and the new treaty, and the challenges this now poses to the nuclear weapon states.

Old Plans, Handouts, New Spin

In May 2017, the union cabinet approved the construction of 10 more 700 megawatt pressurised heavy water reactors. A careful reading of this largely public relations spin on existing plans suggests that it chiefly hopes to persuade the Nuclear Suppliers Group to accept India as a member and attract capital that aims to profit from supplying components for nuclear power plants. Given our track record, the prospects of it adding to the role of nuclear power in India appear bleak.

Old Plans, Ongoing Handouts, New Spin

In May 2017, the union cabinet approved the construction of 10 more 700 megawatt pressurised heavy water reactors. A careful reading of this largely public relations spin on existing plans suggests that it chiefly hopes to persuade the Nuclear Suppliers Group to accept India as a member and attract capital that aims to profit from supplying components for nuclear power plants. Given our track record, the prospects of it adding to the role of nuclear power in India appear bleak.

Nuclear Salesmen in Paris

Despite being strongly promoted by pro-nuclear lobbies, nuclear power was not adopted as a general policy to combat global warming in the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. There are good reasons to expect that as a source of energy, it will only become less important—in particular the high costs of constructing and operating nuclear reactors and rapidly decreasing costs of renewable energy.

A Principled and Knowledgeable Critic

An appreciation of Praful Bidwai's knowledgeable critique of nuclear energy and nuclear power. Praful Bidwai, 66, died in June.

The 2020 Olympics, Fukushima and Trust

The recent leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant demonstrate that the accident that started on 11 March 2011 is by no means over.

Cost of Electricity from the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant

The Indian government has announced that it plans to purchase six European Pressurised Reactors for Jaitapur from the French company, Areva. No EPR is in commercial operation anywhere else in the world. Estimates of costs from plants under construction in Finland and France suggest that each unit may cost as much as Rs 60,000 crore; at this price, six units will cost Rs 3.6 lakh crore. The paper shows that the expected starting tariff for electricity from these reactors, without including transmission and distribution costs, is likely to be around Rs 15 per unit (kWh). The existing revenue model used by the government already involves a large loss for the taxpayer. The government may seek to make the tariff from Jaitapur competitive by increasing the scope and nature of these handouts.

Flunking Atomic Audits

The recent Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and, more broadly, on nuclear safety regulation has highlighted many serious organisational and operational flaws. The report follows on a series of earlier CAG reports that documented cost and time overruns and poor performance at a number of nuclear facilities in the country. On the whole, the CAG reports offer a powerful indictment of the department of atomic energy and its nuclear plans.

Inadequate Basis for Safety of the PFBR

A comment on "The Limits of Safety Analysis: Severe Nuclear Accident Possibilities at the PFBR" by Ashwin Kumar and M V Ramana (EPW, 22 October 2011), followed by a response by the authors themselves.

The Limits of Safety Analysis: Severe Nuclear Acciden Possibilities at the PFBR

The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor that is being built in Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu has the potential to undergo severe accidents that involve the disassembly of the reactor core. Such accidents could release sufficient energy to fracture the protective barriers around the core, including the containment building, and release large fractions of the radioactive material in the reactor into the surroundings. The designers of the PFBR have made choices aimed at making the reactor cheaper rather than safer. The safety assessment of the PFBR points to some fundamental problems with how nuclear technology is regulated.

Feeding the Right Wolf

Bridging Partition: People's Initiatives for Peace between India and Pakistan edited by Smitu Kothari and Zia Mian with Kamla Bhasin, A H Nayyar and Mohammad Tahseen (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan), 2010; pp 360, Rs 495.

The Other Side of Nuclear Liability

The draft nuclear liability bill indemnifies the supplier of a nuclear plant and caps the liability of the operator in the event of an accident. The indemnity for suppliers is meant to please multinational plant vendors who wish to be free of liability even for accidents that result from a design flaw. The cap on operator liability is far lower than the potential damage that a nuclear accident could cause. This clause is designed to facilitate the entry of domestic big business into the nuclear market by ensuring that domestic operators will not be held responsible in the eventuality of damage following an accident. Hence the bill transfers risks for a nuclear mishap onto the people at large. Furthermore, it offers almost no financial disincentive for unsafe behaviour on part of the operators and suppliers of nuclear plants.

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