Posters bearing this intriguing question and the sight of the “32 Idiots” standing on the beach with concern writ largely on their faces appeared in several places in V.G.Vaze College, Mumbai in the last week of July. Alongside were invitations by the Students’ Council of the College, the Science Association as well as the NSS to attend a discussion on “Development for Whom? Who Pays? Who Gains?” in the college auditorium. As the students went around, inviting their associates as well aas teachers and non-teaching staff, a buzz was generated in the college. Many teachers took strong for and against positions on the anti-nuclear movement that has been going on in the country in general and in Maharashtra in particular regarding Jaitapur nuclear power project.

The questions they raised fuelled further discussion in the team that was doing the presentations, and these kept getting modified till the last day. The NSS conducted a survey among the students regarding the anti-nuclear movement, and the results showed that by far the majority were for nuclear energy. They knew nothing about why the protesters were against it. The survey helped in arousing the curiosity of the students and many of them decided to attend the program and learn what their fellow students had discovered.

On August 2 the Auditorium was packed with around 300 students. Around 40 of them were part of the organising team. The form they chose was very attractive and held the audience spell bound. Nine students were interviewed by their friend who had been unable to make the journey to the environs of Tarapur, the site of India’s first nuclear power plant. They took the audience on their physical as well as mental journey of discovering the truth. What they expressed was very interesting.

A few of these students had been attending a discussion group of LRS during the vacations. When the topic of Jaitapur was discussed, they were shocked. Nuclear energy is the best – cheapest, cleanest, safest – is what they had been taught in the schools. The nuclear power plant is a symbol of our country’s progress – people have internalized what the media has been drumming up for ages. Our students (and the teachers of our college) were mo exception to this perceived or received “knowledge”. So they did not believe what the LRS activists were saying in the discussion and decided to find out for themselves. To that end, 3 of them attended a public meeting in which Dr. Anil Kakodkar, the erstwhile chief of India’s nuclear program, held the stage. They way in which the program was carried out (See the report “Lies, Utter Lies and Statistics: on our website) – with no comments from the audience allowed, only those written questions answered which the speaker wished to, machine gun toting “security” to reinforce the speaker’s point of view, and subsequent discussion with activists and others form Jaitapur whose voices were suppressed in the actual program, angered the students and convinced them that the government was trying to fool the people, using eminent scientists and technologists.

The discussions that these “3 idiots” had with their fellow students is what made ten times their number join them on their journey of discovery to Tarapur. Those who came had plenty of doubts about the intentions of LRS activists as well as those of the Konkan Bachao Samiti who briefed them.

These doubts dissolved when they saw the truth with their own eyes, when they were taken to the affected villages and given a chance to talk to whosoever they wished to. What they discovered in Tarapur has already been reported on our website (Uncovering the truth). In this program, in addition to that, they took head on the issue of nuclear energy in general and Jaitapur in particular. (See box)

Our study revealed that all the claims of the proponents of nuclear energy in general and of the JNPP in particular are false!
Claim: Jaitapur is geologically the best place available in India.
Truth: From 1985 to 2005, this region suffered 82 earthquakes of intensity 3 – 5 on the Richter scale; two were of 5.2, one of 5.4 and one of even 6.3! The earthquake on October 2009 Shivni just 17 km from Jaitapur project site. Villages in that area have been affected in the last 10 years by land masses sinking. The earth is being torn apart and fissures (some of a few km length, some 70 feet broad and 50 feet deep) have been formed. Thus, the Jaitapur region is totally unsuitable for a nuclear project, and will endanger the whole of Maharashtra, Goa as well as Karnataka.

Claim: Jaitapur plant is safe from tsunami because it is on a high plateau
Truth: This is not true: The 24.5m plateau will be cut till the 10m height, from the base
safety point of view.
The debris coming out of it, will be used to construct the 10m high wall, which the government claims will give the power plant the necessary protection from events such as tsunami and flooding. But the Fukushima accident was not caused by earthquake; the plant was built to withstand that. The unprecedented high tsunami wave created the disaster. Can we predict Nature?

Claim: “Land being acquired is unproductive!”
Truth: Just visiting the official website of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation and typing “Jaitapur” will reveal the falsity of this claim.Examination of the claims of the supporters of nuclear energy.

Claim: “The major portion of electricity is generated from nuclear power plants”
Truth: In India, only 3% is supplied by nuclear power plants. A large amount of
electricity is wasted in transmission losses and the efficiency of generation is very low
due to poor maintenance. If these problems were solved, many times more electricity
would be saved than what is generated in nuclear power plants. Even in the USA, which
has the maximum number of power plants and also uses the maximum amount of nuclear
energy to generate electricity, only 25% is generated this way.
In the past few decades, no new nuclear plants have been set up in USA due to people’s
opposition. During that time, the energy needs of the USA tremendously increased.
Germany has decided to stop generation of electricity through nuclear plants by 2030.
India and China were the only two countries that were going full steam ahead with setting
up nuclear power plants, and after Fukushima, China has frozen this program.
Thus even the above claim is not true!

Claim: “Nuclear energy is safe.” Some diehard people support this claim even after Fukushima.
Truth: Our search revealed that Fukushima was no exception! Nuclear accidents have created havoc; however not many are reported because governments all over the world keep them secret. Benjamin K Sovacool, an assistant professor and research fellow in the National University (Singapore), has reported that worldwide there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants from 1952 to 2009!

Claim: Nuclear energy is non-polluting!
Truth: After our visit to Tarapur, we knew that this is not true! We found that tremendous harm has been caused to plants, animals including fish, and most importantly to human beings, who suffer from all sorts of terrible diseases. The area around Jaitapur is even richer in bio diversity!
Further, our studies revealed that more dangerous than accidents is the harm caused by
the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants. There has been no technological
solution to this problem so far.
Plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,100 years. (That means, after 24,100 years, the
intensity of radiation declines by only 50%. )We found reports about radioactive contamination of ground water in the case of at least 27 out of the total 104 nuclear power plants in the US. During the last few months, there have been cases of radioactive contamination of groundwater in two nuclear power plants, one in Vermont and another, the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey. People are up in arms against managers of these plants and want plants to be closed down.Biological effects (increased occurrence of cancer, leukemia and genetic damage) are linearly related to accumulated dose of radiation received regardless of whether its big dose administered all at once or a small dose administered over a long period of time.

Claim: “Nuclear energy is cheap.”
Truth: Our search revealed that even this is not true! Pre-Fukushima, a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “The Future of Nuclear Power”, 2003, established that nuclear energy was 50-100% more expensive than energy from coal or gas. This finding was supported by a study of researchers at the University of Chicago. The report by India’s Working Group on Power says that the cost of energy production from the country’s coal-based plants is about one-third lower than nuclear power, with gas 50% cheaper.

Claim: “Nuclear energy is needed for the progress of our country.”
Truth: This is not true! Advanced countries such as Sweden do not use any nuclear power plant. Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out all nuclear power plants and even China has frozen its program after the Fukushima disaster. Surveys reveal that 2/3rd of Americans oppose building more nuclear power plants, 64% of Turks oppose expansion of the nuclear power in country, 80% of Thais do not want nuclear power plants in country, while only 10% Europeans trust the nuclear industry.

The point is that when people become aware of the great threats posed by nuclear power plants, they start opposing them.

Of course, we are only talking about nuclear power plants. It does not mean nuclear energy should not be used for other purposes such as nuclear medicine, irradiation of food to preserve it, research, and so on!
 

The students, responsible young citizens that they are, also expressed great concern about the abuse of power by the government, about how various authorities including their so-called representatives tried to fool the people, and the total disregard for democratic norms exhibited by the government in trampling upon all protests, and even killing 3 non violent people in the process. They raised the very legitimate question– Why should ordinary people pay for the development of a handful of ultra rich?

Before the question and answer session, which generated a lot of discussion, they asserted that “We should care because we believe in justice!” They also told the audience what the angry ex-sarpanch in Tarapur had declared: “If there is a major accident in the Tarapur plant … sure, we people living close by would die. But our agony would last for a matter of minutes. People in Mumbai would also die, but they would die an agonizingly slow death! They would undergo such tortures that they would feel it is better to be dead!”

Some of the teachers were so impressed with the work and dedication of the students in raising this important issue that they arranged a further two editions of the same program for the benefit of the Junior College students. Teachers from other colleges who have heard about this program have invited these students to come and hold it in their institutes.

As a supplementary activity decided upon by the youth who went to Tarapur, distributions of a leaflet on this issue was prepared and distributed to people travelling by train to Konkan. This activity is going on.
 

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