Nuclear Power or Liability: Reply to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Nuclear Power or Liability
    Power of Atom
    What is Nuclear Power?
    Can we split all atoms?
    Energy and economy
    Economy of Nuclear Power
        Installation cost
            Olkiluoto
            Koodamkulam
        Operational cost
            Fuel cost
            Security Cost
            Cooling spent fuel
            Waste Disposal
        Decommissioning cost
        Accidents
        Depreciation cost
        How it’s working?
        Who thought twice?
    Climate change cry and clean energy myth
    Clean Nuclear Power?
        Plant Construction and decommissioning
        Operational, Fuel manufacturing and waste disposal
    What about Thorium
    Germany and Phasing out nuclear power
        Phase out
        Germany
    Uninterrupted power
        Solar and wind availability
    Nuclear accidents
    Banker’s role
    Government’s role
    Risk of science and engineering
    Sacrifice
    Why so secret
    Opportunity cost

Nuclear Power or Liability: Reply to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

Technology has an important role in human development. That development is very much connected to energy. Its demand started from a humble level in Stone Age to more than terra unit range in 21st century. We need energy in our daily life, from household needs to pushing tons of electronic equipment to 3km above earth or accelerating sub atomic particles to speed of light.

From where are we getting this huge amount of energy? There are a lot of technologies which extract stored energy in substances. One among them is the 20th century mystical technology called Nuclear Power. Regarding all other technologies world has a consensus on whether it is good or bad. But nuclear is something special. Some people say it is very dangerous and others say it’s a sacred gift. Those who say it is a gift are not ordinary people. Recent times President of India, a technocrat celebrity, wrote an article about virtue nuclear power an unstable renewable power in The Hindu newspaper. So does the nuclear power is so great or renewable is too unstable? Why lots of people are protesting against nuclear power? Let’s take a closer look at arguments in that article.

Power of Atom

Atoms contains enormous amount of energy and we have a huge deposit of Thorium. Why can’t we take advantage of those? Why the so called environmentalists are against this technology? It is easy to say that rich foreign countries don’t like India to develop, or those who criticizing nuclear power is following foreign countries and anti-patriotic. This is 2500 years old tactics, by wearing the great patriotic jacket and telling people that other countries are going to destroy us, of mobilizing people and to get easy consensus without proper analysis and branding anyone challenges their idea will be treated as traitors. Usually fascists employ this tactic in modern times.

Selecting one technology is not a political decision or a diplomatic decision. It is environmental, scientific/engineering, economic decision. This is an engineering problem, it has to be dealt with science and engineering. Not based on rhetoric talks or politics.

For that we need to analyze nuclear technology in depth to take that decision.

What is Nuclear Power?

It is the power from the nucleus of atoms. There are two technologies which deal with nucleus of atoms. One is splitting of atom and another is fusing atoms. Both will release energy because the mass, that we splitting or fusing, is moving towards a more stable less energy system. So the excess energy in the old system is released. Second one is not useful for human yet, research is going on.  So all the talk happening is about splitting of atoms.

People who listen to the rhetoric of the nuclear industry think that when splitting an atom electricity can generated directly. They think that putting some atoms on dish connect it to electrodes, start nuclear process, then uninterrupted electricity flow will start for ever.

Actually the energy released by nuclear reaction is not electricity. It’s in the form of heat energy, high energy radiation and kinetic energy of particles. A nuclear reactor splits atoms and then collects the released heat energy into water or some other medium. That heat energy is used to make steam and that steam turns generator to produce electricity just like ordinary thermal power plants.

So all we doing with nuclear power is just boiling water.  Please remember this always.

Can we split all atoms?

Nuclear industry rhetoric will tell generally that we can split atoms. Theoretically it is correct. We can place any atom in a particle accelerator such as one at CERN and bombard it with high energy particle. (Previously these accelerators are called atom smashers.  Now they are working in subatomic level). But this uses huge amount of energy rather than producing it.

Atoms which have atomic weight above Iron can be split to generate energy, but they can’t be fused.  Similarly atoms, which have atomic weight lower than Iron, are fused to release energy. They can’t be split for releasing energy. What about Iron. It cannot be split or fused to generate energy. It’s in the most stable state. So we cannot split all atoms to generate energy.

Nuclear industry is talking about splitting of atoms that should release energy. They bombard Uranium -235 atom with neutron with right amount of energy. By absorbing the neutron, heaviest element in nature, uranium, becomes unstable and split into two releasing 3 extra neutrons and huge amount of energy. The extra neutron released can split three other uranium atoms and this goes on. This is called chain reaction.

But not all elements in nature show these properties. Fissile elements that has low neutron energy and starts chain reaction only be useful for nuclear reactors. Now we have only Uranium (233, 235) and Plutonium (239) isotopes for that purpose. Uranium-238 is fissionable but it need high energy neutron. Uranium is the only naturally available element. Plutonium is made in reactors by radiating Uranium-238.

So the talks like atoms in the universe has enormous amount of energy is simply a marketing talk.

Energy and economy

We need energy. Energy and economy is very much connected. Average US citizen uses 15 times more energy than Indian. But it does not reflect their wellbeing. For example most of the Americans feel that they are cheated with their own government and rich powerful people. They are protesting in streets for economic justice. Occupy Wall Street movement is about that. Even though Media is not showing, it is happening.

Simply generating energy like US will not help our country or our people. Economy is a sub system of a bigger finite system called nature. A sub system cannot grow beyond that static finite parent system. If we all live like average Americans then we need 4 more Earth. So aping Americans will break the parent system.

Economy of Nuclear Power

Now we have to ask a direct question about economy of nuclear power. Its economy is depends on complete life cycle of nuclear power. Major sections of that life cycle are:

  1. Installation – Building of nuclear power plant and its accessory infrastructure.
  2. Operation – mining uranium or thorium ore, extracting uranium or thorium from the ore, enriching the fuel, fabricating fuel rods, using fuel in reactor, extracting spent fuel and reloading fuel, cooling spent fuel, disposing nuclear waste.
  3. Decommissioning – safely shutting down reactor and dismantle everything into safe storage.

When we talk about economy we must include cost for all these items. But as usual, marketing people never shows this all. They just portray Uranium/Thorium magically appearing as fuel rods in the plants. Public will be unaware of the true cost of nuclear power since that externalize all other costs. But the nation (citizen) has to pay the complete cost from cradle to grave today or tomorrow.

Installation cost

All nuclear plant installation cost on paper and actual cost on completion is different.  Let us check one currently building nuclear plant.

Olkiluoto 3

Work began for 1,600 megawatt Olkiluoto 3 EPR 2005. It was scheduled to be online in 1-5-2009. Initial cost estimates were about Rs 25,530 crore (€ 3.7 billion). It is estimated that the cost will overrun to Rs 18,630 crore (€ 2.7 billion) in 2010. So Expected cost in 2010 was 44,160 crores. Few weeks back TVO said that as per current estimate will be online in 2014. So the cost will rise again. But who knows in 2014 plant will be online or not. Don’t think that the delay was because of people are protesting. Actually people asked for this nuclear plant. The real cause for the delay is technical challenges and security tests.

Remember during all these 9 years time there is not a single unit of electricity is not produced. Just taking money from the bank and making bankers happy by the interests to pay back.

This project was a joint venture of AREVA and Siemens. But Siemens now abandoned the failed nuclear business and sold all shares to AREVA. “The chapter for us is closed,” Peter Löscher, CEO of Siemens, told about their nuclear business all over the world.

Koodamkulam

Construction work began in 1997. 1000 MW Unit 1 Scheduled completion date was Dec-2007 and expected date of operation May-2012. 1000 MW Unit 2 scheduled complete on Dec-2008 expected operation date is Feb-2013. In 2001 its expected cost was 15,000 crores. Now we spent more than Rs 14,000 crores as per government sources. In India all these are done in secret in the name of national security. So nobody knows exact cost of the plant.

So building a nuclear plant requires 10-15 years. The cost will be 70 lakhs per mega watt capacity if things go well as planned.  But In the case of Olkiluoto now its cost is 27.6 crores per megawatt now. This is not the cost of electricity; it’s the cost of plant construction.

Operational cost

Fuel cost

To get Uranium or Thorium we need to mine it. That requires mining ore, extracting Uranium or thorium from the ore. This is huge energy, water consuming process and uses hazardous chemicals. After taking uranium or thorium remaining is mining waste. People who live near to coal mines complain about its pollution. You can see the same thing with Uranium or Thorium mines too if you have a chance to visit those people. Only difference, instead of black waste, here it’s radioactive and poisonous substances.  For properly process and dispose mining waste requires more investments, so the fuel cost will go high. That’s why coal mines as well as uranium/thorium mines does not do that.

After extracting uranium it has to go through enrichment operation, and then it will be fabricated to fuel rod.  That fuel rod is used in reactors. Thorium also goes though similar process, but first it has to be converted to U-233 in an existing reactor.

Neutrons are injected to fuel rods to split uranium. That will release energy, and is used to boil water to steam. The steam will turn turbine. Then the generator which is connected to turbine generates electricity.

Till boiling water, all these are costly dangerous operations. As we build more nuclear plants the demand for nuclear fuel will go high also the quantity mining wastes.

Security Cost

Our bad diplomacy and bad governess are creating more and more terrorists daily. Since nuclear power plant has radioactive fuels and wastes, it has to be securely kept. That is the task of government. So tax payers have to pay for it. This is a direct expense, but never comes into power plant budget.

Cooling spent fuel

Spent fuel is the used nuclear fuel from the reactor. It is very hot substance so kept in refrigerated water pool for 6 years to 20 years.  The water temperature in normal operating conditions is held below 50°C. A process called “Radiolysis”, the dissociation of molecules by radiation, is of particular concern in this wet storage. Water molecule will split into Hydrogen and Oxygen by radiation from the spent fuel. In Fukushima and Three Mile Island this happened. The spent fuel split the cooling water and caused the hydrogen explosion. So the air quality of the spent fuel pool must have to be monitored and treated continuously.

Another issue is the zirconium which is used for cladding nuclear reactor fuels. It is used as cladding because Zirconium allows neutrons from the fuel pellets in the rods to pass freely between the rods and thus a nuclear chain reaction to be sustained. It is highly volatile and when hot will explode spontaneously upon contact with air, water or steam. So cooling spent fuel is an important thing.

Waste Disposal

No matter the size of the waste, the fission products need to be removed and kept in safe location, since it is radioactive. That is costly operation. So plant owners don’t do this. Usually all the nuclear plants in world keeps the spent fuel within the plant itself, thinking that someday somebody will build a waste repository.

In 1983 US started to build such a repository for their n-waste. It is at Yucca Mountain, supposed to be open in 2017, 20 years behind schedule. Its cost is Rs 480,000 crores. It can contain 63,000 tonnes of waste for 150 years, Rs 4615 crores price tag on each one of the reactors for 150 years.

We still don’t have plan for such facility.

Decommissioning cost

One excuse about Fukushima disaster was the reactor was old. But why it did not decommissioned? The life of nuclear plant is 25 years. On expiry plant needs to be decommissioned. The decommissioning cost per reactor is estimated to Rs 9000 crores. Usually they extend the license because of this huge decommissioning cost.

Accidents

When accidents happen, the builders and marketing people will disappear. The entire burden will be on the government, tax payers. But in India as per Nuclear Industry lobby and its marketing people disaster will never happen to Indian nuclear reactors. We don’t know what magic is that. If major accident happens, its cost will be astronomical.

Depreciation cost

Time taken to build a nuclear power plant varies from 10 years to 20 years. Till all these time valuable capital is blocked for nothing. Not a single unit of energy is generated during these times.

How it’s working?

Then how can a nuclear plant is possible with these high cost. Government subsidies are making it happen. US federal subsidies will cover up to 80 percent of construction costs of several nuclear power plants in addition to loan guarantee, generous production tax credits, as well as risk insurance. Apart from this there billions of dollars pay off in the name research and development.

About the government support for nuclear power, there is one incident which worth mention. In 1983 Washington Public Power Supply System abandoned three nuke plants in mid-construction. The projects were plagued by massive cost overruns–one infamous section of piping was reinstalled seventeen times, safety inspections were blatantly ignored, incompetent contractors were allowed to continue work and on and on. When the project finally died, unfinished costs had ballooned to $24 billion, and the utility walked away from $2.25 billion worth of bonds. This was the largest municipal bond default in US history.

In countries like France, India nuclear plant is owned by state. So no need to subsidy required. All the tax payer money can easily dumped into that.

Who thought twice?

Even with subsidies and government support there are people in business community took a different choice.

Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company scrapped plans to build a plant in Payette, Idaho, because no matter how many times its managers ran the numbers (and they spent $13 million researching it), they found that it simply made no sense from an economic standpoint. South Carolina Electric and Gas has also suspended its two planned reactors, citing costs as the key factor. In 1985 Forbes called the nuke industry “the largest managerial disaster in history.”

Climate change cry and clean energy myth

These are the costs associated with nuclear reactors. So it is clear that full life cycle cost is too high for this technology. What about global warming? Don’t we need to protect earth?

We need energy. Now its significant part is coming from burning fossil fuels. As we know fossil fuels have problems. They cause human health issues and emit 21% of the total greenhouse gases emission. Greenhouse gases are the reason for human caused disastrous climate change.

Nowadays climate change is a common word even in the common people. Our life depends on stable weather and good environment in this planet. For that atmospheric CO2 concentration has to be less than 350 ppm. But now it is 393 ppm and we are increasing CO2 emission at a rate of 2 ppm/year. The released CO2 forms a blanket over earth trapping sun’s energy causing global warming. A major part of released CO2 is getting dissolved in sea. That makes sea more acidic, killing marine life. We have to stop it. We can reduce CO2 in atmosphere by shifting to cleaner energy sources that does not emit CO2. Solar, wind, geothermal, tidal kind of dozens of energy generation methods are available for that.

Clean Nuclear Power?

No wonder, nuclear advertisers caught that term and successfully using it as a mask. Nuclear plant as such does not emit CO2. There energy is generated by splitting the atoms. Nuke proponents take this as an advantage and sell this idea. To understand the truth about this we need to analyze embodied CO2 in the full nuclear life cycle, same as we did for the economy of nuclear power.

When we burn coal/petrol, it will release energy, CO2 and other byproducts. CO2 released in this way is called “Operational CO2”. In that sense, we can say that nuclear power plant does not have operational CO2. Will this make it clean?

No. There is one more term: “embodied CO2”. It is the total CO2 emitted by the life cycle of one product. We can divide nuclear lifecycle mainly into 2, first Construction and decommissioning of nuclear plant, second manufacturing of nuclear fuel, transportation and nuclear waste disposal.

Since our economy is driven by fossil fuels, everything that we use has a carbon foot print (embodied CO2) including solar panels. But solar uses relatively no operational substances, its embodied CO2 emissions by its production, will be offset by 2-3 years of operation.

Plant Construction and decommissioning

Even though nuclear plant does not emit CO2 by splitting atoms, its infrastructure and fuel contains huge amount of embodied CO2. The construction of huge concrete building, steel frameworks, other big complex equipments and transportation of materials releases a lot of CO2. After 25 years dismantle this huge plant then transport it to some safe repository. Building these also emit CO2.

Operational, Fuel manufacturing and waste disposal

Splitting of atom does not release CO2. But making that atom ready for splitting has the hidden carbon foot print.

Like all mining, Uranium, Thorium mining causes pollution at the mining and processing sites. When we do it in am massive scale like coal, same kind environmental disaster will happen with different set of pollutants.  Here mining wastes are radioactive too.

Both Uranium and Thorium needs to go though enrichment process. Then fabricate it to fuel roads.  While splitting huge amount of fresh water is needed to cool the plant. That why they build nuclear plants near to sea or river. All these processes have big carbon footprint and other pollutions.

For years we have to cool the spent fuel from the reactor in spent fuel pool. Then it has to be transport to safer disposal sites and keep there for centuries. Waste cooling, transportation, building these safe repositories and its maintenance also has embodied CO2. The proposed nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain has a life of 150 years. After that it has be rebuilt.

So telling nuclear energy is a clean energy is simply a lie. For fossil fuel free world choosing nuclear is a wrong thing.

What about Thorium

Nuclear Industry marketing department says India has huge deposit of Thorium. They tell that using one ton of thorium burned in a molten salt reactor (eg:LFTR) can produce one GigaWatt of energy. A traditional reactor (PWR) would need to burn 250 tonnes of uranium to produce the same amount of energy.

Great! Have you checked nuclear reaction equations of this so called Thorium reactor? It is this,

N + Th-232 -> Th-233 -> Pa-233 -> U-233

Are you seeing anything familiar? U-233? Till this time no energy is generated. Thorium is not a fissile atom. That is, we cannot split Thorium to generate energy. But it is a fertile element. We can convert it to fissile element. That is happening in the above equation. But for this you need a conventional reactor. Final U-233 is bombarded with neutron in a reactor and that will split and generates energy. So it is just a Uranium-233 reactor.

All nuclear fuels have some enrichment process. So what happens to thorium is just an additional enrichment process for that we need a traditional reactor which will supply the required neutron to convert Thorium to Uranium. Additional work means additional cost. All the problems of radiation still exist.

So the ‘Thorium reactors’ same issues of traditional reactors at immense cost.

There is nothing new about thorium. It has been around since the 1950s. A 10MW LFTR did run for five years during the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, though using uranium and plutonium as fuel. USA and Australia also have good thorium reserve. So why do they abandoned that technology in 1960s itself?

Breading is another term these people used to market this. It consists of breeding, reprocessing and fuel fabrication.  Breeding is not a straight process that gives your desired element. Instead it gives a mix of radioactive elements. From that we have to extract our desired element. Then this highly radioactive element has to fabricate into fuel rods. All these are costly, dangerous, ugly, high maintenance required slow process.

The process fast breeder is not fast as the name suggests (“fast” refers to the neutron speeds needed at the subatomic level, rather than to the speed of the process). The four-step sequence of thorium-breeding is worse. The uranium-233 which you get at the end of the process is contaminated with uranium-232 and with highly radioactive thorium-228, both of which are neutron-emitters, reducing its effectiveness as a fuel. The comparatively long half-life of protactinium-233 (27 days) makes for problems in the reactor, since substantial quantities linger on for up to a year.

The time required to breed fuel for another reactor is high. This increases accident chance. So the containment of this facility should be build to withstand that condition.

Still it produces radioactive waste. One of its fission products is Uranium-232 of half-life 68.9 years. Even though this is only a human life time, it releases more intense radiation though all its life. The real fuel that uses, U-233 is far more dangerous than other nuclear fuels. Anything happening in its storage or transportation will be disastrous.

A study for the nuclear industry in Japan concludes: “A successful commercial breeder reactor must have three attributes: it must breed, it must be economical, and it must be safe. Although any one or two of these attributes can be achieved in isolation by proper design, the laws of physics apparently make it impossible to achieve all three simultaneously, no matter how clever the design.”

Sixty years ago, the technology with space-age optimism told that electricity was going to be “too cheap to meter.” It failed. Now they are saying the same thing with new jargon called thorium. This so called “green hope” is just a false promise.

Germany and Phasing out nuclear power

Huge economic cost, huge environmental cost, never possible to have a government subsidy free life even in 60th year also, are the facts about this technology.  If accidents happen, builders and advertisers will disappear. The issue becomes national and world importance. Government and international governments have to do all clean up and rehabilitation of people.

Phase out

Several countries, especially European countries, have abandoned the use of nuclear energy since 1987. Austria (1978), Sweden (1980) and Italy (1987) voted in referendums to oppose or phase out nuclear power. In 2000, the German government joined the phase out movement.

Germany

Capitalist country Germany is the largest economy in European Union and 4th largest in the world. Some people are saying Germany is already a developed country so it can afford to lose a few plants. It’s already exhausted its uranium reserves. Is this true?

No country in this world is run by saints who ready to give up something. So do Germany. By phasing out nuclear plants they are not giving up their power generation plans.  The country’s share of renewable electricity was 5% in 2000.  In 2010 it reached to 18%. Germany installed almost 7.4 gigawatts of solar panels in 2010 taking the total installed capacity to almost 16 GW which is 40% of the world’s total installed solar capacity.

So are they giving up power production? No. By closing down a few nuclear plants and diverting that money, Germany is really boosting their renewable energy production. They are no giving up anything. They are going in the right direction. People who are in the wrong side may think it strange.

Uninterrupted power

Wait, this renewable power is not stable, and are dependent excessively on weather and sunshine conditions. Yes how a solar panel will work if there is no sun rays, how a wind turbine can turn if there is no wind at all.

Even though we did not work in power plants, we know how things are happening there. We have experience in miniature power plants like small generator set that we use at home at the time of power failures. There we start the generator and electricity will be produced by burning petrol or diesel. The moment it stops we will lose power.

So power plant is a bigger version of this. This is the common belief.  Nuclear industry lobbyists are taking advantage of this in their rhetoric.

Actually bigger power plants are not a standalone facility. It is connected to grid. Some countries they are connected to “smart grid”. All these plants generate electricity and supply it to grid, the grid then distribute to individual customers.  No Coal, nuclear, gas available 100% of time. The electric grid is built in this mind. A well functioning coal plant is not available for 44 days in a year. Nuclear plant will not available for 36 days. It needs refueling in every 17 months. That will take 39 days. These are the normal situation. There are abnormal situations that nowadays happening regularly.

Can Jelly fish stop a big nuclear plant? Orot Rabin plant in Hadera, Israel, Torness nuclear facility in Scotland, San Luis Obispo County’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant what is common to these plants? The cooling water showed high temperature. Nobody has any clues. They shutdown the plant and inspected everything. Officials have to dig into sea to find the source of water and realized that cooling water intake was blocked by jelly fishes. Diggers remove d them. No power came from these plants till all cleaned up.

Why the jelly fish attack becoming common event? This is also our thoughtless development process. We are changing the chemical composition of ocean by dumping industrial, chemical, agriculture, and fertilizer wastes. That gives good environment for the primitive life forms to flourish. Advanced forms of ocean life such as fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are thriving and spreading. That is another issue of our thoughtless development.

No plants prepared for this and no nuclear think-tank anticipated this.

Here is another issue. Tennessee River temperature reached 32 degree Celsius during 2011 August. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant’s cooling water discharge is into this river. Since the river is already hot they cannot do that and plant has to power down to 50%. Similar problems in 2010 forced the Tennessee Valley Authority to spent $50 million for replacement power. (The extra expense translated to something between 50 cents and $1 on most electric bills several months later.) If temperature cannot be kept below 30.5 degree Celsius they need to shutdown the reactor. Global warming will cause more extreme temperature in future. So it seems like nukes need to be shut down in summer!

Solar and wind availability

Sun and wind are variable. But they can be predictable. Wind energy goes down only 7 days of year. Wind is predictable in hours ahead. And it will die gradually so that grid can adjust efficiently. But when conventional power plant fails it does that completely unpredictably in milliseconds, a challenge for grid operator.

Also new renewable technologies are evolving too. There are solar thermal power plants which stores heat and uses when sun is not shining. Gemasolar Power Plant near Seville in southern Spain uses molten salt to store heat and release it for up to 15 hours overnight, or during periods without sunlight.

Another strong base renewable power source is geothermal. Instead of digging death why don’t we dig heat directly to heat water? Tidal power, Ocean currents these will never stop. All households can be fitted with solar panels or micro wind turbine. If we connect all of these to a smart grid then that will give 100% reliable power. Power generation becomes highly distributed; poor homes can get some money by selling power. Natural disaster happening in one place never affects entire state.

There is no uninterrupted power supply. It’s the grid makes it 100% available.

Nuclear accidents

All accidents are extra ordinary rare events. In 6 decades 4 accidents. What a great safety standard. But why nuclear industry making governments rules to reduce liability cost? Why they are worrying on liability even it is safe? How many people are still dying because of those 4 accidents? What is the total cost of all 4 nuclear accidents?

Let us ignore the risk of accidents, it’s a rare incident. But I want to mention two incidents that not directly related.

1. India’s atomic safety body said that radioactive scrap metal which found its way into buttons installed into lifts in France had been traced back to a western Indian foundry. France’s Mafelec firm delivered thousands of lift buttons to Otis, a subsidiary of the US elevator company, which installed them in at least 500 lifts in the country over the summer. Otis has said it is now in the process of removing the buttons, after France’s Nuclear Safety Authority announced Tuesday that 20 workers who handled the lift buttons had been exposed to excessive levels of radiation. The French nuclear safety agency has said the lift buttons contained traces of radioactive Cobalt 60. Swedish officials also said they had found faint traces of radioactivity in steel items imported from India.

2. An incident of tritium intake by some workers of the Kaiga station was noticed on November 24, 2009 during routine sampling of their urine. A drinking water cooler was found to be the source of water contamination and this cooler was isolated immediately. About 65 workers of Kaiga-1 receiving radiation doses higher than the prescribed limits “has nothing to do with the reactor’s functioning.” Rivalry between two groups of workers was the root cause of this issue.

So the rabbit hole is too deep.

It is not just 4 accidents in 6 decades. In 2002 100 kg radioactive sodium leaked at Kalpakkam plant and 3 crore dollars spent for cleaning.  In 1995 28 crore dollars spent for cleaning radioactive helium leak in Rajasthan Atomic Power station. Please go through this page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_accidents_by_country.

Cost of all these accidents are not paid by those who built it. Instead the tax payers have to pay. In Japan, Government paid TEPCO $11.5 billion aid. In future they have to pay more.   Chernobyl disaster costs t US$235 billion (in 2005 dollars).

They say Indian nuclear power plants are safe from any accidents. Koodankulam plant is high up from the sea level. So tsunami waves cannot reach there. But have you seen Koodankulam in google map? Please take a look and see the size of nuclear plant and floating water in the sea.

You may be wondering why these dangerous equipment is kept there. It is another issue. Nuclear plants are thirsty. They want huge amount of water to cool off.  One more reason is the kitchen fire. When kitchen is in fire, we pour water. Most advance safety feature that we saw in Fukishima also same thing. Only difference is they use helicopter to pour water. Since it is near to sea lot of water is there and contaminated water also easily flow back to sea.

For some people nuclear accidents happened only 4 times in 6 decades.  But in reality everyday is an anniversary of nuclear accident. Only difference is that we are not aware of it.

Now we can say our nuclear plants can withstand fury of nature and they are mature enough to handling human errors. Even in 2009 nuclear experts of Fukushima also said same thing.

Nuclear energy is safe until next disaster.

Banker’s role

In all of these discussions, there is one kind of people never come into picture. They make money by building nuclear plants. They make money when people get sick by radiation. They make money even in a nuclear disaster. Who are they?

They are the great “Bankers”. Even though we say we are a democratic country, the reality is different. People are not rulers. The real rulers are the Financial System. Regardless of loss or gain they make profit. They make rules for themselves; do risky bets with people’s money, loot taxpayer money as bailout. When they opened a small portion of their asset thought stock market common people are also started to yell for economic growth in this finite planet.

Nuclear power plants need huge investments. It takes long time to construct it. Its maintenance and disposal also need huge amount of money. All these transactions make the banker’s computer screen hot. So do their profit. When people get sick of cancer then also bankers are happy. When accidents happen also bankers will be happy. Whatever happens, bankers will make profit.

The alternative renewable power has very different nature. It is cheaper, faster to construct, it is decentralized, modular, low maintenance.  For example, 18.4 GW of new wind farm installations happened in first half of 2011 making total worldwide wind capacity to 215 GW. China, who is top in world wind market, added 8 GW in only 6 months in 2011. 5MW solar park at Hawton in Nottinghamshire was completed in 6 weeks.

Financiers don’t like this decentralized, reliable, maintenance free power generation. Think that you installed solar panels on your roof. Next 20 years there is no maintenance cost, since the firms give 20 years guaranty.

From the financier’s perspective this is the big disadvantage of renewable power. Since it is decentralized, reliable, maintenance free, free fuel, micro generation, there is no lobbying opportunity. Mainstream media which are interested in lobbyist’s money also don’t like it. They downplay renewable power all the time.

But for the people this makes it a right choice for power generation. So those who against renewable power is who want to loot our money.

Government’s role

In old ages, why there are big kingdoms in some places while there are small kingdoms in places like Kerala? The scarcity of resources causes big challenge in human society. To overcome those issues they built gigantic infrastructures to make those available. People build big dams and canals to make their land good for agriculture. They need big armies to protect these infrastructures. Only big kingdoms with huge manpower could do these tasks. Places where resources are abundant there these infrastructures are not required. So they don’t need to form big kingdoms.

The infrastructure requirement for nuclear power is high and is secretive in nature. Even today there are less risky, less dangerous, cheap, reliable methods of power generation technologies like renewable power are available, still the big governments prefer technologies that give them more control over citizens. So bureaucrats and politicians like this technology very much. A lot of them made good career on it.

Risk of science and engineering

More than 1500 people are dying every year in flight accidents. Even one of the inventors Orville Wright himself seriously injured in accident. Everyday accidents are happening, Titanic sank. There were 10 failed attempts before Apollo -11 landing on Moon. Great Indian space program also like that.

These unsuccessful attempts and huge human losses do not stop us from development of science and technology.

For nuclear technology also accidents are inevitable, so please bear it after all this is a great new technology, we are splitting atoms. That’s the marketing mantra of nuclear industry.

The scale and stupidity of the risk makes their arguments rhetoric. 60 year old technology is no more a new technology. It has to mature by this time.

It is not just the 4 major accidents; every day is an anniversary of nuclear accident. We have to be vigilant to protect the huge radioactive stockpile which makes a difficult task in this age of terrorism and climate change. Threat even comes from inside. Kaiga incident shows that. Their nuclear power plant employees are responsible for that deadly act.

In space and in time, a nuclear power plant major accident has deepest and widest impact than any other accidents. Take a look at city of Prypiat near Chernobyl plant. Once a city of population of 50,000, most of them are working at the Chernobyl plant, become a ghost town with the accident in 1986 for more than 25 years and for how many decades in future. 100,000 km² of land is contaminated and 350,400 people were evacuated by Chernobyl disaster. Chernobyl disaster caused US$235 billion loss. In Fukushima 2.7 × 1016 Bq of caesium-137 washed into sea. There drama is still going on.

But other accidents such as fight accident, car accidents etc are local and instantaneous. (Exceptions are there like Deep water horizon oil spill, Bhopal Gas disaster. But all these are wrong thing from the beginning and knowledgeable people warned about these even before the incidents). Just being a technology is not a blank cheque for doing anything. Life is more important than anything including economy.

The only way a person to move fast on ground is by getting inside an automobile. The only way for a person to get the ability to fly is by getting inside an airplane.  The only way person to go to space or deep water is by getting inside a rocket or in submarine. Accidents happening there is inevitable. But we choose to go there.

What’s about boiling water? Is there only way for it? Are you ready to take huge risk, just to boil water?

There are hundreds of ways to boil water. We always choose less risky cheap one. Instead of digging death, we can dig heat directly from deep earth to boil water. We call it geothermal power plants. Total solar energy reaching earth is around 174 x 1015 Watts. This is 274 million gigawatt-years of solar energy, which translates to an astonishing 8.2 million “quads” of Btu energy per year. To get an idea take our current energy use. The entire human race currently uses about 400 quads of energy (in all forms) per year!

So why are we fooling around. There are solar thermal power plants which run even in night. 19.9 MW Gemasolar Power Plant near Seville in southern Spain can store sun’s heat for 15 hours overnight to produce electricity in night. Torresol Energy, who built Gemasolar Power Plant, completed 2 other same type plants named Valle I & II of capacity 50MW. We know about concentrated solar heat from the time of Archimedes. But now only we started to give importance.

Let’s say the Wright brothers found a new way to walking, but kills 1500 people a year. Do we accept that technique just because it’s a new technology? So choosing nuclear plant for electricity generation has nothing to do with advancement of science or technology. But still we can have a nuclear research lab in some safe isolated place with no social or environmental importance. Not destroying public life and habitat.

Sacrifice

Nuclear technology cannot ignore one person named Marie Curie. She died in 1934 because of radiation. Due to their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890′s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her notebook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.

If a note book is treated with such a care what about the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Journalist George Weller, who was the first journalist, visited Nagasaki after the atom bomb explosion, wrote a 25,000-word report on the horrors he encountered in Nagasaki. US military banned that report and destroyed it. He talks about a “Disease X”, healthy people are simply dying. Doctors don’t understand what is happening. The survivors of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are named hibakusha, in Japan still faces discrimination and suffering from increased disease rate.  Many hibakusha could not get married because of their disfigured appearance and fears about offspring. And those who married also scared to give birth to children because of the fear of genetic mutation chance.

A study, conducted by the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (INSERM) and reported in the International Journal on Cancer in January 2012, looked at child leukemia cases nationwide diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, with addresses coded around 19 nuclear power plants. It demonstrated a statistically significant doubling of the incidence of leukemia childhood near nuclear power plants.

The French study confirms an earlier German study, known as the KiKK, which found a doubling of the incidence of child leukemia near nuclear power plants, and an increased risk of 60 per cent for all childhood cancers. The KiKK findings were confirmed by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

High levels of ionizing radiation, from the depleted uranium used in munitions during the Gulf wars causing increased rates of cancer and birth defects in Iraqi cities Najaf, Basra, ­Falluja. Ionizing radiation can cause DNA damage. Fukushima rice shows increased radiation levels. Japan banned export of rice and beef. Because of radioactive cesium content, Japanese baby Food Company Meiji recalled powdered baby milk.

Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) and Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) studied late-effects of radiation did not find any correlation between radiation and birth defect. The study funded by US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the same people who built the A-bomb, could not find the relation does not mean that ionizing radiation has no effect in human DNA.

We cannot shut eyes on all these.

Why so secret

This industry works in secretive ways. Nobody knows what’s really happening. This is no more acceptable. For 40 years the world trusted the free market advocates blindly. The result was 2008 economic meltdown.  We are not going to trust anyone blindly.

So those who are proponents of nuclear power first thing you have to do before arguing make this industry transparent. Let everyone give a chance to inspect.

But you worried about national security? That means we should go for technology that is less national security issue.

Opportunity cost

Developed world and countries like China are spending lot of effort in renewable power. Those early birds will control the renewable power industry if we are not investing in the same pace and we may have to depend on those technologies. We may have to buy technology from them on higher cost, wasting job opportunities. Nuclear plants are not prime source of energy even for developed countries. In Japan after Fukushima disaster 50 out of its 54 nuclear power plants went offline. Those 4 are also going to shut down for inspection. Still nothing happened to Japan. No power issues.

We spent billions of rupees in our Civilian Nuclear Program. But it was all under national security darkness. Now Indian citizens want complete accountability of our nuclear program. We want accountability in a day today basis. Let’s make all civilian nuclear plants and DAE fully under the audit of controller and auditor general of India.

Instead of dumping huge taxpayer money into this disaster and waiting for decades we should invest in renewable power. Trend is showing that.

Renewable power surpasses nuclear power in 2010. The entire global installed nuclear capacity prior to the Fukushima disaster was 375 GW. Renewable power produces 381 GW. Even now in US, who has very strong nuclear power lobby, more power is coming from renewable (11.95%) than from nuclear (10.62%).

Future is about extreme weather because of anthropogenic CO2 emission. Now also we are getting a taste of it. At current rate of CO2 emission global temperature will rise by 4C. That change will cause the extreme weather events a common thing. So what we need is, energy generation that can adapt this condition that has lower environmental footprint.   In that sense nuclear is not at all a solution, but just a problem.

Future generations will curse us, the same was as we curse our past generations for choosing fossil fuels, if we are not taking the right decision of investing in renewable and energy efficiency than this dangerous, uneconomic, wasteful technology of boiling water.

Action items for nuclear proponents

  1. Make the nuclear industry transparent.
  2. Audit all nuclear power plants under Controller and Auditor General of India.
  3. Remove cap on nuclear accident liability. Make builder 100% responsible for the accidents. No bail out.
  4. Run without government subsidy and tax exemptions.

More information is available in this section.

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