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All is not fine for India’s nuclear power programme

A study by the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, that was released recently by the A.P.-Telangana-based voluntary organisation Human Rights Forum, warns India that GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse nuclear reactors are neither cost-effective nor power-efficient and that they have a huge risk factor.

This time round, the CPI(M) has decided to take up the cause in a big way. Senior party leader Prakash Karat visited Kovvada and other villages to interact with fishermen and farmers and addressed a public meeting there on July 16. The CPI(M) has given a call for a broad-based struggle against the nuclear plant at Kovvada, which Karat said would be a white elephant considering its steep projected cost. “This project is a bonanza for American business

 

flag-indiaThe coast isn’t clear for India’s nuclear power quest, THE HINDU,  K. VENKATESHWARLU , 28 July 16 A cluster of plants promises to turn coastal Andhra Pradesh into the country’s nuclear energy hub, but at what cost? At Kovvada, first off the blocks, K. Venkateshwarlu discovers some uneasy answers.

Four years ago, the picturesque two-km shoreline that is the Kovvada beach in Andhra Pradesh was the site of a small resistance movement. A ragtag bunch of protesters, including local fisherfolk, raised slogans against the location of a “nuclear power park” that would rob them of their livelihood and expose them to high doses of radiation. They wondered why they should be sacrificed for a project whose script was written in faraway United States during the inking of the India-U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008.

Their ire was specifically directed at a government notification dated November 1, 2012, that had demarcated land for acquisition. The protest moved from the beach to the half-built gram panchayat office, where a relay hunger strike went on for several days. Prominent among the protesters were the cadre of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which was then in the Opposition. But with the passage of time and no strong political backing, the movement fell silent.

With allies Bharatiya Janata Party and TDP sweeping to power at the Centre and in Andhra Pradesh, respectively, and making their intentions clear of carrying on with the Congress legacy of setting up a string of nuclear power plants in the country under the 2008 agreement, there are again signs of protests in Kovvada and abutting villages. This time, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is playing a key role in mobilising public opinion against the proposed plant at Kovvada as the State government shot off a circular dated June 9, 2016, to conduct Social Impact Assessment, triggering the unrest.

  • Nuclear power hub in the making……. The fisherfolk of Kovvada may have to make another switch to survive as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) looks determined to carry out its grand plan to install six nuclear reactors, each generating 1,594 megawatts (MW), or 9,564 MW of power overall. It will be the first one to take shape under the 2008 agreement.Coastal Andhra Pradesh has become the most favoured destination for the nuclear dream, with plans to transform the cyclone-buffeted zone into a hub of nuclear energy. A cluster of nuclear power plants — both U.S. and Russian — that will generate 30,000 MW by 2031, have been proposed along the coastline. Activists opposing the plan surmise four reasons for Destination Andhra Pradesh — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s warm rapport, the State’s huge requirement of power as it shifts gear from agriculture to industrialisation, the ready availability of government land, and virtually no resistance from the people. They fear Andhra Pradesh may become a nuclear dumpyard as it willingly plays host to power projects opposed by people in other States such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra and even Gujarat.
  • Acquisition plans in the offingAt the moment, resistance from people is low. “They want us to move out. Yes, we will leave not only because we lost the fish to pollution but also because we are denied all government schemes. We don’t have drinking water here. There is no MGNREGA [employment guarantee scheme] here. Not many get old-age pension either. If we get a good package of, say, Rs.25 lakh for each family, we will leave,” says Appanna.

    Not everyone subscribes to his view. “Vaddu, nuclear plant vaddu, Kovvada maku muddu (No, we don’t want nuclear plant, we love our Kovvada)” is a slogan one hears on the beach.

  • The official machinery here is planning to acquire around 2,000 acres (some of it fallow and partly fertile) initially in Pedda and Chinna Kovvada, Tekkali, Ramachandrapuram and Kotapalem, affecting and displacing about 3,000 families. In its eagerness to get the project started, the Andhra Pradesh government has declared a ban on land registration. It simply means nobody can buy or sell land, or use it as collateral to raise loans either for health emergencies or marriages. The strategy, evidently, is to test the people’s patience and force them to leave.While the State government plays bad cop, the NPCIL is trying the good cop act by luring people with what it calls “the best package ever”. Even as the specifics of the compensation package are being worked out, it has deposited the first tranche of Rs.359 crore of the Rs.1,000 crore it has earmarked as relief and rehabilitation (R&R) package with the Srikakulam District Collector. Whether the money will reach the intended beneficiaries is moot……..
  • The State government is washing its hands of the matter. Its adviser (communications) Parkala Prabhakar says the entire process of new nuclear plants is at a very preliminary stage. The State government has no role in deciding anything relating to these projects which come under the aegis of the Central government and NPCIL, he says. “The Government of India has asked the State government to look for sites for new nuclear plants in Nellore and Prakasam districts. We have asked the District Collectors of these two districts to identify sites. While the U.S. will build the nuclear plant at Kovvada, where land acquisition is in progress, Russia may perhaps do it at the site in Nellore/ Prakasam,” he adds……..
  • The farmers of Kotapalem, however, don’t share Ramesh’s confidence. Around 560 acres of coconut plantations will be lost. Says Sunkara Papa Rao, a coconut farmer: “I have four acres full of coconut trees and I get an income of Rs.10,000 every month. The coconut pickers I employ are also happy. What more do I want? Why should the nuclear plant people pick on our land and destroy our lives and livelihood? I am told radiation affects not only us but many more villages in the vicinity. We will oppose the project tooth and nail.”
     The government’s promise of jobs for locals is also met with scepticism. Farmer Komara Laxman Rao of Kovvada says, “What job? At best, most of us would end up as coolies during construction and after the plant comes up they will dump us. When the village itself is wiped out, where is development and for whom is this prosperity?” Adds S. Ramudu, a medical practititioner: “In Kovvada we have 80 youth who have completed intermediate [Class XII], 12 are BA and BCom graduates and three BTech graduates. NPCIL could not guarantee jobs even to these three BTech graduates.”

    Safety concerns on the coast…….

  • The question of viabilityA study by the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, that was released recently by the A.P.-Telangana-based voluntary organisation Human Rights Forum, warns India that GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse nuclear reactors are neither cost-effective nor power-efficient and that they have a huge risk factor. The first units of the six nuclear reactors in Kovvada will not produce electricity for the grid before 2031, the report states.

    Quoting another study, K. Babu Rao, former deputy director of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, estimates that the tariffs for electricity from Kovvada will be very high, with first-year tariffs in the range of Rs.19.80 to Rs.32.77 per kilowatt hour. “Is it worth spending crores of rupees on nuclear power whose share is just 0.58 per cent in the total primary energy demand of India?” he wonders…….

  •  This time round, the CPI(M) has decided to take up the cause in a big way. Senior party leader Prakash Karat visited Kovvada and other villages to interact with fishermen and farmers and addressed a public meeting there on July 16. The CPI(M) has given a call for a broad-based struggle against the nuclear plant at Kovvada, which Karat said would be a white elephant considering its steep projected cost. “This project is a bonanza for American business after the Manmohan Singh government pledged to buy 50,000 MW nuclear reactors as part of the ten-year defence framework agreement and Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement in 2008. The entire Opposition, including the BJP, had opposed them in Parliament. The government at that time had claimed that 40,000 MW of nuclear power would be added by 2020 but after eight years not even a megawatt has been added.”Will the Kovvada fisherfolk take the bait of money being dangled, or wage a struggle?

    venkateshwarlu.k@thehindu.co.in   http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-coast-isnt-clear-for-indias-nuclear-power-quest/article8918162.ece

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July 30, 2016 - Posted by | India, politics

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