Why I Oppose Nuclear Power

Narayan Desai

From: Vol. 1 No. 2 October 1987

Talking to scientists and engineers at Kakrapar and Tarapur, I have often had the feeling that we were either talking two different languages or were engaged in a dialogue of the mutually deaf. Inspite of my great admirations for their sincerity and enthusiasm, their efforts to convince me of the desirability of having nuclear power plants in the country have, I must confess, fallen far short of target. Their arguments have not satisfied me, for zeal alone does not persuade and sincerity alone cannot carry conviction.

First of all, I would like to see a position that ought to be common between participants of any dialogue — the position of being seekers of truth. I try to keep my mind open to the best of my ability and appreciate a reciprocal openminded response from the other side.

They talk about progress, development and advancement. Who does not commend these values? But there seem to be two entirely different concepts of these words. Top most nucleocrats have often said that the progress of a people can be measured by the quantum of electricity used by them. Can consumption of electricity really be the measure of progress? As a matter of fact, can the consumption of anything ever be the measure of development ? There is a question of values here. Where does the advancement of the individual and the society lie, in consumerism or in sharing? History is replete with cases of decline in civilisation when people have made increasing wants their ideals and goals. What I would like to emphasize is that increasing wants and progress are not synonymous. Progress of a civilisation to me is based on inner joy rather than on outer accumulation. The joy among individuals and communities depends more on mutual cooperation, willingness to share each others sorrows and happiness, fortunes and misfortunes, rather than on a self centered attitude with each person bent upon competing with the other in a race to accumulate wealth. Progress of a society is based on a healthy balance between change and stability resulting in a steady journey towards higher goals, rather than on ever increasing activity to counteract (real or make-believe) threats to internal security. Progress lies in good neigh-bourliness which creates a sound basis for mutual security and commercial and cultural exchanges rather than on increasing suspicion and lack of trust in neighbours leading to an arms race. Progress lies in peace, rather than in war. Progress of mankind depends on a science of life, a science which respects, enhances and cherishes life, rather than on a science for death, a science that plans and executes destruction of human beings and environment.

Next comes the question of priorities. For whom are we making these enormous efforts? In our society the distribution of the dividends of these efforts is appalingly unjust. The immediate risks of nuclear activity are faced by the poor adivasees living in the vicinity of Kakrapar (or at other spots where the nuclear facilities are located) but the benefits of the electricity produced by them are enjoyed by a small minority of bulk consuming industrialists. To help those who have, by putting at risk those who haven’t goes against the very foundations of justice. A society which cherishes egalitarian ideals, should begin its development by seeking the good of the lowliest and the lost, rather than begin at the top in the hope of benefits trickling down.

The concern about pollution of the environment is often sought to be met by the argument that coal and other chemical industries create equal if not more pollution. I hold no brief for these other polluting agents. But the existence of other agents does not reduce the undesirability of radio-active pollutants, especially when we consider their millenia lasting effects.

My ecological concerns are rooted in my concept of man’s relationship with nature. There is a concept which considers man as the conqueror of nature. I believe that this idea leads to exploitation and ultimately depletion of natural resources. I perceive man as an integral part of nature, who must endeavour to live in harmony with it. Splitting of the atom has broken the harmony of nature. The bomb destroyed two cities and threatens to destroy the rest of mankind. The power plants have the potential to pollute the whole planet.

Science of death is secretive. I am concerned about the atmosphere of secrecy maintained around nuclear activities. It is strange, that in a free democracy like ours, the Department of Atomic Energy, is not responsible even to the Parliament. The phenomenon of ‘classified information’ is a violation of a citizen’s fundamental right to know. If we are prepared to invite experts from across the borders to visit our nuclear plants, why are some of the reports about nuclear plants concealed from our own public?

The efforts to prove that nuclear generated electricity is cheaper than other sources is far from convincing, because the social costs involved in the production are hardly ever counted, the costs of waste disposal seldom reckoned and those of decommissioning of the plants after a short lifespan of 25 to 35 years are yet to be calculated.

I am not convinced that nuclear power is either cheap, clean or safe. Each one of these claims can and has been challenged. But more than that I am not convinced that the monsterous effort put in to produce this energy is in the right direction. The direction is totally misleading. To me it seems to be leading the poor towards starvation; the less informed towards absolute ignorance; the weak towards complete istrablity: the already not-so-clean world towards difty irremedial pollution; the vulnerable planet towards its doom.

Narayan Desai

Narayan Desai is a Gandhian Social worker presently working with Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya at Vedchhi

Contact Address :

Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya,

Vedchhi District : Surat-394 641