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Nuclear Monsters sNuclear Monsters Illustration by Karen Haydock

What is the cost of a nuclear power plant? Seen as a “peaceful” use of nuclear energy, many people give different answers, depending on the frame of mind that they have? Some people will answer only in terms of the money involved. This project will need so many hundred crores, they will tell you (or is it thousands of crores, millions of dollars?). But then what is the rationale to spend the obscene amounts on this?

Other, more enlightened souls, will perhaps tell us that having a nuclear power plant in your backyard is a sure-shot sign of and development” (whatever those two terms mean).  And India is a progressive country, if not a developed one (still developing?). So India must aspire to build nuclear power plants. It is to show the world that our childhood has ended, and we are here to make a mark on the internationatal scene. They tell you that this is the best. It is so because it is “Green, Clean and Safe.”

They give you arguments about how it is all three bundled into one. It is one offer that anyone in their sane minds cannot reject! They give reasoned arguments about how each of these term applies to the nuclear power plants. And mind you, this is strictly “peaceful”, the bomb is not mentioned anywhere.

Green: They say that since the nuclear power plant do not produce any green house gases, hence they are green.

Clean: They do not produce any residue like ash, or gases or cause regular pollution.

Safe: The technology that is used in India they say is fool proof. It is the safest that you can possibly get.

There is a huge propaganda machine which churns out these and similar assertions about the nuclear power.

Also, then there is yet another set of people who say that to stay in the arms race, we must develop nuclear technology. These people openly talk about nuclear bombs and claim that it is essential for the survival of India. They sincerely believe in the MAD theory. They say if having the bombs has served the super-powers well, it must serve well to India as well. This will form a nuclear deterrence and our enemies will think million times before attacking us. For an attack would mean their annihilation. Elaborate war games with parameters optimized to maximum are played out with number of dead millions (that my dear friend is also a parameter!). But let us leave this part, the non-peaceful part out of our analysis for the present purpose.

They teach and preach that if India is to be self-reliant in energy, nuclear energy is the only option that we have got. There are no other options.They will tell you in numbered arguments (somehow it seems to some people giving numbers in the text they write makes it more meaningful and “scientific”) how other options are not good. They will also compare nuclear accidents with those of thermal power plants and say, accidents are always contingent with technology and anyway we need not worry about this as the technology that we are using is fool proof.

So any cost is acceptable to them. After all the electricity is required to run any decent place to live. Electricity is required to air condition those offices where we work in large cities. Electricity is required by all the companies, many of which produce things we never use, but they want us to use. Electricity is required to light up all the day-night IPL matches, which would otherwise be played in the daylight. Electricity is required to aic condition all the malls in the cities to provide a rich and comfortable shopping experience to all of us. Electricity is used to light up all the hotels and billboards for the industry and the country to look prosperous. They also throw in a bit of villagers distress to make it look like a holistic problem. A problem which affects every one of us, not only urban and industrialized people. What kind of people are against such uses which literally shows India shining?

All of these arguments that makes a case for nuclear energy can be torn apart. But alas, people who sincerely believe these do not see the point beyond.

But what is the human cost of nuclear power plants? What happens to the thousands of working people who are exposed to radiation? The advocates of nuclear energy usually do not consider these as serious issues. But if it is not for well being of people, then why are we doing this? And if making a choice will also affect all our future generations, then a lot of caution must be used. A nuclear disaster is not a reversible process. A nuclear disaster is forever. No amount of cleaning will leave the place as it was. No matter how it happens. Whether intentional or accidental, once done, it is here to stay. Perhaps people with myopic vision in this regard cannot understand this. And is this sustainable? Decentralizable? Where are we going to all the nuclear ashes?

If at all they have answers to these questions, why they do not publish transparently the radiation levels near all power plants? Why they do not make public all the audits they have performed in this regard?