Kudankulam Protest

Democracy: Of the people, By the people, For the People – Oh Really?!

Demonstrators gather near a nuclear power project during a protest in KudankulamTwo decades of opposition and almost 3 years of continuous rigorous agitations against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has been the way of life for the people of the villages near Kudankulam. And now the government has signed another deal with Russia for installing 2 more units in the same facility. The 2 nuclear reactors will be supplied by the Russian state owned company Rosatom.

The total cost for setting up the first two units is over Rs 17,000 crore which is a way higher than the initial estimate of 13,171 Crore. They have still not started commercial electricity production. When the work in Kudankulam was revived in 1998 the target date for the first unit was December 2007 and still there is no commercial power production from the unit. Such delays are not uncommon with the DAE. The Second unit will be expected to start commercial production on December 2014 which is also unlikely to happen. Both of them are 1000 MW capacity. The 3 and 4th units are being setup at a cost of Rs 33,000 crore and the deals for reactors 3 and 4 have been signed after years of delay following a deadlock.

The deadlock was not because, the people who were fighting for their livelihood cannot be tamed into accepting the plant, but because Russia disagreed over the liability clause, on who will pay the compensation in case of an accident.

Though the Indian Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010 (CLND) states that the operator will have to bear the liability in case of an accident, the “Right to recourse” clause which comes under section 17 of the same act permits the liability to be imposed upon the supplier in case the accident happens because of faulty equipment. But Russia wanted the plant to come under “Inter-government agreement” signed on December 2008 between India and Russia, which makes the Indian operator alone liable for possible damages. In short the Inter-Governmental Agreement gave a liability exemption for Russia. Units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant were setup under this Inter-government agreement.

And how was this deadlock solved?

General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), an Indian Public sector firm will evaluate each component and come up with a premium amount for each of the vendor and the plant will be insured with GIC. The supplier will be paying the premium for the insurance which is likely to cause an increase in the cost of the equipment. Further if there is no accident in the insurance period then supplier will be given the entire amount paid so far. And in case of an accident the Indian insurance company or in other words public money will be used for paying the liability. In either case it’s the Indian people which is going to pay the price. But in response to an RTI filed by the Greenpeace, the GIC has denied any talks regarding insurance done for Units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam (DNA). Inspite of this the Deal has been signed for the 3rd and the 4th unit.

The entire discourse on threat posed in aftermath a nuclear accident cannot be reduced to dollars or Rupees. It cannot be equated to a road accident where the injuries or loss of a person can be covered by insurance. A Nuclear disaster risks the lives of generations to come and renders the reversal of environmental destruction almost irreversible. The promises of compensation, rehabilitation, welfare means nothing to those who will be affected by the accident.

The agreement is coming at the wake of a Rs. 2600 crore deal, that was signed by India for procurement of 66,000 anti tank shells from Russia (DNA). It’s interesting fact that the kudankulam nuclear plant supplement was signed between the then prime minster Deve Gowda and Boris Yelstin along with a arms deal worth billions of dollars in 1997 (Indian Express). Killing machines always come in clusters!

The leaders of the PMANE movement recently announced their decisions to participate in the upcoming election for parliament and joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Though there was no formal announcement from AAP on the nuclear policy at that time, during the launch of party manifesto Arvind Kejrewal expressed his opposition to Nuclear energy (Business Standard). But in the Manifesto there is no mention about the nuclear energy though it has promised to ensure “Phased shift towards renewable sources of energy; promote decentralized renewable energy solutions, such as solar power, biogas plants, watermills, and wind mills, to reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs and encourage local ownership”(aamaadmiparty.org).

Such promises for deriving energy from renewable sources can be found in both BJP and Congress 2014 election manifestos. How much will AAP stand with the anti nuclear movements and create a public conscience against nuclear energy still remains a question given the fact that even the Tamil Nadu section of AAP has not been able to clearly mention their stand on nuclear power when they released their manifesto, while their party members from PMANE are campaigning in their constituencies against nuclear energy (Business Standard).

For now the people of the villages surrounding Kudankulam face more threat than before and have more reasons to intensify their fight! And so it does for all the radical organizations that stood by these people in the past!

Arun Kaliraja

Bangalore