Response to comments on my article titled “Is working in a nuclear power plant risky in The Hindu Jan 2, 2014

I have responded to the questions raised by a few readers promptly. But these  were not published in The Hindu for reasons I am unable to understand. I decided to answer the questions and offer explanations through this blog.

The purpose of  my article is to show how  the responsible agencies ensure that the workers perform their duties in a safe environment. Workers in nuclear power plants will receive some radiation dose. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has instituted strict procedures to keep the doses to workers within the limits prescribed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and to values As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). Their radiation risk is insignificant.

ALARA committees with Chief Superintendents as chairmen, section heads as members and health physicists as member secretary review radiation work at each station periodically. Sectional ALARA committees plan work involving radiation exposures.

Each Station prepares a work plan, identifies various activities involving radiation exposure and gets AERB’s approval for an annual “Radiation Budget”. If any Station exceeds the budget, AERB will not be amused!

The interior areas of the plant buildings are categorized into four zones for radiation and contamination control. Health physicists record radiation levels and airborne activity with prescribed frequency. Movement of every worker within the zones is controlled. Before entering Zone 2, 3 &4, they must wear lab coat, gloves and shoe covers and personnel dosimeters. They come out through sensitive portal monitors which will detect contamination, if any, present. They check hands and shoes using special monitors.

Annual reports published at (www.aerb.gov.in) indicate the compliance with its stipulations. In spite of such status, Adina regrettably believes in the myth and rumours that  many workers have  been exposed to radiations and got severely affected.

The writer is talking in the tune of the govt spokesman. While we 
consider the production of nuclear energy, we have to consider the whole process from uranium mining to the end product. In Jadugoda, the main mining centre of Uranium, almost every person has been the victim of radiation making significant numbe of people suffering from incurable disease. Waste management is a serious problem which even the developed countries of Europe could not successfully resolve and India is just novice in this regard. The disaster caused by Chernobyl nuclear plant of USSR in 1986 and Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 should be an eye-opener for everybody except the vested interest. Apart from the health hazard, nuclear energy is more expensive than the renewable energy

from:  dipen dutta

Posted on: Jan 4, 2014 at 22:15 IST

Is there anything wrong in explaining the actual safety status at our nuclear power plants.
As a matter of fact, the jurisdiction of  AERB, the regulatory body extends to the entire fuel cycle. Unfortunately Dipen Dutta is carried away  by the unfounded notion that “almost every person has been the victim of radiation making significant number of people suffering from incurable disease”. Some activists have appealed to the Supreme Court to intervene in Jaduguda. The Court has rejected the PIL as it was without  merit. Nuclear power is cost competitive compared to other power sources

*Radiation Hazards (at genetic level lasting for generations), 
*Too much costly, 
*Question of safe disposal of spent fuel from reactors, 
*In case of India, we are by an large dependent on other countries for 
technology as well as fuel supply (so there are question marks on 
assured supply of these) 
*Hazardous for ecosystem 
*Regulatory authority for nuclear safety lacks independence

from:  Ajay

Posted on: Jan 4, 2014 at 20:29 IST

Nuclear power generation causes a very insignificant increase in radiation levels in the surroundings of the plant. It is cost competitive. safe method to dispose of waste is available. India reprocesses the spent fuel to recover plutonium for use later. The technology to manage waste safely is available in India. WE have developed our own nuclear technology. For quick capacity addition, India plans to import some reactors while supporting its own nuclear power programme. It is true that we are importing some amounts of nuclear fuel commercially. It is not clear why Ajay thinks that nuclear technology is hazardous to the ecosystem. He seems to be echoing unfounded notions spread by anti nuclear activists. The independence of the regulatory authority has been a well discussed topic. Ajay may not possibly know that AERB has taken strict regulatory action on many nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations. The action included reducing power levels, shutting down the project for implementing safety measures etc. Some of these meant expenses of millions of Rs. In no case NPCIL went on appeal. It complied with all AERB safety stipulations.

Fear and threat is being attached with the word nuclear whether it is 
nuclear power, nuclear weapon or nuclear material because of the 
Nagasaki and Hiroshima accidents. Working in the nuclear power plant 
can be safe and cannot be safe at the same time. safe in the way that 
proper radiation doses are being injected into the workers so that to 
repel the effects of radiations they would get during their work. But 
working under NPCIL cannot be safe in the way that Indian nuclear 
industry lacks proper safety measures. reportedly many workers have 
been exposed to radiations and got severely affected.

from:  Adina

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 13:27 IST

ANSWER Annual reports published at (www.aerb.gov.in) indicate the compliance with its stipulations. In spite of such status, Adina regrettably believes in the myth and rumours that  many workers have  been exposed to radiations and got severely affected.

A terrible problem to leave many generations to come with the radioactive

waste issue. This is a horrible way to make electricity……From uranium 
mining , uranium processing and fabrication, …It is a hell of a way to 
boil water. Radiation is beyond our senses (common and bodily). We have 
renewable options that are not dangerous . Our govt has granted money to 
whole Indian tribes at uranium mining sites who lost a whole generation to 
cancer. Wake up and stop this invisible killer.

from:  Perry

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:59 IST

ANSWER  Perry worries over  the fact that radiation is beyond our senses. It is true; but radiation can be detected and assessed  by  instruments which are many times more sensitive than human senses. That radiation cannot be seen, felt or smelt does not come in the way of using it for many uniquely useful purposes. The Issue of the health effects of uranium mining in  India was a subject of a PIL in the Supreme Court. The court dismissed it stating that the case has no merit.

 

This is a well articulate account about the viability of nuclear 
radiation on human lives. Beside this, there is one important aspect 
which kept on pinching us that people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have 
not yet restored even today completely despite of more than half of a 
century passed away. The simplest point of understanding is the 
massive horrors of nuclear weapons which are largely based on 
extensive release of energy which remained in the environment for 
long. In India, there are considerable debates about Kudankulam and 
rest of the nuclear power plants. People are of the view why we are 
opting such a dreadful technology.

from:  Maya

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:57 IST

ANSWER

Maya who worries about dreadful technology must read the Supreme Court Judgment on Kudankulam plant. The judicial sanction may convince her of the need for nuclear power.

I live very close to Indian Point. There are numerous maintenance problems 
in this and other plants with corroded plumbing. Disasters waiting to 
happen. There is no solution of what to do with spent fuel and the way it 
is currently stored is completely unprotected. The groundwater around 
Indian Point has been leaking for years but not in anyone’s drinking wells 
yet, it’s only a matter of time.

from:  Bahubali

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:57 IST

No one can deny the the fact that radiation exposure can cause serious diseases like cancer for which there is no remedy. Radiations in nuclear power plants are more lethal. Indian nuclear power plants are full of such radiations exposure accidents. Several cases have been registered and unfortunately these accidents have been increased during last couple of years. Hence, government should take preemptive measures.

from:  arun

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:50 IST

Arun must read the annual reports of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. It gives relevant details of radiation exposures to workers and members of the public; he is apparently carried away by misinformation.

Independent scientists and economists know that nuclear energy is the most 
expensive electricity source available, counting the cost of building, 
running and decommissioning the power stations. But an economic analysis 
alone cannot calculate the costs due to the damage done to our genes, the 
very foundation of life.

from:  George

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:49 IST

ANSWER

George’s notion on the cost of nuclear electricity is incorrect. Nuclear power is cost competitive  in several countries. Nuclear power has become costlier in USA because of the availability of cheap natural gas. Still, 104 nuclear power plants in USA are producing 19% of its  total electricity.

In order to save the future of our planet, we must continue to fight the

expansion of nuclear power

from:  Toby

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:47 IST

Nuclear industry through technological innovations have demonstrated that nuclear power plants can be operated safely. Over 400 nuclear power reactors  are being operated safely  in many countries providing a sizable fraction of the total electric power generated

In contrast to nuclear power, renewable energy is both clean and safe. 
Technically accessible renewable energy sources are capable of producing 
six times more energy than current global demand.

from:  Robert

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:46 IST

Robert’s  argument in favour of renewable energy is correct in part. India does not have the luxury to choose one mode of power generation over  another. Government of India is planning to have 20,000 MW of solar electricity by 2020. Wind power is also making its impact. Wind does not blow all the time. Solar power is also unreliable. Even if we have plenty of both we have to keep coal or nuclear or hydel plants  or combinations of them in reserve to have power all the time. Solar is ideal for individual homes. It is possible to generate massive quantities of solar power. But the existing technology is not sufficient to draw solar power all the time

India’s nuclear programme has developed too quickly, without being 
assimilated within proper safeguards. The problem has been further 
aggravated because of India’s rejection of international safeguard 
mechanisms.

from:  Mahabahu

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:43 IST

India is scrupulously following the nuclear safety requirement s prevalent internationally. AERB has prescribed  codes and standards and is enforcing them in our nuclear installations. Mahabahu’s view that Indian nuclear programme developed too quickly without assimilating  proper safeguards is unfounded.. Actually, for various reasons India has been slow in its nuclear  programme.

India really needs to go in for IAEA safeguards on its civilian

facilities. It also needs to take stock of the prevailing problems it has 
faced in its nuclear installations and mining enterprises, so that a more 
viable system of protection from accidental fall outs of radiations is put 
in place, before it embarks on future ventures.

from:  Nutan

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 12:41 IST

Nutan  apparently has not read the annual reports of AERB and how the Board enforces its safety codes which are identical to those followed internationally.

Solid science has shown many years ago that low dose radiation causes cancer but the nuclear power plant industry, the military industry, and the medical industry have long downplayed and obfuscated this knowledge from the public at large (discussed in Rolf Hefti’s e-book “The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn’t Want You To Know About”). This erroneous article by a gatekeeper of this radiation cartel is no exception. Corporate profits have always been more important than public health and truth.

from:  Paula

Posted on: Jan 2, 2014 at 09:09 IST

Paula’s comment about the cancer inducing ability of radiation needs revision. The reports of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)  are available on line. 

Briefly  high doses of radiation can cause cancer in man. It is conclusively proved But the effect of low doses are uncertain. Because of that limitation regulators enforce very conservative dose limits for workers and the member so public.

A last comment. Government of India is duty bound to follow the national policy on atomic energy envisaged under the Atomic Energy Act 1962. Parliament has promulgated the needed Acts and rules and put in place various agencies to promote and regulate nuclear power. Paula’s view that  “This erroneous article by a gatekeeper of this radiation cartel is no exception.” shows the bias and prejudice against the agencies carrying out their mandated functions. The writer of the article has a regulatory background. One of his duties is to explain how safety stipulations are enforced in various nuclear installations and to describe their current status

 

 

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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