The Koodankulam nuclear plant went critical this weekend despite stinging criticism from both pro and anti-nuclear experts. Shouldn’t we be terrified that the plant has been dealing with Russian conmen suppliers, missing wiring and electrocution deaths? Shouldn’t we be scared that the nuclear establishment itself admit that they have no disaster management plans?
In the last few years, getting anywhere near Koodankulam has been a risk-filled affair. This Tamil Nadu town next to Kanyakumari looks and smells almost like a war zone. The police have barricades on every road. Visitors to the town are often stopped and asked bizarre, paranoid questions. Journalists, activists and visitors to the villages have even been unlawfully detained. Over this year I’ve made several sustained visits to Koodankulam and have been lucky to escape the nervous scrutiny of those defending the Koodankulam nuclear plant from aspersions.
I’ve been luckier still to spend time inside the village of Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the protest against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). Everyone who needs a refresher course in democracy should visit Idinthakarai. The people of Idinthakarai have organized themselves, educated each other and agitated for justice in the face of an enormous and self-righteous establishment.
Idinthakarai can seem, even after repeated visits, like a platonic ideal, the kind of dream Dr Ambedkar had. Groups of men and women sitting under the pandal facing the St Lourdes church have educated my ambivalent self about the tiniest of details about the nuclear plant, its risky location and technical flaws. I have seen their careful sifting of the lies and half-truths the government would like them to believe.
Russians Bearing Strange Gifts
For months now, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear and Atomic Energy (PMNAE) has been exposing the shoddy deals made by suppliers to the nuclear reactor at Koodankulam. When Ottavio Quattrochi died, the news made it to all the papers. Isn’t it time for a new household name? Sergei Shutov, for instance. Or Alexander Murach, or Denis Kozyrev.
Let’s start with Sergei Shutov. Don’t mistake him for the artist of the same name. Shutov was the procurement director of ZiO-Podolsk, a machineworks company that supplied components to the Koodankulam plant.
The Black Mirror
Nuclear accidents are real, not the figments of anyone’s paranoia. The scale of the 2011 disaster in Fukushima is something we are still unable to measure. Every week news pours in of even higher levels of radiation leaks. Some estimates put the cleanup costs of Fukushima at a staggering $500 billion. As high as 2,80,000 tons of contaminated water, something that is growing by the day, remains to be dealt with. The count of displaced people is at 1,60,000 and though one can debate deaths due to radiation, the fact remains that the plant is still a monster spewing radiation.
Read more at If You’ve Never Worried About A Nuclear Disaster in India, Start Now