Nuclear power in India has a long and worrisome history of broken promises, unmet projections, huge costs to the exchequer, frequent accidents, and passionate anti-nuclear movements. India’s nuclear energy programme is to a large extent shrouded in mystery, and we have limited information about matters like the functioning of nuclear power plants, the causes and consequences of accidents which have occurred and the safety measures being taken to prevent exposure to radiation. This in itself tells us about the undemocratic nature of the programme, and indicates that there is a lot the establishment has to hide. Yet even an analysis of what we know makes it clear that the viability of continuing to develop civilian nuclear power is questionable, and in a country like India, whose government is often found guilty of corruption, a disregard for human rights and apathy towards the underprivileged, and being disproportionately influenced by the USA and other western powers in its functioning, it seems reckless and dangerous. The long term health effects of exposure to even small quantities of continued nuclear radiation over a long period of time, which plant-workers and populations living close to nuclear facilities are exposed to are a matter of much scientific debate. The processing, transport and disposal of radioactive nuclear waste is expensive and energy-intensive, it also poses health risks to those who carry it out and those who may be accidentally exposed to such waste due to inefficient management. Uranium mining is environmentally destructive and has adverse effects on the health of mine workers and communities which live close to the mines. Globally, public opinion about the benefits of nuclear energy has taken a major downturn in recent times, especially in the light of the recent accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Many countries are phasing out their nuclear energy programs and focusing more on other alternatives. India too must realise the enormous potential it has for generating solar, wind, geothermal and other forms of alternate energy, and invest in these green technologies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Asha Parivar is working to strengthen anti-nuclear movements in India. It is currently preparing to conduct a survey which will determine the health effects of the Narora Nuclear Power Plant in Bulandshahar, UP on the people living and working in its vicinity.