Shri Lanka – Nuclear Radiation

Nuclear Threat Across The Gulf Of Mannar

The ultra safety precautions taken by Sri Lankan authorities in testing the water in the Gulf of Mannar for radioactivity following the Fukushima disaster far away in the North Pacific Ocean seems comical when this month India’s biggest nuclear power generating complex at Koodankulam near Kanyakumari — just 40 miles from Mannar — will be commissioned.

India’s nuclear powerplant industry is on the rise

Of course the Indian authorities and their Russian collaborators have given 100 per cent assurances of nuclear safety but such assurances do not generate much confidence among those liable to be affected considering the fact that all promoters of nuclear power generation are bound to issue such assurances. If not, such nuclear power plants would not be permitted to be established. No doubt those behind the Chernobyl and Fukushima power complexes too would have given such assurances.


Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Russian collaborator Rosatom, is reported to have given Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh such assurances last week. Every conceivable combination — earthquakes, tsunamis, water cuts etc. has been put in place, he has said. The millions of Indians in South India and the 20 million Sri Lankans in this island who would be engulfed with deadly radiation in case a misfortune happens will be hoping that these are indeed gilt edged assurances.
Koodankulam is a $ 3.5 billion nuclear power project of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and would be producing a cumulative power of 2 GW of electric power. The initial agreement was signed in November 1998 by Mikhail Gorbachev and Rajiv Gandhi but was 10 years in limbo following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States at that time objected to the agreement on the basis that it did not comply with the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But with America now becoming the patron saint of India’s generation of civilian nuclear power, such objections are inconceivable.
Koodankulam will also be the first nuclear power plant in the world to be commissioned after the Fukushima disaster.
The recent Fukushima disaster no doubt enhances the dormant civilian fears of everything nuclear. Technologically savvy nations such as the Soviet Union and now Japan have tripped up badly on nuclear safety and India that has broken out into modern technology quite recently are not being conferred with the competence of scientists and technicians of countries long associated with the industrial revolution.


Another Indian nuclear power complex that Sri Lanka should be concerned about is the Kalpakkam. Immediately after Fukushima Indian Prime Minister Singh ordered a safety review of all Indian nuclear reactors, the first being the  Kalpakkam nuclear reactor which is 98 km away from Sri Lanka on the eastern  Indian coast. India has 20 operational nuclear reactors.
Kalpakkam’s nuclear safety record is blotched with nuclear leaks in 1988, 1991 and 1997.  In June 2003 it had a temporary shut down following high level radiation exposure suffered by six personnel who had inspected radioactive water in a stainless steel tank but had not carried the necessary equipment to monitor radiation.
In 2004 after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck the area around Kalpakkam, the power plant was damaged and shut down briefly. An Indian government spokesman said there had been inaccurate speculation on the effect of Kalpakkam. The basic facilities were safe and unaffected but the shutdown was caused because some parts were flooded in the disaster. There had been no danger of radiation he assured. Sixty one people died in the townships around Kalpakkam of which 31 were workers from the nuclear plant.

Radioactive Threat

There is little doubt that Sri Lanka is under an Indian nuclear cloud and this cloud is bound to get thicker as India goes ahead with industrialisation. India has shifted from cow dung and bullock power in those peaceful Gandhian times to nuclear power, and there is no going back. Even our energy ‘visionaries’ like Minister Champika Ranawaka is speaking of nuclear power even though there appears to be insurmountable problems such as the disposal  of nuclear waste in this small island.
There appears to be no strategy being worked out to resolve the fall out of Indian nuclearisation on Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan diplomatic manthrams such as ‘friendship with India’ and recollection of ‘long and friendly historical and cultural ties’ are unlikely to hold back India’s push for nuclear power. India has sacrificed much of its cherished principles like Non Alignment, Disarmament  and Gandhian principles like ‘Ahimsa’ to develop a close relationship with America, still the world’s remaining superpower and leader in nuclear power.
Sri Lanka can’t even seek cover under the UN watchdog on nuclear power, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Willie Mendis (Prof. Emeritus of the Moratuwa University) in a recent article has quoted Justice C.G. Weeramanthri as saying that the IAEA has no powers of enforcement.
Sri Lanka need not consider it to be an exceptional victim of nuclear power generation because most countries of the energy starved world appears to he heading in this direction.


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