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CNDP deplores the repression launched by the government in Jaitapur in Maharashtra

by CNDP, 3 March 2011

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Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP)

Press Release

3 March 2011

CNDP strongly deplores the repression launched by the government in Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district in order to impose a giant nuclear power station on people who resolutely oppose it. More than 20 activists have been arrested since Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan visited the area on Feb 26 and failed to persuade its people that the project is good for them.

The police have slapped externment notices and trumped-up charges on the activists, including attempt to murder. Eminent citizens, including former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former Supreme Court judge PB Sawant and Communist Party of India general secretary AB Bardhan, have been barred from visiting Jaitapur.

The harassment further compounds the government’s culpability in promoting an exorbitantly expensive, inappropriate, and extremely hazardous project based on a reactor design (the French-origin company Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor) which is untested anywhere and which has not been cleared by the nuclear regulatory authority of any country, including France.

The world’s first EPR, under construction in Finland, is in grave trouble—delayed by 42 months, 90 percent over budget, and mired in bitter litigation. Finnish, French, British and US nuclear regulators have raised 3,000 safety issues about it. Yet, India is planning to install 6 EPRs with a 9,900 MW capacity at Jaitapur although the Department of Atomic Energy cannot certify that they are safe.

Nuclear power generation is inherently hazardous because of routine radiation exposure of workers and the public; high-level wastes which remain dangerous for thousands of years and cannot be safely stored, leave alone disposed of; and the potential for catastrophic accidents like Chernobyl, in which 65,000 to 110,000 people perished.

Besides carrying these generic hazards, the Jaitapur project will destroy a unique and stunningly beautiful ecosystem in the Western Ghats, which is one of the world’s 10 greatest biodiversity hotspots, with virgin rainforests, great mountains, and an extraordinary range of endemic plant, animal and marine species. Two great rivers, the Krishna and the Godavari, originate there.

The region has a flourishing farming, horticultural and fisheries economy, which grows the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso.

The site was cleared for political reasons a week before French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit last December on the basis of a flawed Environmental Impact Assessment report which does not recognise the area’s great biodiversity or the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. The report does not even mention high-level wastes.

Going by current Finnish estimates, which will probably escalate with further design changes, the Jaitapur EPRs’ capital cost will be Rs 21 crores per MW, compared to Rs 9 crores for domestic reactors and Rs 5 crores for coal-fired power. Jaitapur’s electricity will cost Rs 5 to 8 a unit—compared to Rs 2 to 3 from other sources, including renewables.

Jaitapur is a singularly bad bargain, made worse by the undemocratic means being used to ram it down the throats of an unwilling population. CNDP calls for the scrapping of the project.