Washington(Reuters): India is building a top-secret nuclear city to produce thermonuclear weapons and when completed…
New Delhi: With serious allegations of leaky nuclear reactors and poor security levelled against India’s nuclear programme, Atomic Energy Commission chief Sekhar Basu brushes aside these charges saying this is a “well designed agenda” to “stall or delay” the country’s development.
Journalist Adrian Levy, working for the Centre for Public Integrity in Washington, has levelled serious charges in a four-part investigative report against India’s nuclear establishment.
New chief of India’s nuclear programme Sekhar Basu, also director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, counters the allegations.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q) How much of truth is there in the charges levelled by Adrian Levy against the nuclear establishment?
A) I do not consider these as charges; he has written a paper based on something somebody else has said elsewhere, which he has put into his account. It is not a scientific document, it is not a document based on facts, and it is based on comments of some people. I do not consider these as charges. It looks to us as a very well designed agenda for them whoever is funding him, to stall or delay the development of our country.
Q) So, who do you think is motivating Levy or trying to stall the Indian nuclear programme?
A) Ok. Definitely, Indians will not stall the Indian programme, that I am confident. It will be somebody from a foreign country who thinks that India should remain poor and that India should remain poverty ridden, and that India should remain in darkness, so they are the people who are doing it.
Q) Levy says that in Jadugoda where India has its uranium mines, they leak, and that there is a lot of radioactivity that comes out, and people are suffering because of that, you probably must have visited that area several times, what is your experience?
A) Whatever he has said is based on certain facts that earlier somebody has published.
In summary, the judge had told us to form a committee, we had formed a committee and based on that committees conclusions it is very well established that nothing new has happened, there is no extra burden of diseases or no new types of diseases have come up or even that the number has not increased, nothing of that has happened.
If you go there, I would request all other communities to go there and have a look if this is true or not. There children are moving around happily in their college and schools. This is an area where there is poverty, it is because of that, malnutrition or those type of problems that are there.
Q) So you are saying, there is no leak of radioactivity from the Jadugoda uranium mines of India. Is that the sum and substance?
A) Why should there be any leak, uranium is there in the soil, you are then taking the uranium out, at least part of it or most of it. If it was that much of concern we would have taken out even that uranium also. Why is it being told as a leak, it is not a leak from a reactor, or a re-processing plant? In a mine, what is the leak that is possible? Anyway, there is an issue of ‘tailing pond’, and this tailing pond is one of the safest in the world, it is surrounded by hills on all the sides, there is a good fencing so that people cannot enter.
Q) Levy also says India’s nuclear reactors, the power reactors and we have over 21 of them, they leak radioactivity, they don’t function even Kudankulam is not functioning for the last six months, so he says there is a lot of problem with our nuclear programme, you head the nuclear programme, do you think it is unsafe?
A) I would like to answer your question in two parts, Kudankulam is one of the best reactors in the world, one of the safest reactors in the world. Secondly, our operators are the best in the world, since people put jokes to us, saying you put PhD’s as operators of nuclear reactors, it is that kind of a training that they have.
Where is the question of a leak, we have never had any incident like that, in Japan at Fukushima, that kind of incident can never happen to us. Our things are taken care off, everybody who comes including the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who came after the Fukushima incident he went, to see even the Tarapur reactor, he found that this is one of the safest reactors.
Q) Dr Basu what is wrong with the atomic reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu? People say you have used wrong parts, shoddy parts and that is why it has failed for last six months it is not working? Even Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get it started.
A) See, saying that everything is wrong is not at all correct, just now as you say that the American’s are writing our reactors are not safe, so the very fact that we are taking lot of time to re-start the reactor is because of the fact that we want it to be super safe.
This is a new reactor started for the first time we had to show to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) so that we had to open up everything, even the reactor fuel assemblies had to be removed to show the inside of the vessel to show that everything is fine, only after that they are giving clearance.
This is for the first time and six months is not at all a big thing. Earlier reactors we have seen they have been shut down for two years also and then the same Tarapur reactor which was shut down for two years, today it gets shut down only for 20 days or a month.
Q) So is the Kudankulam reactor safe? Is there something wrong with the parts, have you been able to get the parts from Russia?
A) It is not something wrong with the parts, it is a normal procedure. Once you are boxing it up and it will be operational for one year continuously, you have to make sure that you inspect everything and where ever you have something or you suspect that [something] can go wrong or if some wearing has taken place, you replace it with a new one so that for the next one year you do not have any problems.
Q) So when can one expect the Kudankulam reactor to start again?
A) I am very sure that next month Kudankulam reactor will be going critical and towards the end of the month [January 2016] we should be able to synchronize it with the grid.
Q) What about Kudankulam unit 2, which is the second 1000 MW reactor at the same location, when can one expect that to start producing power?
A) We expect it go critical somewhere in April 2016 and after another one and half months because it is again for the first time it will then be synchronized with the grid.
Therefore, by next June you will see it is feeding power to the grid.
Q) Levy also says that we are making a secret nuclear city somewhere in Karnataka to make Hydrogen bombs? Is there fact in it and is it really secret?
A) As far as this secret bomb is concerned, I do not know what is this secret bomb? Is he aware what is required to make this secret bomb, yes uranium can be used theoretically to make bomb, but whether one should make bombs out of uranium is also something that I do not know.
See we have to supply uranium to our plants so if we do not make anything to process this uranium, how can we say that we will not do anything and keep quiet. The whole exercise to me is looking like an effort to slow down our programme. These types of things do not carry any meaning.