An open letter to Jayanti Natarajan
To: Ms. Jayanti Natarajan,
Ministry of Environment & Forests,
Govt of India, New Delhi.
Dear Ms. Natarajan:
May 15, 2013
My name is Dr A Gopalakrishnan. I have been the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the Government of India from 1993-1996, and have been actively following the nuclear projects and programmes in India, over the last several decades.
I have attached a bio-data of mine, which summarises my academic and professional background, which you may find informative. Many of us are deeply troubled at the unwritten and unexplained nuclear power policy which the UPA Government is following since 2004, with no opportunity given for a discussion with the knowledgeable sections of the public so that they may present their views and debate this policy with the government. I was appalled to hear your cryptic statement of support for the Indian nuclear power programme, by terming it as ‘essential’ for the country and a ‘sustainable’ form of electricity generation, in one of your recent TV interactions in the Headlines Today TV channel.
May I remind you that neither the Prime Minister nor his Department of Atomic Energy has ever presented such a case for nuclear power before Parliament or the public, on the basis of credible substantiating techno-economic and social impact studies. Therefore, I wish you would kindly take time out to study this issue in all its varied facets, rather than form superficial and self-serving opinions based on literature and views that the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO provide you to further their interests.
Considering the specific portfolio of Minister in charge of Environment & Forests that you hold in the Cabinet, we in the public are all the more concerned about your rather casual and ill-informed understanding and attitude towards the nuclear power sector. Incidentally, just two months before he demitted his office, your predecessor (Mr.Jairam Ramesh) had promised me at one of our meetings that he will organise a seminar at MoEF to discuss issues of nuclear power and the impartial regulation of its safety. But, as a loyalist of the current government, he also did injustice to the local people in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, by hurriedly issuing an environment clearance for the Areva nuclear power project envisaged there, because of pressures from the PMO, in view of the impending visit of the French President to India.
Soon Mr. Ramesh got transferred out of the MoEF and the possibility of any seminar on nuclear power and its potential environmental impact became a lost dream! Since Jairam should also be reminded of this, I am copying this mail to him as well. The immediate reason for this mail from me is the recent Supreme Court judgment, on the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu .
This judgment was delivered on May 6, 2013, and, for your ready reference, I have attached here a copy of the judgment.
Of crucial importance to you, the MoEF and the general public, is the fact that the “Directions” given by the SC Bench on pages 242-247 of their judgment call for certain very important actions to be independently undertaken in all seriousness by the MoEF experts. Lack of expertise in engineering systems, etc. cannot be claimed as excuses to shirk off the responsibility which the MoEF has been entrusted with by the SC.
Essentially, what is asked of your Department/ Ministry is to play the role of an impartial observer on behalf of the people of India, in a matter of life and death in which the SC decision does not reflect, in my view, a full trust in the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO. For the first time, in such a safety evaluation, the SC has brought in the MoEF and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), side by side with the NPCIL & the AERB, to form a collective four-organisation team, members of which are to get involved in examining ALL potential safety and environment-related areas, irrespective of what each organisation’s normal field of operation and responsibility would have been.
Many of us are keenly watching to see how the MoEF takes on this global responsibility and completes it in flying colours, to the full satisfaction of the Supreme Court and the general public.
Lastly, I wish to bring to your attention two articles I had recently published in The New Indian Express (dated April 19 and May 15, 2013), one before the SC judgment was delivered and another afterwards.
I have attached both of them to this mail for your kind information.
I hope I can expect to receive an acknowledgement of this letter and suitable and impartial follow-up action from the MoEF in this matter.
(Dr.) A. Gopalakrishnan,
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Govt. of India.