Nuclear power corporation goes all out to garner support for Jaitapur and Kudankulam plants

Holds the first meeting in a series meant to prove safety of the plants

By Ashwin Aghor
Published: Friday 23 December 2011

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has now decided to go all out to garner support from general public for its ambitious power plants at Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. The authorities at the NPCIL organised a special presentation about the safety, utility and necessity of nuclear power on Thursday.

The Scientific Meet on Occupational Health Safety, organised at NPCIL’s World Trade Centre office in Mumbai, focused on clearing “misconceptions” about nuclear power among the masses. Apart from NPCIL scientists,  Rajendra Badwe, oncologist from Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in Mumbai,  explained the use of various radioactive materials in the field of medicine, especially in cancer treatment.

'Cancer incidence not linked to nuclear plants'

Badwe, a director at the hospital, emphasised that radiation is extremely useful for diagnosis of most of the diseases including cancer. “Radiation is the most commonly used tool for diagnosis of various ailments across the globe. Importantly, the incidence of cancer is comparatively more in some areas of the country where no nuclear plant is installed,” Badwe said. The occurrence of cancer is the highest in North Eastern states of the country where there is not a single nuclear power plant, whereas in the cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Delhi, which are located close to one or more nuclear reactors, the radiation is similar to other metropolitan cities with no reactors.

He also trotted out the usual arguments used by the nuclear industry to show that people are exposed to radiation from other sources. One is that almost all the imaging tests carried out to diagnose various ailments—such as X ray, CT Scan and angiograms—use radiation. Worldwide, around 330 radiological tests are done per 1,000 people. The other is that radiation occurs from earth, soil and outer space. People are exposed to various types of radiations in day to day life.

Referring to a study conducted on uranium workers at Eldorado, Canada, Badwe cited that the researchers closely followed 17,660 uranium workers for decades and concluded that their health was at par with that of the general population of Canada. “It was observed that the mortality of uranium workers due to all types of cancers was lower among the workers as compared to general Canadian population. This is self explanatory that radiations from nuclear power plants are not as dangerous as being projected by some people,” he claimed.

Similarly, Badwe added, a study conducted in a 20-km radius of 29 nuclear installations in France revealed incidence of cancer, congenital anomalies comparable to the national level. “Interestingly, there was no increase in childhood leukemia in the area of study,” he claimed.

Reacting to a question about genetic mutation due to nuclear radiation, Badwe said, “Nuclear radiation was not the only reason for genetic mutation. Since it is not the area of my expertise, I cannot comment on it. But it is well known that in cancer treatment, radiation improves the chances of cure by almost 30 per cent.”

The meeting with Badwe is the first in a series that NPCIL plans to assuage the fears of the public and to convince them of the safety of the nuclear power plants and the benefits that will follow.

Ready for discussions: NPCIL

“The apprehensions about nuclear power is the result of a systematic propaganda campaign by anti-nuclear activists. We do not dismiss them outright. We are ready to discuss each and every question posed by them,” clarified  N Nagaich, executive director of corporate planning and communication with NPCIL.

Asked why the corporation started this exercise after so many years, Nagaich said, “It is better late than never.”

NPCIL has undertaken a massive outreach programme in the wake of the unprecedented opposition to the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu and the proposed project at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. “The campaign will  include aggressive advertisements, documentaries, series of lectures and books at the grass root level, in schools and colleges. All the information will be made available on our website,” said Nagaich.

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