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February 27, 2021

Australian uranium opens Indian Pandora’s box

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The obscene closeness of the Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station to the ancient rock-cut temple complex of Mahabalipuram, pictured above, near Madras on India’s southeast coast in Tamil Nadu, prickled my skin. It was 1990, and the climb to the seemingly idyllic sculptures was my first trek on the subcontinent. I soon realised extremes are the essence of India.

My high-caste Indian friend casually remarked that a lower-caste community had been forcibly evicted in 1980 to build the nuclear edifice. The next morning, however, I discovered those people had since returned, constructing their pathetic lean-tos against the containment wall of the nuclear plant. A protruding pipe dribbled into a filth-strewn trench played in by the children.

As India’s first locally constructed nuclear power station, it is one of six nuclear power plants that now spread from New Delhi to Koodankulam in the south, totalling 20 reactors.

It did not rain one day that year I spent in India. Despite the abundance of solar energy, seven more reactors are under construction.

Only this year were the deaths of nine people, including three employees of the Madras Atomic Power Station, admitted by India’s Department of Atomic Energy to be caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.

The Indian government’s civil nuclear program is under a legal cloud with a Public Interest Litigation case filed against it at the Supreme Court. Despite this, nuclear capacity has been increased, with France backing the largest plant, the 9900MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Maharashtra.

With such international support India is now proposing a massive increase in its nuclear power capacity, and is dependent upon Australia’s low-enriched uranium to build thorium atomic reactors. Mass protests surrounding the proposed sites are ignored domestically and internationally.

That Australia is involved in the expansion of this toxic industry defies rational explanation. The 26-year uranium export ban was there for a good reason – to keep shut Pandora’s box.

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  1. It is an International disgrace that the Australian Labour Government
    has gone back on its long held principles on Uranium. Leave it in the ground. Aboriginal Elders are telling us of the dangers of uranium, and we can see the deadly combination of climate change and instability of the earth and reactors on coast lines. Fukushima is a lesson for us all and it is still going on.
    Keep telling this government and all subsequent governments that we do not want to be responsible for exporting death and disease to other countries. LEAVE IT IN THE GROUND

  2. Hi,

    Interesting article about the mismanagement of industrial processes in close proximity to the local population. However, it would be good to get some accurate information.

    Uranium is not used to manufacture Thorium – Thorium is a naturally occurring material in India. The Jaitapur reactor is a EPR reactor, not a MSR or LFTR, which would indicate uranium as a fuel not Thorium, plus all current EPR designs rely on uranium fuel rods, not Thorium pellets.

    Thorium has massive benefits over Uranium for energy production, resistant to proliferation, many orders of magnitude reduction in transuranic products (the nasty waste products we have to bury from the uranium fuel cycle), safer reactors with a greater inherent fail-safe. The challenge is it is more expensive (the old safety versus cost factor)

    The point about solar energy is moot. It is truly a fantastic energy source although currently the fabrication is not as green as people would hope. Chemicals used in the refinement and fabrication of silicon are highly poisonous and carcinogenic – arsenic, antimony, nitric acid, cadmium, hydrofluoric acid, hydrogen peroxide (stronger % than your hair dye), phosphine, hydrogen selenide, silicon tetrachloride, sulphor hexafluoride, berylium. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/08/AR2008030802595.html

    Which makes us think what the Uranium would be used for? It is abundant, far cheaper to build than a safer and just as powerful Thorium based reactor, and probably most interestingly, far easier to create weaponised fissile material……


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