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Civil Society Seeks Scrapping of WHO-IAEA Treaty on Nuclear Hazards

Written By mediavigil on Saturday, March 26, 2011 | 2:35 AM

Press Statement

Civil Society Seeks Scrapping of WHO-IAEA Treaty on Nuclear HazardsNon-nuclear Energy Options Demanded

"Choice is Clear- No Nuclear"

New Delhi 26/3/2011: No to Nuclear Energy Forum (NNEF), a forum of concerned citizens that tracks information on atomic issues states that at present, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) cannot be trusted with sharing truth about the nuclear catastrophe in Japan and such imminent disasters India because of a 52 years old treaty between WHO and IAEA, which is heavily influenced by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), established in 1975.

NSG comprises of 46 nuclear supplier states including China, Russia, and the US, that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its requirement that recipient countries have in place comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all nuclear activities. US got exemption from NSG for three years to undertake nuclear trade with India. India is pursuing its nuclear energy path under the overarching guidelines of this very IAEA.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), a member of the NNEF participated in a joint rally organised by Anti-Nuclear Struggles’ Solidarity Forum on 25th March at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi demanding moratorium on new nuclear projects and an independent review of the existing plants.

The banners at the rally read: Choice is Clear- No Nuclear. The speakers at the rally included Ashok Chaudhury, Praful Bidwai, Gopal Krishna, Soumya Dutta, Bhupindar Singh Rawat, Vinuta Gopal, a student leader from All India Students Association (AISA) among others.

Wikileaks expose has revealed that India's nuclear program is not in the interest of Indian citizens even as the government has been compelled by the tranational nuclear companies to unleash a propaganda about how no disaster will ever happen in India.

Indian government remains callous towards the recent recommendations of a fact finding team led by former Union Finance Secretary which says, "There are plenty of credible and scientific studies by pioneering institutions and experts who have developed convincing models of a comprehensive "carbon- free, nuclear- free" energy policy with a mix of energy conservation, efficiency, R & D on renewable sources, and larger social social-political changes ensuring greater community and public use of resources" referring to report of Union of Concerned Scientists.

TWA opposes nuclear energy and weaponisation plans and programmes in the light of what happened in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In such a context, Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's "statement in Parliament on the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan" on March 14, 2011 reads: As Honourable Members are aware, the north eastern part of Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on the 11th of March." He underplayed the nuclear catastrophe saying, "The disaster has affected some of the nuclear power plants in Japan. The Government of India is in constant touch with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum, and the World Association of Nuclear Operators. In India, we are currently operating 20 nuclear power reactors. 18 of these are the indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors. Two reactors at Tarapur, TAPS-1& TAPS-2 are Boiling Water Reactors of the type being operated in Japan. A safety audit of these reactors has been completed recently. Indian nuclear plants have in the past met their safety standards. Following the earthquake in Bhuj on 26 January 2002 the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station continued to operate safely without interruption. Following the 2004 tsunami, the Madras Atomic Power Station was safely shutdown without any radiological consequences. It was possible to restart the plant in a few days after regulatory review."

NNEF demands that such claims of Prime Minister must be verified and cross-checked by a high powered committee of Independent experts given the fact that Mamohan Singh who is in-charge of Department of Atomic Energy appears to be guilty of dereliction of duty because he chose to ignore what Union Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare testified while deposing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests. The Committee's report mentioned that “while drafting the Bill the Dept. of Atomic Energy did not consult them. Since the response system to deal with any kind of emergency of such type, the hospitals are not well-equipped, it is natural that mortality and morbidity due to multiple burn, blasts, radiation injuries and psycho-social impact could be on very high scale and medical tackling of such a large emergency could have enough repercussions in the nearby areas of radioactive fallout."

Union Health Secretary mentioned that in the entire Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, there is not a single clause which speaks about taking health care during radiological emergencies. It reflects only about payment of compensation due to health impacts of such radiation. She suggested while setting up nuclear plants consideration may also be given to the fact that there should be hospital having trained doctors near such establishments and arrangements should also be made for free treatment of people who are affected by serious nuclear fallout.” Union Health Secretary confessed that her Ministry is nowhere to meet an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies.

Observations of G K Pillai, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs illustrate how Department of Atomic Energy  has not been rigorous in the drafting of the Bill. While commenting on the conditions in which the operator of a nuclear power plant, who could be made liable for nuclear damage, Pillai stated that the Bill contains such terms as armed conflict, hostilities, civil war, insurrection or an act of terrorism that have wide meanings but have not been defined in the present Bill. Therefore there is a need for inserting meanings of these terms from other laws, in Section 2 of this Bill. Such vagueness in connotations can make the operators negligent in observing security procedures and can create situations of disputes between the operator and the central government.

Dr Singh must be deemed responsible for unpardonable negligence for having ignored the suggestions of Union Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment who pointed out that grave natural disaster should not include earthquakes or floods while referring to Clause 5 (1) (i) which provided for non-liability of operator for any nuclear damage arising out of a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character.

Dr Singh pretended ignorance about the prventive actions taken by French and German Governments and averred, "I would like to assure Honourable Members of the House that the Government attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety. The Department of Atomic Energy and its agencies including the Nuclear Power Corporation of India have been instructed to undertake an immediate technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes. I would also like to inform the House that work is underway in the Department of Atomic Energy towards further strengthening India’s national nuclear safety regulatory authority."

Prime Minister's statement and assurance feigns ignorance about how testimony after testimony before the Parliamentary Committee had asked for deletion of the word terrorism from the Bill but the same is not reflected in the Committee’ s report despite the fact that Union Defence Secretary, who also appeared before the Committee categorically stated, “under different layers of protection, nuclear assets including nuclear installations are being protected through Defence. However he admitted that absolute and fool proof protection cannot be guaranteed for any nuclear or other assets in the country during peace or war.” Exceptions for acts of terrorism and natural disasters can easily be used by the supplier and the operator to wash their hands off any nuclear disaster.

Its high time Indian government gave up its Ostirch policy and the nuclear energy path for energy security.

Notably, on 28th May 1959, the WHO 's assembly voted into force an obscure but important agreement with the IAEA founded just two years before in 1957. This agreement has given the IAEA an effective veto on any actions by the WHO that relate in any way to nuclear energy. This prevents the WHO from playing its proper role.

The WHO's objective is to promote "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health".
The IAEA's mission is to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world".

Since the 21st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in April 2007 efforts are on to persuade the WHO to abandon its the WHO-IAEA Agreement. The protest has continued through the WHO's 62nd World Health Assembly.

The scientific case against the agreement is building up, most recently when the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) called for its abandonment at its conference held in May 2009 in Lesvos, Greece.

NNEF has taken congnisance of the IAEA's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update, it urges both the corporate media and the non-corporate media besides the world citizens to take such updates with a pinch of salt given the fact that IAEA is both the promoter and regulator of nuclear commerce. Thus, this agency is conflict of interest ridden and does not inspire even an iota of confidence.

WHO's Situation Report titled "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami" dated 25th March, 2011 notes that "A 9.0 magnitude earthquake (updated from the 8.8 magnitude, by Japan Meteorological Agency on 13 March) occurred 11 March 2011 in Japan at 05:46:23 GMT, hitting the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan. The worst affected area is the east coast of Tohoku region. Tsunamis have caused devastation in the coastal areas of Tohoku and southern Hokkaido. Based on official Japanese government figures (15:30 hrs, Tokyo time 25 March), 9 811 people are confirmed dead, 2 779 injured with more than 17 541 missing. There are now 245 394 evacuees." Clearly, WHO is just reproducing Government of Japan's version.

The "Working together to support Japan and the global community:Joint FAO-IAEA-WHO statement on food safety issues following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear emergency" dated 23rd March, 2011 says, "Since the events of 11 March, thousands of lives have been lost, and many homes and buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Japan's transportation infrastructure has also suffered, and cropland and aquaculture installations have been degraded or wiped out. In this situation, damage to the reactors of a nuclear power plant, the resulting risk of direct human exposure to radiation, and efforts to bring the involved installations under control have also received priority attention. Food safety issues are an additional dimension of the emergency. Some food products sampled at sites both within the Fukushima Prefecture and in adjacent areas have been contaminated by radioactive materials." It appears to be underplaying and underestimating the catastrophe due to nuclear energy facility.

The question which remains unanswered is: Isn't India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) both the promoter and regulator of nuclear energy facilities on the lines of IAEA? Is it sane to ask the possible perpetrators of acts of ommission and commission to regulate themselves? This is what both DAE and IAEA do. 

In such a backdrop, NNEF seeks abandonment of proposed nuclear plants at Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu, Jaitapur, Maharastra, Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, Fatehabad in Haryana, Mithivirdi in Gujarat, Kovvada and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Haripur in West Bengal.  It alsoseeks cancellation of new uranium mining sites proposed in Domiasiat in Meghalaya and Nalgonda in Andhra Pradesh. NNEF seeks a white paper from an independent team on existing nuclear power plants and uranium mining sites like the one in Jadugoda in Jharkhand.

TWA has been drawing the attention of the concrned agencies and media towards the testimonies of several Union Secretaries on the matter of liability for nuclear damage Bill given to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests, Science & Technology wherein they had expressed grave reservations about the Bill and non-existence of health infrastructure to deal with a nuclear emergency. These Secretaries were not consulted while preparing the Bill and their gnawing concerns were disregarded so much so that the Committee recommended that in future they should be consulted.

TWA wonders as to when will such time in future come when public health concerns of the present and future generations and their human rights will be considered which creates a compelling logic against nuclear energy and in favour of non-nuclear energy options. Will it be after a nuclear catastrophe?

TWA demands that in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, President of India should send back the Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill to Parliament without giving her assent to it.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Member, No to Nuclear Energy Forum (NNEF)
New Delhi, Mb: 07739308480, 09818089660, E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com
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