Kudankulam: Sri Lankans Should Learn to Run and Swim

reprinted from The Island LK


Koodankulam Nuclear Plant –

The potential mind boggling Fukushima, Chernobyl type disaster, from India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant, has begun to count down. Currently nuclear fuel (supplied by US & France) is being fed in to the plant, built by the Russians, at the southern tip of India, just 220 KM from Kalpitiya.

But don’t panic. Sri Lanka’s Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) will be setting up Nuclear Early warning system in Navy camps in, Kalpitiya, Delft Islands and KKS. Later such detectors will be installed in Colombo. Galle, Trincomalee and Kandy – covering almost the entire Island. According to AEA, the alarm would be raised if the radiation from Kudankulam nuclear reactor, increase by three fold in Sri Lanka. My domestic help (a victim of 2004 Tsunami) asked me whether we should run and jump in to the sea, if the alarm is raised? I replied, the AEA plans to evacuate the people or advise them what to do (see Daily Mirror of July 21-2012). The setting up of the early warning system and plans to evacuate people is by itself an admission that a nuclear radiation disaster affecting the entire Island could happen anytime after the Kudankulam plant is commissioned. My domestic help’s second question was whether the authorities were planning to evacuate all of us and take us to Swaziland?

The Indian P.M. Dr. Manmohan Singh sent a letter in August 2012, to the Indian Dept of Nuclear Energy, asking the question “who would be liable in the event of a mishap” at the Kudankulam reactor. He added, Russia had asked for a waiver from liability and if the waiver is given to Russia, both US and France would ask for a waiver. Thus Indian PM has acknowledged that a ‘mishap’ could happen, causing harm to people in India. Could anyone believe that our authorities – Ministry of Environment, External Affairs Ministry, Presidential Secretariat, AEA – have so far not even dreamt of raising that vital question from India. Instead we are installing early warning systems. Is it that the powerful multi-national corporations lobbying for highly profitable nuclear reactor installations and supply of nuclear fuel, transport, etc are having a hand in the deafening silence? Yet a planeload of our guardians of the environment flew in a specially chartered plane singing all the way to Rio de Janeiro to save the planet!

Specially built tankers carrying nuclear fuel had reached Kudankulam. Didn’t they go throughout territorial waters without Sri Lanka’s permission as required according to International conventions? Who cares in Sri Lanka?

When I proposed to a group of concerned intellectuals to organize a forum, seminar or a public discussion and debate on this issue, I was asked “Why didn’t our authorities use our sovereign right to raise objections to the high-handed action of India?

Our media performed their duty in enlightening the public on the life threatening disaster, which could happen due to natural (earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons) technical (like Chernobyl) or even a terrorist attack. But nothing can wake up our guardians of the environment. They are sleeping like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park.

After installing early warning systems, authorities may be advised to acquire a fleet of passenger vessels to take people (from KKS to Galle, Colombo to Kandy and Kalpitiya to Trinco) to the South Pacific Islands Vanuatu, Nauru etc where the External Affairs Ministry wants to establish embassies!

W. David Soysa

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