Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan nuclear disaster: Radiation compensation quite low in India

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 17: People hit by radiation in case of nuclear mishap in India may not get more than Rs 2.5 lakh each as monetary compensation, fear anti-nuke activists.

Given the high density of population in the country a mishap in any of the nuclear power plants will affect at least one lakh people. Since the monetary cap is fixed at Rs 1500 crore under civil nuclear damage liability, those hit by radiation will not get hefty compensation.

If the compensation of Rs 1500 crore is to be shared by one lakh people, an affected individual can expect just Rs 1.5 lakh. Even if the Central government hikes the compensation, say by another Rs 1000 crore, people hit by radiation will have to be content with Rs 2.5 lakh each. The compensation an individual gets will go down if the nuclear disaster is of a large magnitude affecting more than a lakh people, argues anti-nuke activist and senior scientist Dr K Babu Rao.

"If the nuclear mishap in Japan is any indication, people living within a radius of 20 km may be affected. A radius of 20 km translates to about 600 sq km. Given the high density of population in India, at least 12 lakh people live within the potential dangerous zone. The dangers nuclear power plants pose are relatively more in India than in any other country. The damage liability should be unlimited and if it is limited affected individuals will get peanuts, as in the case of Bhopal tragedy," he warned.

Even in a thinly populated nation like the US, a mishap in a nuclear power plant will trigger one lakh "early fatalities" (death from radiation within nine years of exposure) and 40,000 cancer deaths over a period of time. The maximum cost of accident for a nuclear plant in the US is fixed at 656.9 billion US dollars (Rs 3,00,000 crore). But the Indian government has fixed an overall monetary liability of just Rs 1500 crore, which is about 200 times less, Dr Babu Rao said.

Gopal Krishna, convener of Toxic Watch Alliance, New Delhi, said many countries including the USA have unlimited liability in case of nuclear mishap. But in India the liability is fixed and this will badly affect the over all compensation to be paid to the affected individuals and their families.

"British Petroleum, responsible for oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has deposited Rs 9,000 crore pending final settlement on compensation. Nuclear mishap is larger than oil spill. Plant genome is affected. Both  humans and animals will be subjected to untold miseries. The initial compensation fixed was just Rs 500 crore but later it was increased to Rs 1500 crore. For a densely populated nation like India there should be no limited liability in case of nuclear disasters," Gopal Krishna said.

He feared that even this paltry compensation will not reach the affected people as nuclear plants are exempt to pay compensation in case of earthquakes or terror attacks. "The Centre agrees to pay compensation in such cases. This in other words means leaving the operators scot free," he added.

SP Uday Kumar, convener, National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movement, Thrissur, said the quantum of compensation cannot be fixed as the magnitude of loss due to nuclear radiation cannot be assessed. "We do not have a mechanism to study the magnitude of the loss. Some people suffer immediately, while others report radiation-related problems a few years later. The liability should be unlimited as not just one individual but an entire locality could be wiped out in a nuclear mishap," he said.

"Since India is in no way more capable of dealing with nuclear catastrophe than the Japanese, justification of nuclear power plants is just shallow. With corrupt and poor quality practices inherent in the system, it is dangerous to meddle with such high risk projects," pointed out B Ramakrishnam Raju of National Alliance of People's Movement.

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