Hiroshima, Fukushima, Jaitapur...
By: Sudeshna Chowdhury
Incidents of contamination and radiation leakage in Japan have raised serious issues related to safety of nuclear power plants. At a recent seminar held in the city, well-known scientists and experts spoke about India's nuclear programme, benefits and risks involved
The recent Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan raised serious concerns about the safety aspect of nuclear power plants. Reports of contamination and radiation leakage in Japan generated fear among people all over the world.
In fact, the Fukushima crisis sparked off violent protests in Jaitapur too, where India's largest nuclear power plant is supposed to come up. While protests in Jaitapur took a political turn, the big question on everybody's mind was are nuclear power plants safe enough?
To dispel myths related to nuclear power plants and to bring awareness on various aspects of nuclear energy amongst youth, a seminar on, 'Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fallacies' was organised by R D National and WA Science College in Bandra (w) recently, where more than 300 students from 30 colleges across the city participated.
Scientists suggested that fear of radiation is the main reason why people are opposed to having nuclear power plants in their area. Said Dr S P Dharne, Associate Director, Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL), "Radiation is a demon which cannot be seen or felt.
It just penetrates your body. The recent Fukushima disaster and horror stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have to a large extent, shaped people's perception on nuclear power plants. Hence, radiation phobia is a huge issue among people.
But this fear is more psychological. In fact, radiation is present everywhere. In places like Narora (in Uttar Pradesh) and Kalpakkam (in Tamil Nadu), where you have nuclear plants for so many years, people are living there for generations and there is no significant damage to health that has come to our notice."
Comparing nuclear energy to thermal and hydropower, which are considered a lot safer, Dharne said, "It is not only nuclear energy, coal too generates a lot of dilute radioactive materials. Hence, total penalty on the environment should be considered while objecting to any technology. Every technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. We will have to weigh the risk factors vs the amount of benefit we derive from any technology."
To ensure safety of nuclear reactors, Dharne emphasised that, "Safe design, quality workmanship and diligent operation will guarantee the safety of nuclear reactors." Stringent quality assurance; early detection and deviation from normal procedure in case of an accident; and immediate safe shutdown as well as containment of the radiation, are various measures which can prevent any nuclear disaster.
It is also important for an independent authority to review the safety standards of a nuclear power plant.
To avert nuclear disasters, well-known nuclear scientist, Dr Anil Kakodkar, who was also the chief guest of the programme suggested that, "Each reactor should be able to stand on its own and too many common site facilities should be avoided. Moreover, India is an intelligent buyer and a stringent regulation system is in place when we buy reactors from outsiders."
France and Germany are the pioneers in the field of nuclear energy and our nuclear power needs to grow, he emphasised.
When somebody from the audience asked about the controversial Jaitapur project and the impact that the nuclear project can have on the marine ecology, Dharne clarified that the impact on the surrounding marine ecosystem will be minimal.
Talking about various forms of energy, which included thermal, hydro and solar, scientists highlighted the importance of nuclear energy in generating electricity.
Almost 16 percent of electricity generated worldwide is through nuclear power plants, "Whereas in India only three per cent of the total amount of electricity generated is through nuclear power. We are currently looking at increasing it to 10 per cent," said Dr R R Kakde, General Manager (Corporate Communication), NPCIL.
The panel suggested that nuclear energy could be the ultimate solution to the country's growing energy demands. Calling nuclear energy as "a commercially viable domain", Kakodkar highlighted the challenges when it comes to renewable sources of energy.
"Sun doesn't shine round the clock and that is a big challenge when it comes to solar power. Solar energy is very expensive. So, the aim is to reduce the capital cost while generating solar power."
Electricity generated from nuclear power plants is much cheaper compared to thermal or hydropower. Said Kakde, "The first nuclear power plant in the country at Tarapur generates electricity to Maharashtra and Gujarat. The electricity generated here is being charged at the rate of 92 paise/unit, whereas the normal rate is Rs 2.75-3/unit."
The amount of land required to set up nuclear plants is less compared to other alternative sources of energy. Said Kakde, "To set up a hydro power project almost 2000-5000 hectare of land is required.
A thermal power plant would need approximately 70 hectare whereas a nuclear power plant needs just 20 hectare of land." But availability of uranium, raw material for nuclear power plants, is a concern, said Kakodkar.
Jaitapur will be implemented, declares Jairam Ramesh
The controversial 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra will be implemented despite all hurdles, declared union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh. He said that whatever be the opposition, the government would go ahead with the JNPP, taking into consideration all aspects of environment and security norms.
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has initiated a safety review of India's nuclear power stations in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. All the facilities are safe, said AEC chairman Srikumar Banerjee.
In the Indian reactors, Banerjee said, the review carried out has shown that adequate provisions were in place to handle situations like a station blackout. The AEC is also constructing reactors, which can withstand flash floods and cyclones in the coastal zone.
The Other Side
Anti nuclear campaign groups claim that nuclear energy is inherently dangerous and the biggest challenge is the disposal of huge amount of radioactive wastes generated from nuclear power plants.
Said Karuna Raina, campaigner at Greenpeace, an international Non-Governmental Environmental Organisation (NGO), "Until a few months ago, the nuclear lobby would claim that if Japan, inspite of being prone to earthquakes, could have nuclear plants, then why can't we? But Fukushima has shown us that nuclear plants can be dangerous. Team of experts working there even found radiation in the sea water."
Dr V Pugazhendhi, who has a clinic in Kalpakkam claims that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from cancer, in the area.
"My research states that people working in the power plant suffer from myeloma cancer(rare blood cancer) whereas people from neighbouring villages suffer from thyroid cancer and other autoimmune thyroid diseases. The results have statistical significance."
Matters concerned with Environment
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, 10 June 2011 21:18
Written by Dinesh Singh Rawat
New Delhi (ABC Live): India on Wednesday released A National Wetland Atlas and State Wetland Atlases to form the basis of a comprehensive wetland conservation strategy Wetlands, whether natural or man-made, coastal or inland, are of great ecological and economic significance in different states.
They play a critical role in the water cycle, and are highly productive ecosystems that provide a wide range of ecosystem services, in addition to supporting significant recreational, social and cultural activities.
However, wetlands today are under severe threat. A National Wetland Atlas and State Wetland Atlases, prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Ahmedabad, were released on 8th June 2011 by Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh said: “Wetlands are seriously threatened from various sources. Despite the ecological services wetlands provide, and regulatory mechanisms consistent with the Ramsar Convention, we have so far lacked a detailed mapping and inventory of wetlands.This comprehensive mapping will help us prioritize wetlands for protection.”
This is the first time such atlases have been prepared on the basis of satellite imagery, in a systematic manner. The maps categorize wetlands into 19 different classes, and are being made available at a 1:50,000 scale resolution.
Excluding rivers, wetlands cover some 10 million hectares, or a little over 3% of the country’s geographical area. Of this 10 million hectares, reservoirs account for about 2.5 million hectares, inter-tidal mud flats for 2.4 million hectares, tanks for 1.3 million hectares, lakes/ponds for 0.7 million hectares, mangroves for some 0.47 million hectares and corals for about 0.14 million hectares. Yet, only 25 wetland sites in India are protected as Ramsar sites, under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (to which India is a signatory).
These Atlases will now be used by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to designate critical wetlands to be protected under the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, notified in December 2010.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Expert Panel: Cell Phones Might Cause Brain Cancer
WebMD Health News
The announcement comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Like the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society relies on IARC for evaluation of cancer risks.
"After reviewing all the evidence available, the IARC working group classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans," panel chairman Jonathan Samet, MD, chair of preventive medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, said at a news teleconference. "We reached this conclusion based on a review of human evidence showing increased risk of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, in association with wireless phone use."
In finding cell phones to be "possibly carcinogenic," the IARC means that heavy cell phone use might -- or might not -- cause a specific form of brain cancer called glioma. The finding means that research is urgently needed to find out whether cell phones actually cause cancer, and how they might do it.
The IARC estimates that some 5 billion people worldwide have mobile phones. Lifetime exposure to the magnetic fields created by the phones -- particularly when they are held tightly against the head -- rapidly is increasing.
Children are at particular risk, not only because their skulls are thinner but also because their lifetime exposure to cell phones likely will be greater than the exposure of current adults.
Putting Possible Cancer Risk in Perspective
It's important to put the possible risk into context. Kurt Straif, MD, PhD, MPH, head of the IARC Monographs Program, notes that the IARC currently lists some 240 agents as "possibly carcinogenic," including dry cleaning fluid and some commonly used pesticides.
While the IARC doesn't make recommendations to consumers, Straif noted that there are precautions people can take.
"Some of the highest exposures come from using mobile phones for voice calls. If you text, or use hands-free devices, you lower exposure by at least [10-fold]," Straif said at the news conference. "So this is left to consumers to consider whether this level of evidence is enough for them to take such precautions."
Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, notes that the IARC is a highly credible group. But Brawley echoes Straif's advice: People who are worried can reduce their risk.
"On the other hand, if someone is of the opinion that the absence of strong scientific evidence on the harms of cell phone use is reassuring, they may take different actions, and it would be hard to criticize that," Brawley says in a news release.
John Walls, vice president for public affairs at CTIA, the trade group representing the wireless communications industry, notes that the IARC findings do not mean cell phones cause cancer -- and that the limited evidence on which the findings are based are far from conclusive.
"Based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that '[t]here’s no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer.' The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that '[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems,'" Walls notes in a news release.
Samet and colleagues will publish a summary of their findings in the July 1 issue of The Lancet, which is still in press.
Cell phones linked to cancer
Sunday, 05 June 2011 11:44
By Sound Living Reporter
That buzzing, clicking, hissing or popping sound during a mobile phone call may cause brain cancer.The World Health Organisation research institute says receiving calls on your mobile over a prolonged period could lead to a form of brain cancer known as glioma.
Lead researcher Dr Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California said there was evidence linking radio frequency fields on phones and their base stations to brain cancer.
The research was based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.“The conclusion means there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk,” said Dr Samet.
Over the years, scientists have released new findings periodically, sparking debate for and against the gadgets, but the current research by WHO could affect the lifestyle of five billion subscribers globally.The global health body advised consumers to switch to text messaging and use of the hands-free option to reduce exposure.
Past studies that suggest a risk have indicated that tumours tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.
Over the years, WHO is on record for dismissing studies linking radio frequency to cancer, saying they are inconclusive and do not support the hypothesis that exposure causes or influences cancer.
However, it has acknowledged particular findings that have linked mobile phone use to altered brain and body activity, including risks like leukaemia and brain tumours and has outlined a number of safety measures.
The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possible cancer-causing agents and classified it as Group 2B.
A glioma is a type of tumour that starts in the brain or spine. A brain glioma can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures and cranial nerve disorders as a result of increased intracranial pressure.
The WHO research is corroborated by a survey early last month by the US National Institute of Health that found that less than an hour of cell phone use can speed up brain activity in the area closest to the phone antenna and this, they say, may cause health problems.
The study, published last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association, says the weak radio-frequency signals from cell phones have the potential to alter brain and body activity.
The researchers, led by Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, established considerable changes in brain activity among 47 individuals involved in the study through brain scan.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister's Office has shot down a proposal to set up a National Elephant Conservation Authority along the lines of one existing for tigers.
The environment ministry had recommended an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act creating a powerful autonomous authority for the pachyderm. The authority was intended to create a network of elephant reserves which could be kept free of mining and other harmful industrial activities.
The move had been made based on recommendations of an expert Elephant Task Force set up by the environment ministry to study the threats to the animal and advise on how to conserve it.
But the proposal has been shot down at the highest level even before it could reach the cabinet.
The habitat of the animal that environment minister Jairam Ramesh has said is facing ‘a story of attrition' is especially threatened by mining in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In the recent past, the ministry has had to contend with several controversial proposals that deal a body blow to elephant conservation. But it's been constrained by the lack of legal teeth to protect the animal or a single official authority that can steer conservation needs for the animal.
With mining proposals pouring in from the two states and the tussle between environment ministry and coal and power ministries on to open up more forest areas for mining the move to scrap the proposal for the elephant authority is bound to weigh in favour of the mining industry.
Elephant reserves exist even today but they are only a demarcation on the map to provide funds under Project Elephant, just as it happened earlier for tiger reserves. The reserves have no legal validity and this makes it difficult to protect the elephant-bearing forests and lands against changes that would harm the pachyderm. The existing networks of national parks and sanctuaries do not serve to protect the elephant as the animal migrates and travels over long distances cutting across inhabited areas as well as forests.
The authority was expected to demarcate areas – including forests – that are important for elephant conservation and become a single window for advising on changes on these land patches just as the National Tiger Conservation Authority does for tiger reserves at the moment.
mainly in the narrow strip of land between the Western Ghats and the
Arabian Sea in the scenic Konkan region of India, the Alphonso mangoes
are considered king among the several varieties that flood the market
during the mango season. Known for their delectable flavour, richness of
meaty texture and sweetness they are coveted all over the world. In
2007, the US traded off the restrictions for its imports against export
of Harley Davidsons to the burgeoning Indian market. It is this Alphonso
land that is seemingly is today in a state of war...........................
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Powering your car with the air you
breathe may sound supernatural, but Joel Rosenthal, a chemist at the
University of Delaware, is actually working to transform carbon dioxide
(CO2), a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, into gas for your car and
clean-energy future fuels.
Such a feat could
help reduce the rising CO2 levels implicated in global warming and also
offer a new method of renewable energy production.
Rosenthal and his
team are designing electrocatalysts from metals such as nickel and
palladium that will freely give away electrons when they react with
carbon dioxide, thus chemically reducing this greenhouse gas into
energy-rich carbon monoxide or methanol.
Besides its use in
making plastics, solvents, carpet and other products, methanol fuels
race cars in the United States and currently is being researched as a
hydrogen carrier for fuel cell vehicles.
Carbon monoxide is an important
precursor to liquid hydrocarbons in the energy arena, in addition to its
applications as an industrial chemical for producing plastics to
detergents to the acetic acid used in food preservation, drug
manufacturing and other fields.
reduction of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide is an important
transformation that would allow for the mitigation of atmospheric CO2
levels, while producing an energy-rich substrate that forms a basis for
fuels production,” Rosenthal says.
“The chemistry we’re
doing is energetically uphill—it’s an energy-storing process rather
than a downhill, energy-liberating process.
“And our goal is to make liquid fuel renewably from wind and solar sources, not from typical fossil fuel bases,” he added.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
There are too many doctoral programmes, producing too
many PhDs for the job market. Shut some and change the rest, says Mark
Published online 20 April 2011 |
Sunday, April 10, 2011
11 April 2011 | News story
Drainage and degradation of coastal wetlands emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide directly to the atmosphere and lead to decreased carbon sequestration, a new World Bank report has found.
The report, written in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wetland specialists ESA PWA, calls for coastal wetlands to be protected and incentives for avoiding their degradation and improving their restoration to be included into carbon emission reduction strategies and in climate negotiations.
“For the first time we are getting a sense that greenhouse gas losses from drained and degraded coastal wetlands may be globally significant and that drained organic-rich soils continuously release carbon for decades,” says Stephen Crooks, Climate Change Services Director at ESA PWA - the consulting firm which looked at 15 coastal deltas worldwide for the report. “Emissions will increase with ongoing wetland losses.”
The report highlights the current rates of degradation and loss of coastal wetlands which are up to four times that of tropical forests. Destruction of about 20 percent of the worlds’ mangroves, an area of 35,000 square kilometres in the last 25 years or four times the New York City metropolitan area, has led to the release of centuries of accumulated carbon. This has also disturbed the natural protection against storm surges and other weather events.
“We must work with nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also restore the ability of nature to take carbon out of circulation,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. ”CO2 emissions from lost or degraded coastal wetlands are sufficiently large to warrant amendment of national and international climate change policy frameworks to promote restoration.“
Of the 15 coastal deltas studied for the report, seven were found to have released more than 500 million tons of CO2 each since the wetlands were drained, mostly in the past 100 years. By comparison, Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2007 were just over 470 million tonnes.
Mangroves, tidal marshes and sea-grass meadows remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil, where it can stay for millennia. Unlike terrestrial forests, these marine ecosystems are continuously building carbon pools, storing huge amounts of “blue carbon” in the sediment below them. When these systems are degraded due to drainage or conversion for agriculture and aquaculture, they emit large and continuous amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.
“Protecting these coastal ecosystems and the blue carbon they store can be a win-win for communities,”
says Marea Hatziolos, Senior Coastal and Marine Specialist at the World Bank. “Shore line protection and increased fisheries productivity are among the co-benefits provided by healthy coastal wetlands—contributing to community resilience while sequestering CO2. If wetlands conservation can be linked to carbon markets, communities have a way to pay for conservation which will generate local and global benefits.”
Managing coastal ecosystems for the range of services they provide can complement existing approaches to nature-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change, according to the report. Such investments have the potential to link to REDD+ and other carbon financing mechanisms, provided that protocols on accounting, verification and reporting of net carbon uptake can be agreed.
For more information , please contact:
Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 798574072, e firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Chandigarh, February 26
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has toughened its stand over granting clearance to the multi-tower high-rise Tata Camelot project proposed to come up next to the Sukhna Lake here.
For an environmental clearance now, the ministry has said, the project would require a go-ahead from the forestry and wildlife angle, including an okay from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife.
Also, the MoEF has referred the case (for environmental clearance to the project) to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee, Punjab. The move follows as Punjab reconstituted its committee by including new members and thus completing the requisite quorum for granting environmental clearances.
However, the MoEF has said that the state EIA committee may consider the inspection report prepared by a team of the ministry last month, and may consult the members of this inspection team before granting any clearance. Notably, the Tata Housing officials had earlier claimed that they had obtained all clearances from various departments.
Official sources said as the Camelot project site was only 123 metres (on the northern side and 183 metres on the eastern side) away from the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, the project proponent (Tata Housing Development Company in this case) will require a prior green signal from the National Board for Wildlife -- chaired by the prime minister.
And as the Camelot project site is adjacent to the sanctuary, it is bound to create noise and air pollution in the area, besides resulting in heavy human habitation in the high-rise buildings. All these factors were likely to impact the sanctuary.
Based on The Tribune reports on how rules were bent by the Punjab Government for a go-ahead to the project, with 102 state politicians on board, the MoEF had ordered an inquiry into the housing venture. An inspection was conducted by a six-member MoEF team last month, which verified the distance of the project site from the sanctuary and also found that the Camelot site fell under the catchment area of the Sukhna Lake.
According to rules, for any project that is proposed within a distance of 10 km of a national park or wildlife sanctuary, a special condition is stipulated that the environmental clearance is subject to their obtaining prior clearance from the forestry and wildlife angle, including clearance from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife. The rules also say that the grant of environment clearance does not necessarily imply that forestry and wildlife clearance shall be granted to the project. Their application for forestry and wildlife clearance would be considered as per merit.
These guidelines, which form part of the EIA Notification, 2006 (via office memorandum issued in 2009), also say that any investment made in the project, based on environmental clearance granted in anticipation of the clearance from forestry and wildlife angle, shall be entirely at the cost and risk of the project proponent and the MoEF shall not be responsible for this
Friday, February 25, 2011
Bhavnagar, DeshGujarat, 11 June, 2010
Thursday, February 3, 2011
If you believe that Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh has made life difficult for industry and project promoters by making environmental clearances as a stumbling block, you may be in for a surprise. Projects during his tenure are getting cleared much faster and just a handful of them are rejected.
Environmental clearance for just six projects was rejected during August 2009 and July 2010, compared to 14 projects rejected during 2006-07 to 2007-08.
The conditional approval granted to the steel project of Korean giant Posco and to several such high-profile projects including the Navi Mumbai airport show that projects continue to be approved with the same speed even after July 2010. The mining project of Vedanta is the only notable rejection. Eight river valley hydro-electric projects were submitted for environment clearance and all were approved in the one-year period. As many as 49 thermal power projects were approved with just one rejection during 2009-10.
Of 120 projects under the category of 'infrastructure and miscellaneous projects' that came up for approval, 112 were approved and none was rejected. As many as 31 coal mining projects were approved with not a single one being rejected. Only two of 'new construction and industrial estates' projects were rejected.
In all, 769 projects were received and 535 were approved and six were rejected. The rest are pending for more information and queries.
The rate of approving projects during the tenure of Ramesh remains unhealthy, says the EIA Resource and Response Centre which obtained the data under RTI. "Despite the claim of greater scrutiny, projects continue to be approved and the rate of approval appears to be getting worse. If one compares with the data of approval from 2006 to 2008 it is clear that the rate of rejection and approval remains the same," said Ritwick Dutta of EIA centre.
In a move designed to facilitate faster clearances, Ramesh appointed power sector experts to key panels tasked with approval of power projects. Rakesh Nath, former chairman of the Central Electricity Authority, was made chairperson of the expert appraisal committee on river valley projects, while V. P. Raja, chairman of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission, was appointed to head the expert appraisal committee on thermal power and coal mine projects. "How can a power regulatory body chief preside over environment clearance of power projects?" questions Dutta.
While projects are being approved with alacrity, Ramesh has closed all avenues for those who want to appeal against such approvals. He has dismantled the only existing grievance redressal mechanism that existed in the form of the National Environment Appellate Authority. The authority was wound up in October 2010 even before the National Green Tribunal, which was supposed to replace it, came into being. The tribunal has not been set up despite Parliament approving the law for its establishment. As a result, persons aggrieved by the grant of clearance have no statutory forum for appeal.
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