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Atomic Energy Commission Must Safeguard Human Life: Prof. Thakur

NEW DELHI, November 13, 2017: Very alarming it may sound but hundreds of workers engaged in the nuclear power plants and atomic reactors in India are helplessly exposed to radiation contamination that may cost them of their lives as the Government of India has not “sealed” them totally to stop the iodine leakage.

Unless the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) fortify these installations vulnerable to radiation leakage due to natural calamities, human errors and mechanical malfunctions with the Non-Conjugated Conductive Polymer Papers (NCCPP), a radiation Armageddon may happen in India.

According to the Nobel Prize nominee in Chemistry for 2017, Prof. Mrinal Thakur, though he submitted a proposal to “seal” all nuclear reactors with the NCCPP globally patented by him to the AEC in Mumbai five years ago, it was not implemented thereby exposing the employees to radiation contamination and posing serious threat to the overall ecological system.

In a statement here, Prof. Thakur, an NRI-scientist and the Director of the Photonic Materials Research Laboratory of Auburn University (USA), said immediately after the Fukushima radiation leakage disaster in 2011 (in Japan), he submitted the proposal to the AEC to safeguard all nuclear installations, but nothing was done.

AEC’s Inaction in “Sealing” Reactors May Have Dangerous Outcome

Nominated 17-times for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry including in 2017 yet not receiving it due to what may be termed as the traditionally racially-prone anti-India bias of Sweden and total lack of concern of the Central Government in ensuring that the Indians get their lawful international recognitions, he demanded that in view of growing numbers of radiation accidents happening in India, the AEC must act immediately upon his proposal that may be gathering dust. He also demanded to know the “status” of his proposal as of today.

Prof. Thakur said by ignoring his proposal to “protect” the nuclear reactors, the AEC has proved it beyond doubt that the DAE is not at all serious in safeguarding the staff members working in such facilities. In view of this, there must be public outcry in India demanding protection of all existing reactors and those coming up with the NCCPP “shield” to save human life and the mother earth as a whole.

Prof. Thakur said since the Central Government, all other State Governments, the DAE and AEC are totally disregarding his “offer” to safeguard the nuclear power stations, it is high-time that the NGOs fighting against radiation, political parties cutting across ideological barriers, student unions and scientists come forward in compelling the nuclear regulatory authorities to install the very cost effective NCCPP in all reactors.

Functioning of the Non-Conjugated Conductive Polymer Papers

If the “vital segments” of nuclear installations from where radiation may leak are sealed and covered with the NCCPP, the workers would be safe from radiation contamination.

The thin non-conjugated conductive polymer papers keeps on absorbing the radiation/iodine continuously. They would change their colours with the quantum of radiation absorbed. The management of the nuclear power plants would know, in case of any radiation leakage, the levels of radiation emission and its absorption by the plastic paper.

The color of the plastic (nonconjugated conductive polymer) changes from transparent to dark as more iodine interacts and gets absorbed. The molar concentration of iodine corresponding to the darkest color (extreme right) is about 0.8 which is about 1020 times the accepted threshold level of radiation per day.

The growing number of cases of radiation leakages in India and subsequent contamination of persons working there prove the tall claims of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) that all reactors and nuclear power plants are totally safe and fully protected is nothing but misleading the nation.

Prof. Thakur said the pall of death still lurks in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima (Japan) and Chernobyl (Russia). Since more numbers of nuclear power stations are coming up in India, more numbers of workers would be exposed to the ultra-toxic radiation effects if those “un-sealed” facilities suffer leakages.

The Central Government Apathetic towards Protecting Workers

Prof. Thakur said the Narendra Modi Government and erstwhile Manmohan Singh-led Ministry took no steps to safeguard the nuclear reactors against leakage of iodine and radioactive elements though he had submitted a “full-proof” strategy to the AEC. Since the iodine travels very fast through air and water, the results of a serious radiation leakage can be extremely grim in the case of India.

“I even met the former Presidents, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi to apprise them of the lurking danger of nuclear leakages. However, “sealing” of atomic reactors was not done,” Prof. Thakur said regretting the “insensitive attitude of the Central Government may cause irreparable damage to the country”.

He said the issue can be settled only if the people come on a common platform to force the government to “seal” all reactors against leakages for greater cause of the nation. The global regulatory bodies including International Commission for Radiation Protection (ICRP) prescribed specific norms for permissible doses of radiation from X-Ray tubes and shielding of walls of X-Ray rooms. The NCCPP functions in line with RCRP.

Alarm Bells Ringing but Deaf Government cannot Hear them

The heavy water leakage from Kakrapur (Gujarat) atomic power station on March 11, 2016 is the latest example of what might have been a major radiation disaster. Since 1991, over 14 major leakages happened besides several minor ones in the cargo section of airports putting into jeopardy the lives of employees and passengers. If the Kakrapur atomic power station was “sealed” as per his suggestion, this leakage could have been averted.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Body classified Kakrapur-leakage as Level-I or lowest in the seven-tier classification of the rate of severity of nuclear accident (leakage of radiation) done by the International Nuclear and Radiological Event (INRE) by the International Atomic Energy Authority.

These INRE levels are: Level 1-3 (termed as “incidents” and classified as not very dangerous) and Level 4-7 as “accident” (extremely dangerous). The Fukushima (2011) and Chernobyl (1986) were classified as Level 7.

The realistic fear of radiation contamination of workers of nuclear reactors can be gauged from the fact that in November, 2009 altogether 55 workers consumed radioactive material after “Tritiated Water” entered into the drinking water cooler in Kaiga Generating Station.

Again in May, 2001, “Tritiated water” leaked from a downgraded “heavy water” storage tank at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) 1&2 into a common dyke area. An estimated 22.2 Curies of radioactivity, in scientific terms, was released into the environment.

The greater dimension of water pollution can be understood by the helium leakage from RAPS in 1995. The toxic heavy water mixed with the waters of Rana Pratap Sagar River polluting it and jeopardizing the lives of the human being, animal and poisoning the water for irrigation.

The “Heavy Water” has a heavier isotope of hydrogen called deuterium and is looks similar to ordinary water. It is non-radioactive till it is used in a nuclear power reactor. The “Tritium” is a heavier isotope formed from “Heavy Water” during operation of the nuclear power plant. The “Tritium,” a soft beta emitter, exists in the form of vapour in the reactor building. Its emission can be very effectively stopped by the NCCPP.

The repeated leakage incidents should alarm any country in the world but not India. If you look at what happened at NAPS I reactor at Narora (UP) in November, 2011 you would know that the Government of India may be spending millions of rupees in holding the Nobel Series in Gandhinagar and elsewhere though Sweden is totally resistant to honouring Indians yet it is not spending any money in research works to develop the NCCPP that can save human lives.

At NAPS Unit I, 1.4 tonnes of “Heavy Water” was leaked from the reactor resulting in one employee receiving an internal radiation dose of 18.49 mSv. In April, 2000, about 7-tonnes of “Heavy Water” from the moderator system at NAPS Unit II had leaked and employees involved in clean-up operation received significant uptake of Tritium. They were contaminated.

In March, 1999 altogether 42 employees of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) came in contact with radioactive liquid while mopping up the area. Apparently, they were contaminated. In December 1991, a leak from pipeline in the vicinity of CIRUS and Dhruva research reactors at BARC in Trombay in severe CS-137 soil contamination. The local vegetation was found to be contaminated.

Energy Ambition without Proper Radiation Leaking Strategy May Cost High

India aims to generate 14.6 GWe nuclear capacities by 2014, 63 GWe by 2032 and meet 25% of the country’s electricity need from nuclear power by 2050 necessitating setting up of more atomic reactors thus looming large the danger of more cases of radiation leakages.

Prof. Thakur said the Centre and the State governments must act immediately to ensure that the AEC starts working on his proposal as all nuclear installations, radioactive waste facilities and rocket/space satellite launching stations have dangers of radiation leakage due to natural calamities.

He said the states where the nuclear reactors and power plants are located now and would be located in near future must spend from their own public exchequer to safeguard such installations with the plastic non-conjugated conductive polymer paper that will keep on absorbing the radiation.

Prof. Thakur said if the inner and outer-walls of nuclear reactors are covered with the NCCPP, iodine or radioactive rays cannot come out as they would be absorbed by the polymer-based papers. Radioactive iodine is particularly dangerous since it remains as a vapor at ordinary temperature and can travel long distances at a very short time.

It causes a plethora of very serious diseases primary among them being thyroid cancer. Prof. Thakur said the nuclear waste facilities which store spent nuclear fuel rods must also be insulated with the NCCPP papers.

Geeta Shah

 

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