There are more people miffed with Modi. Fukushima women have a lot to tell him on the N-deal

Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom | First published: 12 November 2016, 19:08 IST
There are more people miffed with Modi. Fukushima women have a lot to tell him on the N-deal
AFP Photo/Indranil Mukherjee

Some sections of the media are calling it a long-awaited landmark agreement between India and Japan. The two countries have signed a civilian nuclear accord on Friday, opening the door for Tokyo to supply New Delhi with the paraphernalia needed for nuclear power production, as India looks to use atomic energy for power generation.

The accord has however met with severe criticism in the past couple of years, especially from women residing in Fukushima.

Women living in Fukushima, ground zero of a massive accident that took place in 2011 at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, have been trying to reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From addressing Modi through an open letter to protesting outside Japan's parliament to stop the signing of the agreement, these women tried everything.

Lettering it in

Fukushima Women Against Nukes, the group that wrote the letter, is a network of women that strongly opposes restarting any of Japan's nuclear reactors and seeks justice for 2011's disaster.

The letter states, "The nuclear accident has changed our lives and among us there are those who lost their homes, jobs, hometowns, friends and family. Five and half year after this accident, we live surrounded by radioactive debris which emanated from the reactor. Over 174 children have been found to have contracted thyroid cancer at the Fukushima Prefecture alone and we are worried the health hazards would increase in the years to come."

The letter goes on to state that court proceedings to determine legal responsibility for the nuclear accident haven't started yet and the question of whether or not it was a human error resulting in the tragedy has not been clarified.

The letter states that under such circumstances it is unfortunate that Japan is attempting to sell nuclear power plants to other countries.

"The women who experienced first-hand the suffering that the Fukshima accident has brought, we do not wish for anyone in the world to have the same experience we did," says the letter.

The letter finally invites Prime Minister Modi to visit the Fukushima plant and observe its condition for himself, including taking a look at the abandoned towns, mountains of radioactive rubble and towering incinerators.

Don't sign the dotted line

With the agreement being signed, it will make it easier for US-based companies like Westinghouse and GE to set up atomic plants in India as both have Japanese investments.

Presently, India is negotiating with Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan's Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors in the south of the country.

The issue is, Westinghouse/Toshiba's reactors has had a very poor record in both establishing the plant and running it. The project in Gujarat recently failed to secure a $8 billion loan from the US Exim Bank to cover some of the costs of the Mithivirdi project.

In a press conference organised by the Centre for Nuclear Disaster and Peace, Priya Pilla, Energy Campaigner for international environmental protection organisation Greenpeace says, " The agreement seems to be a desperate attempt to secure new contracts for Westinghouse/Toshiba, whose reactors has had a poor track record globally. There have been very few sales, and most projects including the one in Burke County, near Waynesboro, Georgia and China are still under construction and have overshot their budget and are years behind their schedule."

The bipartite agreement signed is intended to open the Indian market to overseas reactor supplies

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The agreement also paves the way for the construction of six Westinghouse/Toshiba AP1000 reactors at Mithivirdi, in the state of Gujarat. Various civil society groups have opposed the nuclear project in Mirhivirdi especially the Bhavagar Jilla Gain Bachao Samiti in the state of Gujarat.

Activists have been trying to persuade the Indian government to shift its current energy policy, from relying on heavily on depleting and unviable fossil fuels and nuclear energy, to renewable energy.

Sincere requests

Even the Mayor of Nagasaki Tomihisa Taue, in a letter to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pleaded for an immediate suspension of negotiations toward a nuclear agreement between the two nations. He raised concerns of 'nuclear-related' technology being diverted towards weapons developments.

"As a non-nuclear weapons state our nation should call for the rapid unconditional ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by all non-party nations in order to pursue the continuation and strengthening of the NPT regime. Yet, if we sign this agreement, we ourselves would contribute to hollowing out the NP regime," he says in his letter.

He concludes, "In Nagasaki, a city which experienced nuclear bombs firsthand, we can never shut our eyes to this."

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also asserted, in a letter to Abe, stating the agreement is in opposition to the desire of many of our citizens who are concerned that it would further impede nuclear weapons abolition.

"Starting with Hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) of Hiroshma, this agreement is in opposition to the desires of many our citizens who are concerned that it would further impede nuclear weapons abolition. Our nation should urge India to ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty rapidly, to ensure that this agreement does not foster further development of nuclear weapons," the letter says.

International environment protection organization Greenpeace in a joint statement between Greenpeace India and Greenpeace Japan stated that the signing of the agreement will not save corporate giant Westinghouse/Toshiba's failing nuclear business with their intentions to invest in India, and will instead increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation in Asia.

"Around 8,000 sedition cases were filed in the protests against Kudankulam power plant. The issue of dangers of a nuclear power-plant are now apparent to the international community," says Kumar Sundaram, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 12 November 2016, 19:08 IST
 
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description:...

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