No Apocalypse Now - Outside View by Sidharth Bhatia

Helping You Build Wealth With Honest Research
Since 1996. Try Now

  • MyStocks

MEMBER'S LOGINX

     
Login Failure
   
     
   
     
 
 
 
(Please do not use this option on a public machine)
 
     
 
 
 
  Sign Up | Forgot Password?  

No Apocalypse Now
Mar 18, 2011

The world has watched, at once fascinated and horrified, videos of unprecedented natural fury as first an earthquake and then a tsunami hit the coastal towns of north-eastern Japan. This has been followed by the unthinkable-a potential nuclear disaster which compares only with the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986. Day after day scary news of explosions in nuclear reactors and the spread of radiation has been beamed on our television sets; our worst nightmares seem to be coming true.

Japan is a long way from India but that hasn't stopped Indians from worrying about what could happen here if such multiple disasters hit us one after another. The very first thought was-how would we handle the aftermath of an earthquake and a tsunami within an hour of each other. Given our population density, our poor construction quality and adherence to laws and the lack of systems and processes in dealing with crises, one can well imagine the impact of such a double-whammy on an Indian coastal town. It is not merely the death toll; it is the aftermath that is worrying. Would our authorities be able to handle the situation as swiftly as it is being done in Japan? We have read stories of the Japanese ethic-stoicism and a determination to think of the group rather than of the individual - and how it has played a big role in managing the post-tsunami crisis. How would it be here? The answer is known to all of us.

Speculation aside, this is also the time to think of the nuclear issue. The scenes of explosions in Japanese reactors and stories of radiation hazards have triggered panic here. Fake messages and emails are being sent out about a radiation breeze moving in the direction of India; I got one advising me what to do to avoid being radiated. In Chennai a rumour spread rapidly that the rains would bring radioactive showers that could cause severe damage to the skin.

While we can laugh away at these absurd rumours, the concerns raised by the villagers of Jaitapur are not so easily dismissed. A small coastal village in Ratnagiri, barely 160 kilometres away from Mumbai, the area is the site of a huge nuclear facility which will have six plants that will eventually generate almost 10000 MW of electricity. After various studies, including the safety aspect, the plant, to be built by the French firm Areva was given all the necessary permissions. There has been a low key resistance to the project from groups of local villagers as well as from activists who are against the very idea of nuclear energy. But given India's desperate need for power and the advantages of nuclear energy - it is clean, for one thing -- the government has committed itself to building plants in different parts of the country.

Now suddenly the entire debate has acquired an extra dimension. Jaitapur is said to be on a sensitive seismic zone and has suffered from 90-odd low intensity shocks in the last 20 years. This is not as dangerous as it may sound, since many places do get tremors. But in the light of what has happened in Japan, it has created a fear psychosis among villagers and given a new impetus to the anti-nuclear groups. Meanwhile the government has ordered a safety audit of the existing nuclear plants in the country.

Reopening the debate and relooking at all safety norms is a good idea, irrespective of the situation in Japan. But when we consider nuclear energy, we should not be guided by knee jerk fear. All technologies have weaknesses; coal power plants ruin the environment in many ways and spread pollution and over-dependence on oil in an increasingly unstable world is not an option. Nuclear energy is not an ideal solution, but may be one of the most viable options for the country.

The plants in Japan are over 40 years old. Indian plants will have the best safety technologies. There will be many learnings from the Japanese experience. It will be a mistake to shut down our nuclear energy programme because of ill-informed worries after what has happened in Japan.

This may be a good time to once again re-examine all the safety aspects of our proposed plants. The government must take the people into confidence. The manner in which there was a move, some months ago, to dilute the nuclear liability bill to accommodate the concerns of foreign suppliers was an example of how not to do things. Now these same foreign companies will have to understand the needs of their customer. But at the same time, there is no need to get scared of nuclear energy. It will be a pity if irrational and emotional fear of an apocalypse were to drive our decisions on this crucial issue.

This article is written by Sidharth Bhatia. Sidharth is a senior Indian journalist who has worked in print, broadcast and online media. He is a columnist and regular commentator on current affairs for several leading publications and on national television. This article was first posted on Personalfn.

Disclaimer:

The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "No Apocalypse Now". Click here!

  

More Views on News

Sorry! There are no related views on news for this company/sector.

Most Popular

Protect Your Wealth from Fund Managers (Fast Profits Daily)

May 14, 2020

Do you know how much you are paying in fees to your mutual fund? In this video I'll share with you my views.

Of India's 20 Trillion Stimulus Package and the Swoosh Index for a Swoosh Recovery (Profit Hunter)

May 13, 2020

For India's rapid economic recovery, hopping on to the Swoosh index is a must.

How Commodity Prices Tell You When Stocks Will Go Up (Fast Profits Daily)

May 20, 2020

Commodity prices often provide clues to big moves in stock markets. In today's video, I'll explain this link.

This 'Essential Product' Smallcap is a Must Have for a 'Covid-19' Immune Portfolio (Profit Hunter)

May 19, 2020

This smallcap company needs no stimulus measures to do well in the long term.

Why Buffet - and you - should study Quantum Liquid Fund (The Honest Truth)

May 14, 2020

Ajit Dayal on how Quantum Liquid Fund and Warren Buffett have similar investing styles.

More

How to Trade the
Coronavirus Crash

Coronavirus Crash
Get this special report, authored by Equitymaster's top analysts, now.
We will never sell or rent your email id.
Please read our Terms

S&P BSE TECK


May 26, 2020 12:35 PM

MARKET STATS