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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-11 04:18 PM
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(India) Nuclear energy: No longer a sacred cow
Nuclear energy: No longer a sacred cow
Oct 20, 2011
by Shiv Visvanathan


The other day I was watching TV and listening to a whole generation of scientists defend a nuclear project. These were the legends of the time, but now just looked cantankerous. And I realised that every activist must turn spectator. It is not just a switch in perspective, but it also allows one to obtain a deeper sense of drama.

The Indian nuclear establishment has been full of Brahmins, especially Tamil Brahmin hawks. Displaced in their own state, they have become custodians of the atom state. They have been the most eloquent defenders of the relation between atomic energy and the state. No bunch of Jesuits was more loyal to the cause than the Indian nuclear technocracy. The Brahmin hawks of the nuclear establishment were either dismissive or ferociously arrogant about dissent. When questioned, they bristled, often acting as if their science, their patriotism or even their integrity was being questioned.

Dissenters, even outstanding scientists like CV Sheshadri or Amulya Reddy were brushed aside as if they were unnecessary viruses. The latter two offered a whole dream of alternative energy linking it to the socialist and democratic imaginations. The only other exception was Satish Dhawan, Director of the Indian Institute of Science and one of the brains behind space research. He encouraged the debate on the Kaiga nuclear project in Karnataka. But scientists like Raja Ramanna, who was Head of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), behaved like Fascist bullies when confronted with questions. Ramanna would dub journalists critical of atomic energy as anti-national.

This problem was compounded by the Nehru regime. The Bhabha-Nehru friendship added a sense of grace to the nuclear project. Stories that the Pugwash movement almost began in India added nuances of sensibility to it. The Congress under Nehru and Indira Gandhi created an almost incestuous link between State and nuclear science. It embodied a combination of science as expertise and atomic energy as security, to create an establishment that operated for decades outside the political domain. For years, questioning atomic energy was taboo in India...

If this is an accurate assessment of a shift in the popular perception of nuclear power, the industry is in serious trouble in India.
It isn't as if they lack alternative clean energy resources.

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