About a year ago I was in Australia. As is my wont during my wanderings, I spent a full evening lazily in my hotel bed, largely because I had done too much walking up & down the littoral forests in Byron Bay. And chanced upon a TV program that I am constantly reminded of as the political yada, yada goes on in India about the nuclear deal.
It was a chat show with a number of Aussie nuclear experts and the debate was from the perspective of a big nuclear fuel producer, which Australia is. Among the various pros & cons that was discussed, one fact stood starkly ahead of all others. Spent nuclear fuel is extremely dangerous and takes at least 10,000 years to become relatively less harmful. Get this – 10,000 years!
Now, I have the utmost respect for the government & corporations in India (well…almost, ‘utmost’). But would I fully trust them to handle the world’s most toxic substance that can wipe out whole communities if not handled properly and which we know ab-initio will require at least 10,000 years to become relatively harmless?
In all this nuclear deal brouhaha in India, I have not come across a single media comment, newspaper article or TV program that focuses on the substantive issue of whether India should have significant nuclear power. We seem to be all focused on the vastly more entertaining political soap that is unfolding.
Sometimes, it takes a view from outside to tell us what the real issue is. For me, that unintended viewing of a TV show while slumming in bed in a hotel in Byron Bay has given useful perspective on the nuclear issue. This thing is not about our Prime Minister’s prestige or of the shenanigans of assorted politicians and hangers-on or of the impact of the Hyde Act on our nuclear weapons or any of the scores of other considerations that seem to dominate prime-time & the front pages. It is a real issue of playing with very dangerous substances and its potential impact on a heavily populated country.
Luddite, I dont think I am. But, taking this country steeply down the path of nuclear power is a step that common sense suggests to me is full of risk and we better show maturity in assessing it’s relevance for our country. Maybe, there are good ways to handle the risks, maybe not. I certainly don’t know. But it does require a better quality of debate than we seem to be having and my respect for Indian media would undoubtedly be higher if that quality of debate was forthcoming.