India’s toxic nuclear industry exposed millions to radiation

India’s nuclear industry pours its wastes into a river of death and disease  Scientists say nuclear workers, village residents, and children living near mines and factories are falling ill after persistent exposure to unsafe radiation Center For Public Integrity ,  By Adrian Levy  December 14, 2015  Jadugoda, Jharkhand, INDIA
The Subarnarekha River roars out of the Chota Nagpur plateau in eastern India, before emptying 245 miles downstream into the Bay of Bengal, making it a vital source of life, and lately, of death…..
Its link to widespread misfortune is not admitted by the Indian government. But the authorities’ role in the deaths of those who live near it first became clear when professor Dipak Ghosh, a respected Indian physicist and dean of the Faculty of Science at Jadavpur University in Kolkata decided to chase down a rural “myth” among the farmers along its banks. They had long complained that the Subarnarekha was poisoned, and said their communities suffered from tortuous health problems.

When Ghosh’s team seven years ago collected samples from the river and also from adjacent wells, he was alarmed by the results. The water was adulterated with radioactive alpha particles that cannot be absorbed through the skin or clothes, but if ingested cause 1,000 times more damage than other types of radiation. In some places, the levels were 160 percent higher than safe limits set by the World Health Organization.

“It was potentially catastrophic,” Ghosh said in a recent interview. Millions of people along the waterway were potentially exposed.

What the professor’s team uncovered was hard evidence of the toxic footprint cast by the country’s secret nuclear mining and fuel fabrication program. It is now the subject of a potentially powerful legal action, shining an unusual light on India’s nuclear ambitions and placing a cloud over its future reactor operations……..

On August 21, 2014, however, a justice in this state’s court ordered an official inquiry into allegations that the nuclear industry has exposed tens of thousands of workers and villagers to dangerous levels of radiation, heavy metals or other carcinogens, including arsenic, from polluted rivers and underground water supplies that have percolated through the foodchain — from fish swimming in the Subarnarekha River to vegetables washed in its tainted water.

Given the absolute secrecy that surrounds the nuclear sector in India, the case is a closed affair, and all evidence is officially presented to the judge. But the Center for Public Integrity has reviewed hundreds of pages of personal testimony and clinical reports in the case that present a disturbing scenario.

India’s nuclear chiefs have long maintained that ill health in the region is caused by endemic poverty and and the unsanitary conditions of its tribal people, known locally as Adivasi, or first people. But the testimony and reports document how nuclear installations, fabrication plants and mines have repeatedly breached international safety standards for the past 20 years. Doctors and health workers, as well as international radiation experts, say that nuclear chiefs have repeatedly suppressed or rebuffed their warnings.

The industry’s aim, according to local residents, has been to minimize evidence of cancer clusters, burying statistics that show an alarming spate of deaths. The case files include epidemiological and medical surveys warning of a high incidence of infertility, birth defects, and congenital illnesses among women living in proximity to the industry’s facilities. They also detail levels of radiation that in some places were almost 60 times the safe levels set by organizations like the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, although India’s Atomic Energy Commission, the country’s top authority, disputes these findings.

The Indian commission argues all problems at the nuclear complex have been corrected and that no cases of radiation poisoning have been proven. But the court files include compelling stories of how residents have been stonewalled and criminalized, and their communities strong-armed, to ensure that nothing gets in the way of India’s nuclear dream.

Poor conditions for those who work or live near nuclear facilities have been largely unchanged for decades. When we drove into Jadugoda, we quickly spotted laborers, barefooted, and without protective clothing, riding trucks laden with uranium ore through villages, their tarpaulins gaping and dust spewing. Ore was scattered everywhere: on the roads, over the fields and into the rivers and drains. Uranium tailing ponds that dribbled effluent into neighboring fields were readily accessible, and children played nearby as their parents gathered wood. Washed clothes hung from tailings pipes carrying irradiated slurry. Four months after we left, last March, some of these pipes burst, again sending toxic slurry into Chatikocha village, where residents were supposed to have removed, but remain.

Alarms about these activities were circulating as long ago as 2005, when India and the United States began work on a pact expanding cooperation on civil nuclear power.A joint statement that year by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the pact included a promise to safeguard the environment, but hailed reactors as a way to meet “global energy demands in a cleaner and more efficient manner.”

The pact was signed by the two governments in October 2008, despite an American diplomat’s warning from Kolkata in a confidential cable to Washington the previous year that the Indian government’s “lax safety measures … are exposing local tribal communities to radiation contamination.”

Henry V. Jardine, a career foreign service officer and former Army captain, expressed blunt dismay in the cable about India’s “notoriously weak” worker protections and substandard safety procedures around mines. If safety at civil nuclear projects like these was “an apparent failure,” Jardine wondered “what standards are being maintained in India’s nuclear facilities not visible to the public.”

The source of the poisonings……….. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/14/18844/india-s-nuclear-industry-pours-its-wastes-river-death-and-disease

 

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