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Bhopal Survivors Organisations Write to Prime Minister of Japan Urging Rethink Selling Nuclear Tech to India after Fukushima, And to Terminate the India-Japan Nuclear Agreements

Mr. Shinzo Abe,
Prime Minister, Japan.

December 5, 2015

Dear Prime Minister,

Greetings from the people of Bhopal. Ours is a city in India which has witnessed the world’s worst industrial catastrophe. As you may be aware, the disaster,itself a result of criminal neglect by callous profiteers, was only followed by political complacency and administrative apathy. The victims of Bhopal continue to struggle for justice, adequate compensation and proper medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation In our city, we have a commemorative statue of a mother and her child with “No More Bhopal, No More Hiroshima” written beneath it. And in the fifth year of the ongoing disaster in Fukushima, we can identify with the continued suffering and struggles of its residents.

We are writing to you to rethink the idea of selling nuclear technology to India after Fukushima, and to terminate the India-Japan nuclear agreements. To make our pleas heard citizens in Japan and people in India living near existing and proposed nuclear power plants would stage protests during your upcoming visit to India.

Bhopal, a city where more than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate and other deadly gases leaked from the multinational Union Carbide manufacturing facility and turned it into a gas chamber killing ove 8000 people on the night of 2nd and 3rd December 1984. The white fog crawled through the city and killed thousands while they slept. More than 25,000 men, women and children died and over 500,000 people have suffered injuries and slow deaths over the years from the incident. Women face the worst. They face the worst illnesses. Their children are born deformed. They get cancer. Girls who are 15 look like they are six. Women don’t have their periods, and then they can’t have children. And the problems have only been compounded after 31 years. There are children born with birth defects. Women have to watch as their children endure all kinds of operations. A 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women living near the factory. Many of the people who drank contaminated water have become too sick to work, but they have received no help. Meanwhile, the contaminated land has never been cleaned up, and families too poor to move live on top of the contaminated soil.

Hazardous design of the factory, unsafe location, reckless operation and maintenance procedures, reduction in personnel and deliberate cutting down of vital safety systems were found to be the immediate causes of the disaster in Bhopal. There is ample evidence of “double standards” of safety being followed by the American multinational, Bhopal’s sister plant in West Virginia being far superior in storage, production and safety systems.

Two years before the disaster, the corporation’s safety experts warned of a  “potential for the release of toxic materials” in a confidential business memo. Warren Anderson, the company’s chairman and other senior executives ignored the warning and went ahead with reducing plant personnel, shutting down vital safety systems, and keeping people in the neighborhood in the dark about the deadly chemicals stored, used and produced in the factory. Less than three months prior to the disaster, an internal Union Carbide memo warned of a “runaway reaction that could cause a catastrophic failure of the storage tanks holding the poisonous [methyl isocyanate] gas” at Union Carbide’s Institute, West Virginia plant. This warning was not shared with the management in Bhopal let alone operators of the Bhopal factory.

One of the main reasons we are opposed to the India-Japan nuclear agreement is that in our country the implementation of environment and labour laws are pathetic. It is because of such a state of affairs that a disaster like Bhopal occurred here, , We also realise that this nuclear agreement has nothing to do with the energy situation in this country, rather your sole aim is to restore some confidence in the global nuclear lobby which is facing its terminal crisis after Fukushima. We are also apprehensive that your push for this deal is primarily because Japanese companies enjoy a monopoly over certain key components including “reactor vessels” required for nuclear reactors. India has signed agreements with General Electric, Areva SA and Westinghouse to set up nuclear power plants. Japanese companies have major stakes in these companies. If Japan does not sign an agreement with India, these companies cannot proceed with their installation plans.

Therefore Mr. Prime Minister your nuclear deal with our country will bring windfall gains to these huge corporations at the cost of the environment, labour and human rights of our people. And similar to what happened in Bhopal, there will be 1000s of Bhopal happening elsewhere in the country with much more horrendous consequences.
We urge you to desist from this impending agreement during your visit to India.

We want strong relationship between India and Japan. We want both countries to come closer and work on technologies that make human lives better – renewable energy sources, effective decontamination and more accessible medicines. For a better future for India and Japan, and for safety, security and prosperity of our people, let us shun the nuclear path and opt for a peaceful future.

Thanking you.

Rashida Bi,

Nawab Khan,

Balkrishna Namdeo,

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra,

Safreen Khan,

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha

Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha

Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Children Against Dow Carbide


Featured Image Credit: Ecowatch

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Bhopal survivors support Koodankulam struggle

Observing Shahid Bhagat Singh Divas on 23 March, more than 250 survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster sat on a day-long fast in support of the Koodankulam struggle against the nuclear power plant. Condemning Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s act of charging Koodankulam protestors with “Sedition,” Bhopal survivors said that Bhagat Singh’s fate would have been no different in independent India than at the hands of the white colonial masters.

Continue reading Bhopal survivors support Koodankulam struggle

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What fate for survivors of an Indian nuclear disaster?

ICJB press release of 4 May, 2010 here

Bhopal gas survivors gathered outside the Prime Minister of India’s office in New Delhi to file Right-to-Information (RTI) requests regarding the civil nuclear liability bill and its relationship with the lessons of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal.

“We want to know whether the lingering concerns of the Bhopal disaster have been considered at all in preparing the draft of the civil nuclear liability bill. 25 years after the disaster we are still waiting for the Prime Minister to set up an Empowered Commission for proper medical care and rehabilitation. What will be the fate of the survivors of a nuclear disaster?” said Zulekha Bee a survivor of the disaster who is on a protest dharna in New Delhi since April 15 demanding the setting up of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal.

chernobyl child
Survivors of an Indian Chernobyl would get little help

“As per the proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill the maximum compensation payable in the event of a nuclear disaster would be 450 million US $s which is even less than the 470 million US $s paid to Bhopalis. This amount did not even pay for five years medical bills for most Bhopalis. We want to know on what basis the maximum compensation amount was fixed in the proposed Bill.” said Nawab Khan, secretary of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.

According to Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill closely resembles a draft circulated by FICCI and is designed to protect big corporations rather than the victims of industrial disaster. “The bill seeks to offer impunity to American corporations and limit compensation amount and is a blatant attempt at legitimizing the collusive settlement between Union Carbide and the Government of India. The Government has not acted on its promise to set up an Empowered Commission, even while it has taken major interest in delivering on its promise to the American nuclear industry.” she said.

The survivors of the disaster said that they have twice walked all the way from Bhopal to New Delhi in 2006 and 2008 with their demand for the setting up of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal for long term medical care and rehabilitation. According to them, on May 29, 2008 the Prime Minister had stated that the government was in agreement with the demand but the promise of setting it up with adequate authorities and fund remains to be fulfilled.

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Nuclear mess has Tri-Cities cleaning up financially

Blaine Harden, The Washington Post, November 2, 2006
RICHLAND, Wash. – Out on the Hanford nuclear reservation, a fantastically poisoned plateau where the federal government brewed up most of the plutonium for its nuclear arsenal, the cleanup is going rather badly.
Now in its 17th year, the nation’s largest and most complex environmental remediation project is costing many billions of dollars more than expected and will continue far longer than experts once predicted.
That dismal forecast is music to the ears of local residents.
“The silver lining is all local, where there are no consequences for failure and no misdeed goes unrewarded,” said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and a former Energy Department official who monitored the cleanup during the Clinton era.
By almost every measure, except the radiation and chemical illnesses suffered by some Hanford workers, five decades of making bombs were a blessing to Pasco, Kennewick and Richland – neighboring towns along the Columbia River that call themselves the Tri-Cities.
The area was transformed from a poor, mostly empty rural backwater to a highly educated, solidly middle-class center for nuclear technology, albeit one that bordered North America’s most dangerous radioactive dump.
When plutonium production halted in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was widespread local fear that the Tri-Cities would themselves fall into penury. But cleaning up Hanford’s colossal nuclear mess is proving more lucrative – for the locals – than making it in the first place.
What’s more, said Michele Gerber, a Cold War historian who has written a critical history of Hanford and now works for one of the private contractors cleaning up the 586-square-mile site, the effort is a more stable engine for job creation, housing construction and business investment than making plutonium, which tended to wax and wane with foreign security threats and international nuclear treaties.
“I think the cleanup will last a hundred years,” she says.
With taxpayers footing the bill, the failure to make progress in sanitizing the Hanford site means that more and more federal spending will be showered on the sagebrush semi-desert in eastern Washington, and that residents can look forward to more decades of growth, prosperity, rising real estate values and better restaurants.
At Hanford, the bungled big-ticket project of the moment is a gargantuan factory that would, if it ever works, transform high-level waste into glass logs suitable for long-term storage elsewhere. The plant has already cost $3.4 billion but has yet to process a single gallon of the 53 million gallons of deadly waste stored in 177 underground tanks.
Construction stalled this year when the Energy Department discovered that factory designers had underestimated the risk of earthquakes. Now, department officials say the earliest the plant can start up is 2019, by which time it will have cost $12.2 billion, more than double the estimate of three years ago.
During a recent tour of the site, Gerber spoke in chilling detail about “the long waiting game” before contamination can be cleaned up. She said that if there were a teacup of Hanford’s high-level waste on the bus, it would kill or grievously sicken everyone on board within an hour.
Candor, in the cleanup context, is good politics. The more dangerous the site’s waste is perceived to be, the more likely the federal government is to continue pumping in money to take care of it.
That spending, Gerber said, has been about $2 billion a year for the past 11 years and is likely to continue for a decade. The cleanup, assuming that the new processing plant starts operating by 2019, will then take at least 20 to 25 more years, an official said.

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Addition of vitrification plant stacks changes Hanford’s skyline

Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald, October 28th, 2006

Hanford vitrification plant workers secure 130-foot stack
The skyline at Hanford’s vitrification plant changed Friday.
Bechtel National spent about four hours slowing lifting 125 tons of emission stacks 70 feet into the air to place them on top of the plant’s Low Activity Waste Facility.
“This is the first time we’ll see LAW looking like it will always look,” said Mike Lewis, manager of construction for Department of Energy contractor Bechtel National.
The building stands 70 feet tall and the 130-foot emission stacks bring the structure to 200 feet tall, about the height of a 17-story building.
The $12.2 billion vitrification plant is being built to immobilize Hanford’s worst radioactive waste inside glass logs for permanent disposal. The Low Activity Waste Facility will be the third-largest of the four large buildings at the plant, which will be surrounded by 25 support buildings.
The plant is planned to treat much of the 53 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste now stored in underground tanks. It’s left from separating plutonium from irradiated fuel rods to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.
Wastes will be separated at the Pretreatment Facility into low-activity radiation and high-level radiation components. The low-activity radiation waste will contain mostly hazardous chemicals with as much of the radioactive constituents removed as possible.
High-level radiation wastes can emit up to 5,000 rems of radiation an hour as measured on contact with the outside of a stainless steel container. The low-activity waste can have 0.4 rems per hour. That’s roughly the amount of natural background radiation a person would receive annually just by living in Washington state.
Silica and other glass-forming materials will be added to the waste and then the mixture will be melted to form glass.
That’s part of the need for the stacks raised Friday.
Gas from the two melters in the Low Activity Waste Facility will be cleaned and then released from the stacks, along with other air from the building’s ventilation system.
There’s no comparison to what was released from Hanford’s stacks during the plutonium production years, said Roy Schepens, manager of DOE’s Hanford Office of River Protection.
Emissions from the Low Activity Waste Facility will be filtered to remove small particles and sent through a scrubber that will use steam to settle out heavier particles before the air is released from the stacks.
The air emissions will have to meet standards of the Washington State Department of Ecology, the State Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regulatory permits have been approved for the design of the stacks, but they still must receive operating permits.
The stacks will handle more than 110,000 cubic feet of air per minute that will be monitored and sampled before leaving the facility once operations begin.
The stack assembly that was lifted Friday includes three individual emission stacks, each between 4 and 5 feet in diameter, encased in an open steel framework.
Bechtel National used two cranes to lift the stack assembly to a standing position. The smaller crane slowly crawled toward the larger one holding the bottom end of the stacks as the larger crane lifted from the top of the stacks until the assembly was suspended.
“Slow and easy,” Lewis said as work began.
Then the 270-foot-tall crane lifted the stack assembly high enough to clear the building and swung it into place on the roof.
Bechtel National chose Friday for the lift because workers build at the site on 10-day shifts from Monday through Thursday. That cleared the area of all but 50 of the approximately 700 people usually at the construction site.
The contractor also carefully planned the lift with detailed drawings, computer calculations of the weight on both cranes, load tests of the components in the slings and a check of the credentials of those working on the project.
This week workers also finished the roofing and siding on the building. It’s “dried in,” as they say.
Now they’ll continue work inside where it’s warm and dry on electrical, heating and other systems, working toward a construction finish date for that building in 2012.
“If you go inside, it’s starting to look like a plant,” Schepens said.
Every day the look of the vitrification plant seems to change, said Dave Smith, president of the Central Washington Building and Construction Trades Council.
But “major milestones like today’s add emphasis to the accomplishments,” he said.

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