Open Letter to Prime Minister on his Germany Visit

April 10, 2013

Dear Dr Manmohan Singhji,

This is with reference to your visit to Germany from 10 to 12 April 2013 at the invitation of the German Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel, for the second round of India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations with your Ministers of New and Renewable Energy, Science & Technology, Commerce, Industry and Textiles; External Affairs and Human Resource Development. We are aware that your visit very important given the fact that Germany is India’s largest economic partner in Europe.

We realize that it is quite significant that Minister of New and Renewable Energy is accompanying you. Countries that wish to shut down nuclear power plants must find alternatives for electricity generation and adopt wind power, solar energy, biomass and other renewable energy sources. About 16% of global energy consumption comes from renewable resources. According to a 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency, solar power generators are likely to produce most of the world’s electricity within 50 years.

We submit that in the matter of nuclear energy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of the world’s leading climate scientists convened by the UN have came out with a 1,000-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation in May 2011 underling that the renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades. In the post March 2011 world, nuclear energy advocacy is akin to living in a time warp of pre-Chernobyl era.

We wish to inform you that on November 4, 2011 at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi there was a Public Lecture on “How Germany Decided to Give up Nuclear Energy” by Professor Dr.-Ing. Matthias Kleiner, Co-chairman, Ethics Commission for a Safe Energy Supply on behalf of Dr. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor in the presence of key Indian scientists and diplomats. The message to move towards nuclear energy free future was loud and clear from Dr. Kleiner’s speech.  

We submit that unlike India, Germany has decided to abandon nuclear energy although the decision is at least 25 years late. Had this decision been taken in the aftermath of Chenobyl’s nuclear disaster by the then German Chancellor, Mr Helmut Kohl, the world have become free of dangers of catastrophe from nuclear energy related initiatives. Mr Helmut Kohl belonged to Dr Merkel’s political party.

We submit that leaders who are more concerned and sensitive to the plight of future generations are abandoning nuclear energy. They are not acting in isolation. We wish to inform you that Austria was the first country to begin a phase-out in 1978. It was followed by Sweden in 1980, Italy in 1987 and Belgium in 1999. Austria and Spain have gone as far as to enact laws not to build new nuclear power stations.

We submit that after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Germany has permanently shut down eight of its reactors and pledged to close the rest by 2022. The Italians have voted overwhelmingly to keep their country non-nuclear. Mr Silvio Berlusconi led Italian Government tried to implement a new nuclear plan but a referendum held in June 2011 stopped all nuclear projects. Switzerland has banned the construction of new nuclear reactors. Japan’s prime minster has called for a dramatic reduction in Japan’s reliance on nuclear power. Taiwan’s president has done the same. Mexico has sidelined construction of 10 reactors in favor of developing natural-gas-fired plants. Belgium is considering phasing out its nuclear plants from 2015.

We submit that countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Norway have no nuclear power reactors and remain opposed to nuclear power.

We submit that the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster have played a key role in stopping construction of new nuclear plants in many countries.

We submit that truth has consistently been a casualty in debates on nuclear issue. How can there be a truthful dialogue as long as the agreement between International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) exists. IAEA-WHO cannot be trusted with sharing truth about the past nuclear catastrophe and such imminent disasters in India because of a 52 years old treaty between WHO and IAEA, which is heavily influenced by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), established in 1975. Notably, on 28th May 1959, the WHO ’s assembly voted into force an obscure but important agreement with the IAEA founded just two years before in 1957. This agreement has given the IAEA an effective veto on any actions by the WHO that relate in any way to nuclear energy. This prevents the WHO from playing its proper role. The WHO’s objective is to promote “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”. The IAEA’s mission is to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”. Since the 21st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in April 2007 efforts are on to persuade the WHO to abandon it’s the WHO-IAEA Agreement. The protest has continued through the WHO’s 62nd World Health Assembly. The scientific case against the agreement is building up, the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) called for its abandonment at its conference held in May 2009 in Lesvos, Greece.

We submit that India and Germany should join hands to get the WHO-IAEA agreement abandoned.

We submit that “The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was enacted, after repealing the Atomic Energy Act, 1948, to provide for a legal framework for the development, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people of India and for other peaceful purposes”. The world has moved ahead since then at least eight secretaries of the Government of India gave testimonies to the parliamentary standing committee on science, technology, environment and forests in the matter of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 expressing strong reservations about nuclear energy and the imminent nuclear emergencies.

We want you to inquire from Dr Merkel whether there a capping on the liability from nuclear disasters in Germany?

We submit that the cost of a worst-case nuclear accident at a plant in Germany, for example, has been estimated to total as much as $11 trillion, while the mandatory reactor insurance is only 3.7 billion. Prof. Olav Hohmeyer, an economist at the University of Flensburg and a member of the German government’s environmental advisory body states, “The 3.7 billion will be just enough to buy the stamps for the letters of condolence.”

We submit that on the subject of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, the then secretary, Indian ministry of health and family welfare, Ms K Sujata Rao submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Forests in the matter of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 that “Since the response system to deal with any kind of emergency of such type, the hospitals are not well-equipped, it is natural that mortality and morbidity due to multiple burn, blasts, radiation injuries and psycho-social impact could be on very high scale and medical tackling of such a large emergency could have enough repercussions in the nearby areas of radioactive fallout. She also mentioned that in the entire bill, there is not a single clause which speaks about taking healthcare during radiological emergencies. It reflects only about payment of compensation due to health impacts of such radiation. She suggested while setting up nuclear plants consideration may also be given to the fact that there should be hospital having trained doctors near such establishments and arrangements should also be made for free treatment of people who are affected by serious nuclear fallout.” She confessed that her ministry is nowhere to meet an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies.

We submit that prior to the lecture Prof. Kleiner had addressed on the subject “Consequences of Fukushima and a Proposal for Post 2012 Climate Regime: The Energy paradigm shift in Germany.” The tile itself is a message against nuclear energy.

We want you to inquire whether or not more than 440 nuclear power plants that are being run world over and are operating without any insurance coverage.

In such a backdrop, Germany’s decision to give up nuclear energy has eminent merit that needs to be adopted by Government of India. “There are plenty of credible and scientific studies by pioneering institutions and experts who have developed convincing models of a comprehensive “carbon- free, nuclear- free” energy policy with a mix of energy conservation, efficiency, R & D on renewable sources, and larger social social-political changes ensuring greater community and public use of resources” a report of Union of Concerned Scientists points out.

Your statement prior to the departure to Germany informed fellow citizens saying, “We expect to sign a number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in these areas.” If you can sign a MoU with Germany for phasing out nuclear energy, it will show your far sightedness and your government’s deep concerns for the future generations of Indians.

Therefore, we urge you to abandon the proposed nuclear plants as a first step.

We also wish to draw your immediate attention towards the issue of Asbestos which Germany, Europe and some 50 countries have banned because safe and controlled use of asbestos is impossible but India continues to buy asbestos from countries like Canada who have a no home use policy.  

We submit that it is relevant to recollect that at the time of the unification of Germany, the West Germans were shocked to know that East Germany had a contractual obligation to buy 50000 metric tons of Russian asbestos in 1990. A decision was made to send payments to the Russians and to tell Russians to keep the asbestos. Asbestos is banned in 55 countries the following countries including 27 members of European Union.

In view of the above, we urge you to recommend similar measures for India as well in order to eventually ban trade in asbestos and stop its supply to India to save the lives of Indian workers and consumers.

We urge you to get a Commission set in collaboration with Dr Merkel to re-visit the assumptions of nuclear energy for the sake of present and future generations, to persuade IAEA to come out with a White Paper on Health Impact on Workers in more than 440 nuclear power plants, to seek scrapping of WHO-IAEA treaty and to announce a moratorium on nuclear energy related projects.

We note that you are going to “seek Chancellor Merkel’s support for an early conclusion of a balanced India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement,” in view of the same it is important to ensure that hazardous technologies, hazardous wastes and end-of-life ships do not get dumped in India.

We want you to ask Dr Merkel to intervene in the matter of German company BASF’s “Methyl Monomer” containers lying at New Mangalore port. BASF is the world’s largest producer of acrylic monomer so that it can be removed at the earliest. BASF is the largest chemical company in the world and is headquartered in Germany. When Ministry of Shipping asked the company to remove it the German company cited “Inadequate storage space in the factory premises of M/s BASF, Mangalore”, this is an affront to the authority of Government of India. Both heads of States must work on ways to regulate companies like BASF, mere UN Global Compact and Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Forum on Business and Human Rights and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are evidently hardly sufficient because they are voluntary and self-regulatory.     

In view of the above, we want to request you to ask German Chancellor about ways in which India can decide to give up nuclear energy, asbestos trade, and dumping of hazardous waste and end-of-life ships, the way Germany has done. If you can do it, your visit will be remembered by the future generations as a historic initiative in genuine public interest. 

Warm Regards

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660
Email: gopalkrishna1715[at]gmail.com

Web: www.toxicswatch.org

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