Premium - Gist of The Hindu: December 2012
Thousands of Civilians flee Congo city Sake
Congo’s President suspended the Chief of Staff of its Army
General Gabriel Amisi Kumba following the publication of a United Nations Group
of Experts report alleging that he had overseen a criminal network selling arms
to rebels in the country’s troubled east.
This came after the Congolese military was handed a
humiliating defeat earlier this week, when the M23 rebel group seized the major
eastern city of Goma, and then pushed onwards to the town of Sake which they
took after a four-hour firefight. On Friday, platoons of rebels were making
their way across the hills from Sake to the next major town of Minova, where the
Congolese army was believed to be regrouping.
Tens of thousands of civilians could be seen fleeing along
the road to Goma, carrying mattresses and cooking pots on their heads, and
babies on their backs. On Friday, Sake was nearly deserted. Congo’s troubled
east has been plagued by decades of violence, and the latest rebellion is a
reincarnation of a previous conflict. The rebel group that took Goma dubs itself
the M23, a reference to the March 23, 2009 peace deal that paved the way for
fighters from a now-defunct rebel group to join the army. Charging that the
peace accord was not implemented, soldiers defected from the Congo army in April
to form the M23. Both the M23 and the previous rebel group, known as the
National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), are widely believed to
be backed by neighbouring Rwanda, which has fought two wars against its
Numerous reports by the United Nations Group of Experts have
shown the extent of Rwandan infiltration in the rebel groups based in Congo, as
well as in Congo’s armed forces, but it wasn’t until the release of the most
recent findings that Congo took decisive action.
A statement released by the Office of Congo President Joseph
Kabila said that the U.N. report published on November 21 made clear that
General Amisi’s behaviour was contrary to the rules of military behaviour. “The
President of the Republic has decided to suspend him immediately of all his
functions, while an investigation is ongoing”.
Striking at the root of corruption
The second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC 2009)
underscored the large-scale criminalisation of politics, illustrating how the
participation by criminals in the electoral process was “the soft underbelly of
the Indian political system” leading to “the flagrant violation of laws, poor
quality of services, protection from lawbreakers on political, group, class,
communal or caste grounds, partisan interference in the investigation of crimes,
the poor prosecution of cases, inordinate delays that last for years, high costs
of the judicial process, mass withdrawal of cases and indiscriminate grant of
What is of great importance is the open admission that votes
are in fact secured through large, illegal and illegitimate expenditure on
elections. This has been termed as the starting point of corruption making
cleansing elections the most important route to bringing principles into
politics. The Lokpal brouhaha has deflected attention from issues infinitely
more important for going after dishonest politics, which seems to be
And the context matters too. Much of India lives in as unequal a world —
comparable in fact to pre-industrial Britain. Feudal mindsets prevail and the
exercise of patronage is expected. In addition, in India, money power can
control decisions the voter makes. Bound by the mores of a largely agrarian way
of life, the poor remain simultaneously protected and penalised not by the law
and the police as much as by feudal lords, often having criminal records. Indian
political parties had long used these local sardars and strongmen as trusted
allies for defeating opponents. But the latter have moved up in life by
increasingly joining the political fray as candidates — not just supporters, and
they have joined to win.
According to the Annual Report of the Association for
Democratic Reforms (ADR), among 543 elected Members of Parliament who were
elected in the 2009 election, 162 (30 per cent) had criminal cases pending. Five
years earlier, that figure was 24 per cent. Meanwhile, the votes needed to win a
seat have fallen to as low as 15 per cent. Criminal elements that once pulled in
votes for party candidates are now getting voted to power themselves, gaining
social respectability and public esteem in the bargain. Meanwhile,
campaign-spending limits being easy to flout, buying the voter is easily
More worrisome than individual corruption is the widespread
concern that funds are collected by political parties and parked in secret bank
accounts abroad to be ploughed back to finance elections often by hook or by
crook. Since fund management is confined to a handful of people in each party,
it gives enormous power to the top leadership which controls the deployment of
funds and all that accompanies it. When the choice of candidates is
intrinsically linked with money power, quid pro quo s, and IOUs, clean
candidates without money or political pedigree do not stand a ghost of a chance.
And it goes without saying that once illegal and illegitimate expenditure is
incurred on winning elections, there can be no prospect of honest dealings
In the OECD countries with which we frequently draw
comparisons, three qualities on a scale of eight, considered the most important
attributes required from members of the political executive are objectivity,
impartiality and neutrality. In those countries, a Minister is expected to
publicly commit himself to observing ethical principles if he is to set an
example to public servants.
In India, talk of ethical conduct is laughed at; civil
servants take their cue from the standards of probity they are witness to —
superiors in the service and their political bosses. Until political parties
field clean candidates and promote and reward them, a climate of ethical
dealings simply cannot emerge.
Expecting the clean up to come only by reinforcing
anti-corruption laws though necessary, will divert attention from the real issue
of corruption — how political parties collect funds and give tickets. The only
way this can change is by educating voters on the dynamics behind the power
play. Simply put, it means having knowledge about the origin of party funds to
provide insights into the interests that back a political party. Equally how
such contributions might influence future policies —including the future outlook
for using public funds and natural resources.
It should come as no surprise that when ADR sought
information on political party funding, using RTI, all political parties with
the exception of the CPI (M) responded that they were not bound to provide such
information. This, when income tax exemptions worth hundreds of crores of
rupees, land and accommodation at nominal rates, and free airtime, are all
provided at public cost. A full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC)
met in September to take a view on this. But major political parties shied away.
OVL set to enter Kashagan field
ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), on Monday, announced that it had
finalised agreements for the acquisition of 8.40 per cent participating interest
(PI) of ConocoPhillips in the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA),
which included the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan.
The acquisition, subject to relevant government and
regulatory approvals, priority rights and consortium pre-emption rights, is
expected to close in the first-half of 2013, ONGC said in a statement here.
The Kashagan field, located in the shallow waters (5m to 8m)
of the Kazakh North Caspian Sea, is the world’s largest current development
project. Kashagan’s consortium partners are: ENI, Total, Shell, ExxonMobil and
KazMunaiGaz each with 16.81 per cent PI, while ConocoPhillips has 8.4 per cent
PI and Inpex has 7.56 per cent.
The acquisition would mark OVL’s entry into the largest oil
proven North Caspian Sea of Kazakhstan. From Phase-1, the acquisition is likely
to add an average annual production of about one million metric tonne (mmt) for
over 25 years with a peak of about 1.6 mmt . When Phase 2 and 3 are implemented,
the OVL’s share will be significantly higher.
The acquisition also bears importance to India in terms of
contributing towards the country’s energy security. ONGC has recently formulated
its Perspective Plan - 2030, envisaging that oil and gas production of OVL would
increase from the current level of 8.75 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent
(mmtoe) in 2012-13 to 20 mmtoe by 2018-19 and 60 mmtoe by 2030-31.
The value of the deal size is about $5 billion.
OVL will pay a base price of $4.25 billion plus a share of working capital and
other cash calls together with interest for the 8.4 per cent stake in the field
that produces 370,000 barrels a day (18.5 million tonnes a year) of crude oil.
This will be OVL’s biggest acquisition, surpassing its $2.2-billion buy-out
of Russia-focused Imperial Energy in January, 2009. It will be the biggest
acquisition by an Indian company this year, and the sixth largest in the
Hyping one threat to hide another
A lot of global attention right now is focussed on the World
Conference on International Telecommunications of the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) which will get under way in Dubai next week. This
meeting is taking up a review of International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs).
When the ITRs were last reviewed in 1988, the Internet was not commonplace and,
therefore, did not find mention. In 2012, it is difficult to think of global
communication without the Internet. The key question today is whether the remit
of the ITU should extend to the Internet or not, and if indeed it should, to
what parts and aspects of the Internet, and in what manner.
One summary view, quite popular in many quarters, is that
with the Internet taking over global communication systems, there is no role for
the ITU anymore. Unlike traditional telecommunication — largely, telephony —
global Internet traffic is mediated entirely through commercial arrangements
among private players with almost no involvement of a regulator. Free market
proponents, having greatly dominated the discourse so far, hold that the free
market has fully triumphed, and delivered, in relation to the Internet. This
model should not be disturbed. There is, therefore, no need for any kind of
regulation of the Internet.
‘Free market’ view
This ‘free market’ view has found a powerful ally among freedom of
expression groups, so much so that the debate about the future of the ITU is
almost entirely fronted by evocative appeals about preserving the Internet as
the ultimate domain of free expression. Unlike market fundamentalism, there are
no two views about freedom of expression among most groups and people, and thus
such a strategy is understandable. Perhaps for similar reasons, Hillary Clinton
has spelled ‘Internet freedom’ as a key U.S. foreign policy agenda. It may,
however, need deeper thought and analysis to assess whether the real agenda here
is to use the new Internet-based global communication realm — with the
unprecedented domination of U.S. companies in it — as the key means for global
economic, social, cultural and political domination in the post-industrial
world. Any kind of global regulation of the Internet, or even articulation of
global principles of public interest, does not serve this agenda.
The issue of freedom of expression vis-à-vis regulation of
the Internet is of course very real. States are quite nervous about the
transformational new means that allow citizens to exercise voice and
associational power as never before. They are scrambling to get their hands on
some lever or the other to prevent the potential damage. And it is not only the
developing countries that are busy in this regard, so are the developed ones,
greatly enhancing their surveillance capabilities. Nevertheless, at the ITU very
few countries have floated proposals that could increase governmental control
over Internet content. These proposals mostly pertain to subverting the current
globally managed Internet names and addresses system, and the globally
configured Internet traffic routing, to create more controllable national
Internet spaces, or ‘national segments’ of the Internet, as one proposal calls
them. There is very little support for these proposals. Almost all developed
countries and most developing ones, including India, have not supported these.
At the recently concluded U.N. Internet Governance Forum at
Baku, a reporter asked Terry Kramer, the chief U.S. delegate to the upcoming ITU
conference, what the whole fuss is about when decisions can be taken only by
consensus and there is so much opposition to these problematic proposals. Mr.
Kramer was disarmingly honest in his response. He agreed that there was not that
much real danger of anything happening at the WCIT itself. But, he said, this is
a long-haul thing. What is at stake are the principles that will guide Internet
regulation/governance in the long run. And in this regard, he continued, Dubai
was just one of the many forums/meetings/crossroads, and many more are yet to
The U.S. and the dominant global Internet companies, which
are at the forefront of the anti-ITU campaign, know their game and objectives
quite well. It is important that others do so too. This is about the new
paradigm of global governance/regulation of the communication realm . Most hype
around the WCIT seems to be missing this point, largely because it is to a
considerable extent orchestrated and misled by the dominant powers.
The paradigmatic issue here is whether the Internet, as the centrepiece of the
new global communication realm, should be regulated at all. Freedom of
expression is just one side of the story. The other, rather well disguised side
is about the political economy of the global communication realm. It is about
the division of resources within the communication realm, and, even more
importantly, the larger global and sub-global division of resources — economic,
social, and political — which is fundamentally impacted by the nature of regimes
that govern the global communication realm.
Congo: African Union Council Contemplates Neutral Force
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC)
contemplated an “International Neutral Force” in the troubled Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) and asked for a draft Concept of Operations for its
deployment in collaboration with the existing United Nations Organisation
Stabilisation Mission in DRC (Monusco), one of the most expensive peacekeeping
forces in the world.
On November 20, the M23 rebel group took control of the east
Congolese city of Goma, one of DRC’s most commercially significant cities,
despite Monusco’s presence. According to a report in The New York Times , U.N.
peacekeepers did not confront the rebel army, as their mandate is restricted to
the protection of civilians.
In its communiqué issued on Monday evening, the AUPSC also
called for “the updating of Monusco’s mandate”. M23, or Movement of March 23,
marks the resurrection of a prior militia, the National Congress for the Defence
of the People (CNDP), which was integrated into the national armed forces in
March 2009. In April, former CNDP members mutinied, accusing the national
government of President Joseph Kabila of reneging on previous agreements.
Last Saturday, the heads of state of DRC’s neighbours, the International
Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), met in Kampala and outlined a
10-point plan for the immediate withdrawal of M23 from all occupied locations
and the establishment of forces to monitor the situation. On Sunday, AP reported
that the rebel forces were in talks with the Congolese government in Kampala.
U.N. investigations have indicated that both Uganda and
Rwanda have supported the rebels to control Congo’s mineral-rich eastern region.
While Rwanda officials stand accused of coordinating rebel attacks and providing
M23 with weapons and logistical support, Uganda has been accused of proving safe
haven to M23’s political operations. Both denied the allegations..
Indian Admits U.S. as Dialogue Partner
A 15-year-old grouping of 19 littoral countries of the Indian
Ocean has sought to energise itself by admitting the U.S. as a dialogue partner,
identifying maritime security as its main priority and looking for a name easier
on the tongue.
Admitting that the grouping’s name, Indian Ocean Rim
Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), was cumbersome, External Affairs
Minister Salman Khurshid said a change of name was on the cards and the legal
position in this respect was being examined.
Kapil Sibal to Engage Global Leaders on Multistakeholder Governance of
India has decided to take a decisive stand on Internet
governance at a conference being hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan, from November 6-9.
An indication of the importance that India accords to the global dialogue on
Internet governance is evident from the fact that Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal
is himself leading the government delegation, which will include senior
officials like DeitY Secretary J. Satyanarayana. It is also learnt that India
will bid to host the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to be held in
“Effective Internet and a secured cyberspace are our
collective responsibility towards future generations. Issues regarding Internet
governance are complex and evolving and we encourage discussions on all its
The IGF is expected to witness robust representation from Indian business, civil
society and academia. This is the 7th edition of the IGF, which began in Athens
in 2006, followed by Rio de Janeiro the next year, Hyderabad in 2008, Sharm
el-Sheikh the following year, Vilnius in 2010 and Nairobi last year.
Mr. Sibal is expected to share space with global leaders such
as Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Social and
Economic Affairs (UNDESA) Wu Hongbo, International Telecommunication Union
Secretary-General Humadoun Touré and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.
Over the last three months, Mr. Sibal has repeatedly sought a multi-stakeholder
dialogue to build consensus on managing issues related to Internet governance
following the controversy of the last few years wherein online freedom activists
had opposed the government’s action of blocking websites, or directing takedowns
on a few occasions, including after the recent riots in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai
Mr. Sibal and Mr. Chandrashekhar’s new public approach has
been received with reasonable expectation that things will change not only on
the ground, but also on global forums such as the IGF.
India also hosted a global conference on cyber security with
Ficci, Nasscom and DSCI last week where Mr. Sibal sought cooperation beyond
traditional government agencies, stating that “securing our cyberspace is not a
technological problem that can be solved like a mathematical equation. It’s a
risk to be managed by defensive technology, astute analysis, information warfare
and traditional diplomacy.” Seeking global cooperation amongst stakeholders, he
asked for “a collective and coordinated action at a global level as a
prerequisite for securing the cyberspace.”
India is expected to become one of the most significant cyber
nations in the world. Nearly 381 million mobile phone users have online
connectivity through their phones and 125 million Indians are registered
Internet users — served by a host of mobile and Internet service providers.
McKinsey has recently said that the impact of the Internet on India’s Gross
Domestic Product will touch Rs. 5 lakh crore by 2015 with Internet users set to
jump to between 350 and 500 million users — based on two different estimates.
The IGF is easily the world’s largest multi-stakeholder
platform for policy dialogues, which brings together governments, private
sector, civil society, academia and the media to debate issues on the Internet
and its future. It was born out of the meetings at the World Summit on
Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis 2005 and is managed by a Multi-stakeholder
Advisory Group (MAG) with a secretariat based in Geneva.
The IGF does not make treaties or binding prescriptions on
governments but instead “identifies emerging issues, brings them to the
attention of relevant bodies and the general bodies make recommendations.” It is
not a direct decision-making body but is perhaps the most significant conference
impacting the growth and future of the Internet across the world which currently
has 2 billion users. The number is expected to reach 2.9 billion by 2015.
Mr. Sibal’s statements will be watched with great eagerness
and expectation across the world, not only because India’s position on Internet
governance is pivotal, but also since in the past India was associated with an
attempt to have a 50-member inter-governmental body called United Nations
Committee on Internet Related Policy (UN-CIRP) to regulate the Internet.
The former Minister of State for Communications, Sachin
Pilot, clarified after the Budapest Cyber Security Conference in October,
consistent with several of Mr. Sibal’s statements, that India was looking at a
far more pragmatic and multistakeholder approach to address Internet issues and
was decisively against government control over the Internet.
Mr. Sibal is expected to attend a high-level ministerial meeting and hold
bilateral meetings with select counterparts.
The meetings will also see the participation of Telecom Ministers from
Azerbaijan, Qatar, Egypt, Lithuania, Kenya, Hungary, Albania, Austria,
Afghanistan, Japan, Slovenia, the U.K. and the United States.
The meetings should also see participation of
Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce, Jean-Guy Carrier; Vint
Cerf, universally regarded as the father of the Internet; president and CEO of
ICANN Fadi Chehade; president, European Broadcasting Union, Jean-Paul Philippot;
and president, Internet Society, Lynn St Amour.
The participation of the Indian government is eagerly
anticipated, as this comes immediately after the first India Internet Governance
Conference jointly hosted by Ficci, the Ministry of Communications and ISOC,
which saw nearly 60 domestic and international speakers, along with 350
delegates, discuss issues of Internet governance with participation from senior
officials of the government, industry, civil society, academia and youth.
Antarctic Ocean sanctuary talks fail
China, Russia and Ukraine raised concerns that stalled the
move to ecologically protect the coastal area Conservation groups expressed
outrage on Friday after resistance led by China and Russia stymied efforts to
carve out new marine sanctuaries and protect thousands of species across
Hopes were high that a reserve covering 1.6 million square kilometres would
be green-lighted for the pristine Ross Sea, the world’s most intact marine
Nations led by Australia and the European Union also wanted 1.9 million
square kilometres of critical coastal area in the East Antarctic safeguarded.
But two-week long talks at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic
Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), made up of 24 countries and the European
Union, at Hobart in Australia ended without resolution.
Instead, CCAMLR will hold an intercessional meeting in Germany in July after
China, Russia and Ukraine raised concerns about fishing restrictions which saw
the talks fail, officials said.
In a statement, CCAMLR said establishing marine reserves was “a complex
process involving a large amount of scientific research as well as international
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance, made up of 30 international organisations
including the Pew Environment Group, WWF and Greenpeace, said it was hugely
“CCAMLR members failed to establish any large-scale Antarctic
marine protection at this meeting because a number of countries actively blocked
conservation efforts,” said alliance official Steve Campbell. An official at the
meeting said that she felt it was as much a show of political power by China and
Russia as fishing restrictions.
ABC of Kudan Kulam Porject
The debate over nuclear energy will go on, but the issue with the Kudankulam
Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is one of the several illegalities on which it is
In 1988, India inked the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant deal
with the former Soviet Union. Two key elements in it were: the highly dangerous
and toxic “Spent Nuclear Fuel” (SNF) would be shipped back to the Soviet Union;
and the massive volumes of fresh water required to cool the plant would be
supplied from Pechiparai dam, in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. The Ministry
of Environment and Forests (MoEF) formally granted approval on May 9, 1989 on
this basis. But there was no further progress until 1997.
In 1997, India signed another agreement, this time with Russia, to revive the
Between 1989 and 1997, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and Environment Impact
Assessment (EIA) Notifications were issued in 1991 and 1994 mandating compulsory
clearances by environmental regulators before any new plant could be set up.
The CRZ prohibited all industrial activity within 500 metres
of the high tide line. The only exception to this was industries and projects of
the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) directly requiring waterfront or foreshore
facilities. The KKNPP today claims exemption from CRZ notification. This is
untenable. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), which set up the
KKNPP, is registered under the Companies Act as a commercial venture to engage
in the business of power projects and “… to enter into partnerships with any
person, including private entity or any foreign investing entity. “ The
NPCIL-KKNPP is thus, under law, only a “Company” and not a project of the DAE.
The Supreme Court has consistently held that government departments are distinct
from government companies. Further, merely because it draws seawater, it does
not become an industry requiring waterfront facilities as per the decision of
the Supreme Court in the shrimp farming case. Thus the KKNPP is not exempted
from CRZ and the plant has been built in violation of the CRZ notification.
The EIA notification stipulated that for notified industries,
environmental clearance is mandatory for new projects or expansion or
modernisation of existing ones. Nuclear power is a notified industry and as per
EIA notification, an EIA report must be prepared and made public. A public
hearing should be conducted to record objections. The entire record would be
considered by an independent “Expert Appraisal Committee” before environmental
clearance is granted. Clearances are valid for five years. If the project does
not commence within the five-year period, then fresh clearances will have to be
obtained after fresh public hearings.
The NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the
MoEF all claim that the EIA notification is not applicable to KKNPP as it has
obtained clearance in 1989. Is this claim valid? An explanatory note to the EIA
notification says that in respect of existing projects as of 1994 (the year when
the EIA notification was promulgated) only those which have completed the land
acquisition process and which have obtained the “Consent to Establish” from the
State Pollution Control Boards are exempt. The KKNPP has not even applied for
“Consent to Establish” from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board; nor was the
land acquisition process completed.
Hence the repeated assertions of exemption from environmental
regulations are untenable and seriously compromise environmental safety. The
NPCIL started construction work only in 2001. More than 12 years had gone by
since the grant of approval in 1989.
Two significant changes
There were two significant changes to the project. The first was that,
contrary to the original proposal to ship out the SNF to Russia, the highly
radioactive SNF from the nuclear power plant was to be stored, transported and
reprocessed within India.
The second change was equally major: the freshwater
requirement was now to be met by the construction of six desalination plants
instead of sending piped water from Pechiparai dam. The environmental impact of
the desalination plant on coastal ecology and marine life are serious concerns
with implications for the livelihoods of the fishing community.
The environmental impact of storage, transportation and
reprocessing of spent fuel as well as the impact of six desalination plants on
marine ecology were not assessed at the time of initial clearance, and not
After launch of construction, the National Environmental
Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) prepared an EIA report in 2003. Even in
this report the environmental impact of spent fuel and desalination plants was
not assessed. It is important to note that generally for all EIAs the baseline
data on air, water, flora and fauna in and around the proposed plant are vital
to assess the likely impact of the plant on them.
In the EIA for plants three to six, NEERI used baseline data
from the Coast of Travancore on the west coast though the KKNPP is located in
the east. The NEERI concluded that the heat from the coolant water from the
KKNPP on the east will not affect marine life on the west coast, although it
doesn’t require scientific expertise to arrive at such a conclusion.
The NPCIL and the AERB (the MoEF also agrees) put forward the
erroneous proposition that spent fuel is no issue at all; it is actually an
asset; it can be safely stored at the plant site for five years, then safely
transported and reprocessed safely in a facility at a location which is yet to
be decided. What is the supporting material for this assertion? Nothing.
In the U.S., Japan
No country has ever been able to reprocess more than a third of spent fuel. Even
that involves significant quantities of High Level Waste which is equally
radioactive and has to be stored.
In the United States, licences for nuclear power plants have
been subject to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) assurance in 1984 that
a permanent storage by way of a geological repository would be available for all
SNF by 2007-09 and spent fuel can be safely stored on site at the plants until
then. In 1990 the deadline was extended to 2025. In December 2010, it was
revised to conclude that a suitable repository will be available “when
necessary” and in the meantime the spent fuel can be stored safely on site. This
ruling was challenged before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit. In “ State of New York, et. al., vs Nuclear Regulatory
Commission and USA “ the court ruled that spent nuclear fuel “poses a dangerous,
long-term health and environmental risk.” It will remain dangerous “for time
spans seemingly beyond human comprehension.” The court struck down the NRC’s
ruling on two grounds. First, in concluding that permanent storage will be
available “when necessary,” the commission did not calculate the environmental
effects of failing to secure permanent storage — a possibility that cannot be
ignored. Second, in determining that spent fuel can be safely stored on site at
nuclear plants for 60 years after the expiration of a plant’s licence, the
commission failed to properly examine future dangers and key consequences. In
other words, no EIA was done by the NRC before coming to such a conclusion.
The real lesson from Fukushima is not merely on improved
technical safeguards at plants from tsunamis and earthquakes. The “ Fukushima
Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission “ appointed by the
Japanese Parliament warned that the disaster was man-made. The commission found
that it was the government of Japan’s single-minded pursuit of nuclear power
which resulted in collusion between the government, the regulators and the plant
operator, TEPCO — leading to the practice of resisting regulatory measures and
covering up violations.