Koodankulam town

The Kudankulam town, with a sizable population and economic activity, is within one km from outer walls of the nuclear complex in Kanyakumari district

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Claims Bill will put you in a worse situation than the victims of Bhopal in case of a nuclear accident. The consequence of a nuclear accident would be much worse and long-lasting than the Bhopal tragedy. We are not going into the long-term effects of radiation here and the deaths that it can cause, but just attempting to calculate the compensation that the victims would get.

Let us take the example of the Kudankulam (Koodankulam) nuclear power plant, coming up at Kudankulam in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Of course, it is in the public sector and we are taking it only as a reference. It uses Russian reactors imported under Indo-Russian agreement. Its safety features are claimed to be better than that of the ill-fated reactor at Chernobyl.

The accident at Chernobyl led to the declaration of an area, 30 km in radius (area of 2827 sq. km) as no entry zone owing to radiation. So, in the event of an accident of similar dimensions, much of the Kanyakumari district (1672 sq. km) would have to be abandoned. (Part of the area falling within 30 km radius is sea.). However, in the event of a major catastrophe, the area affected could extend up to  70000 sq. km. (about 150 km in radius)

This will mean that besides Kanyakumari district, much of the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala would be affected. These districts have a population totaling 80 lakhs. Let us assume that about 50 lakh people are affected. Then, the compensation payable by the company concerned under the Act will be just Rs. 1000 per head, on an average, since the maximum liability of the company is fixed as Rs. 500 crores. This is what you will get after abandoning your homes and land.

The compensation will vary depending on the population affected and the severity of the accident.  However, it can be seen that the population at risk would be similar for most parts of India in the case of worst possible nuclear accident. The population density is high around Koodankulam. However, much of the area where radiation fall-out could occur is covered by sea. In areas where population density is lower (off the coast), this advantage will not be there.  So, most Indians under the law would be eligible for a compensation of a few thousands rupees.  Under Indian conditions, the bribe that you have to pay officials to claim this damage would exceed the amount.  So, Indians cannot have any hope of getting any compensation under the proposed Bill.

Provision for damage under the U. S. law is more than 100 times that provided in the Indian Bill. However, even that is a paltry sum. So, it is time that we think whether we should have the Bill and the nuclear plants.