India&’s nuclear establishment has denied reports by a US-based media organisation, including one critical of the country&’s nuclear safety record, terming them "deliberate distortion of facts” and “curiously timed” just when New Delhi was pushing fast forward on the road to nuclear energy.
The articles, by well-known author Adrian Levy, in the Foreign Policy magazine, claim that India is building a secret nuclear city in Karnataka to produce nuclear weapons and that adequate safety measures are not being observed at the Jhaduguda uranium mines in Jharkhand, exposing the villagers to nuclear radiation.
Another article claims that India is not adequately safeguarding its nuclear installations and material, citing US officials and experts.
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) sources trashed the three reports by Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a US non-profit “investigative news organisation”, terming them “quite sensational” and “twisting of facts” and “manipulation of evidence from locals”.
They also said the timing of the reports was “quite curious” — coming as they did just when India had concluded civilian nuclear agreements with leading countries having nuclear resources like Canada, Australia and now Japan, and when the Indo-US contact group was moving forward towards implementation of the civil nuclear deal.
The government had also tabled the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015, in Parliament to amend the Atomic Energy Act. The Bill will enable Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) to enter into joint ventures with other public sector undertakings to fast-track nuclear power projects in the country.
The nuclear establishment sources said that India&’s nuclear programme is one of the oldest and the safety standards are second to no country. They said India has had no incidences of nuclear accidents or leaks, such as seen at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, Three Mile Island and New Oakridge facility in the US. The sources also said India&’s nuclear security precautions were impeccable.
On December 16, Foreign Policy in an article by Adrian Levy claimed that India has built two top-secret facilities in Karnataka to enrich uranium in pursuit of its hydrogen bomb dream. It said the project, being driven by the Prime Minister’s Office, was to build ‘the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, and weapons, and aircraft-testing facilities, when it’s completed probably sometime in 2017”.
Another article, dated December 17, titled “Fast, Radioactive, and Out of Control”, quoted US sources to claim that “India&’s security practices have repeatedly ranked lower in than those of Pakistan and Russia, two countries with shortcomings that have provoked Western anxieties”.
Another article, dated December 14, on the Jhaduguda mines, is titled “India&’s Nuclear Industry Pours its Wastes into a River of Death and Disease”. It quotes scientists to say that “nuclear workers, village residents and children living near mines and factories are falling ill after persistent exposure to unsafe radiation”.
The articles were published soon after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe&’s visit to India when the two sides signed an MoU on civil nuclear cooperation and came after a trip to India by Rafael M Grossi, chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), of which India is hoping to become a member. The articles also came days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi&’s visit to Moscow during which nuclear energy cooperation is slated to figure high in the talks with President Vladimir Putin.