Guest blogger Catherine Craig, Northeastern School of Law JD ’15 and Vermont Law School MELP’15, contributes this post.
Despite limited fuel supply and insufficient regulation, India intends to become a world leader in nuclear power. It aspires for nuclear power to account for 25% of its national electricity by 2050. Australia is poised to help India achieve this goal, by signing a civil nuclear deal to provide ample uranium.
While nuclear power provides a less-carbon intensive option to meet India’s growing energy demand, India’s nuclear industry has resulted in decades of suffering. In 1965, Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) incorporated the town of Jadugoda, India. UCIL evicted local tribes to make way for the town, which contained its own hospital, tennis courts and an Atomic Energy Center School for local children. Today, the residents of the area are plagued by radiation poisoning. Independent nuclear scientist Sanghmitra Gadekar, who conducted a survey of 9,000 villagers living near mines, has documented thousands of cases of congenital deformities, infertility, cancer, respiratory problems and miscarriages. Several other studies have demonstrated that air, water and soil in Jadugoda are contaminated with radiation. When confronted with these allegations, Chairman Diwakar Acharya responded: “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those guys are imported from elsewhere, ok?”
A recent order by the Jharkhand High Court of India mandates UCIL to release information regarding radiation levels in the mining areas. The court also required UCIL to explain how the company ensures safety to communities exposed to its 193-acre (78-hectare) radioactive waste dump near Jadugoda. As India continues to invest in nuclear energy, the question is whether accountability will be taken for past environmental health impacts, and whether proper safeguards will be established to protect against further degradation.