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The Indian government recently presented its plans for future energy policy. The expansion of renewable energies occupies a prominent position here. But atomic energy should also produce more electricity in the future to satisfy India's growing hunger for energy. Several dozen nuclear power plants and other nuclear infrastructure facilities are to be built across the country, including the construction of two further reactors, Kudankulam III and IV, for the location of Akw Kudankulam (other spelling: Koodankulam). The concrete foundations are to be poured for them next year.

On September 13, 2013, within sight of Akw Kudankulam I, a coast guard plane flies over villagers who had gone into the sea as an expression of their protest.
Photo: © Amirtharaj Stephen

Many years ago a broad protest movement against this nuclear power plant on the southern tip of India formed, and for just as long the government has been cracking down on people who oppose the supposed progress. The Indian documentary filmmaker Praved Krishnapilla reports on this in his crowdfunded 72-minute film "Nuclear Lies", which has been shown in a number of German cities over the past few months. On September 23rd, Krishnapilla and Peter Moritz from the Anti-Atom-Plenum Frankfurt presented the film in Hamburg's Centro Sociale. The anti-Akw activists Antje Kröger-Voss and Dieter Kröger, who themselves produced a film against atomic energy ("Our common resistance"), had invited.

India has had its own constitution since January 26, 1950, which made it a republic. But the Indian nuclear authority had been founded two years earlier. The film says that she was always above the constitution. What may sound exaggerated at first is backed up with strong arguments. Similar to Germany, a top-down policy is also practiced in India. The Indian population is constitutionally not immune from being evicted from their land by the government as soon as "higher" interests are asserted.

On November 20, 1988, the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Soviet General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Mikhail Gorbachev signed a contract to build two nuclear reactors. The extreme south of the subcontinent was chosen as the location. The residents of Idinthakarai and other villages in this region protested against this early on.

Residents of the village of Koothankuli, who were prevented from going to Idinthakarai due to the imposition of a curfew, gather in front of the church on May 10, 2012 and chant anti-government slogans.
Photo: © Amirtharaj Stephen

The South Indian anti-Akw movement experienced a high point in 1989 when 50,000 to 60,000 protesters from Tamil Nadu and the neighboring state of Kerala gathered for a demonstration - an enormous number of people for an area that the then governor claimed to be deserted, a nuclear power plant could easily be built there. In the politician's perception, the village of Idinthakarai also apparently did not exist ... for tactical reasons he probably "overlooked" the fact that there is a 107 year old church and evidence of human settlement goes back at least 500 years.

As a result, the government refused to share the plan of the construction site with the public. Otherwise the "deserted" lie of the site would have been exposed. Because the resistance movement against the Akw Kudankulam is also supported by people of Christian faith, the government claims that the protests have a religious background, Krishnapilla explained to Schattenblick on the sidelines of the film showing.

"Nuclear Lies" goes to various stations of the nuclear infrastructure, from uranium extraction to the burning of fuel elements to the final storage of nuclear waste. The film is devoted in detail to that South Indian conflict area. In protest against the Akw Kudankulam, 18,000 people initially slept in a public square. For a time, attempts were made to put the government under pressure with hunger strikes, sometimes involving hundreds of people. Accompanied by many actions such as the sea-side blockade of the Akw, a chain hunger strike with alternating participation has been carried out since August 2011, divided into men and women.

One woman reports that the resistance has continued into the third generation. She was taken to the protests by her mother at the age of 15 and now she is taking her own 15-year-old daughter with her. "If something should happen to me, my children will continue to fight the protest," said the mother, expressing her determination to resist.

Napoleon, a resident of Idinthakarai, tries to escape while being attacked by the police - September 10, 2012.
Photo: © Amirtharaj Stephen

What the Akw proponents want to dismiss as stubbornness, religiously motivated resistance controlled by foreign forces or pure hostility towards progress of allegedly backward villagers turns out to be a naked survival ratio on closer inspection. In the event of a nuclear accident with a radiation release, the 50,000 residents of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant would be the first to be hit by the radioactive fallout. An evacuation would not be possible, is one of the criticisms of the Akw. If a nuclear power plant (Fukushima Daiichi) can be destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in a high-tech country like Japan, how easily that could happen in a country like India, people ask with a view to the fact that even the Akw Kudankulam, which is under construction, was once done by one Tsunami had been inundated.

Of the two reactors, which are of Russian design and operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), only one supplies electricity, the other serves as a "spare parts store", reported Peter Moritz after the presentation of "Nuclear." Read "in a discussion with the audience. The first reactor went online for the first time on October 22, 2013 - after 35 delays. However, people would be left in the dark, which is why there were repeated delays in starting up the reactor. And in the short period up to the start of commercial commissioning on December 31, 2014, from which the battery was fully utilized by up to 60 percent, there were already 15 emergency shutdowns. According to the Times of India, each of them had a high risk potential. [1]

Because of the annual maintenance work, Kudankulam I has also been switched off since June 24th, the start-up is delayed at least until October 7th, as reported by NDTV at the end of September. [2] But despite the many delays and emergency shutdowns, the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) has extended the operating license for the Akw by five years this year.

Xavieramma, a resident of Idinthakarai village, calls for help after being chased into the sea by police. The security forces later help her out of the water - September 10, 2012.
Photo: © Amirtharaj Stephen

The foreign partner organizations of the Indian nuclear industry, among others, from Russia, France, the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, China and Germany are probably aware of the desolate state of Akw Kudankulam - not least because the Russian mechanical engineering company ZiO-Podolsk considers inferior goods Has sold products [3] - and other Indian nuclear power plants such as the 46-year-old boiling water reactors Tarapur-1 and -2 with an output of 160 MW each, but that does not prevent them from adhering to the highly controversial nuclear cooperation with the rising world power .

According to international law, if not illegal, then at least illegitimate, the 2005 US under President George W. Bush jun. initiated cooperation with India in the field of nuclear technology. The country has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a nuclear weapons program, based on which around 110 atomic bombs have been built to date. The explosiveness of this cooperation is also shown by the fact that the signatory state Iran, on the basis of the mere assumption that it wanted to build nuclear weapons, sanctions were imposed which limit its legal right to the civil use of nuclear energy, while the nuclear power India despite refused to be included in an arms control agreement nothing of the kind threatens. In view of the danger of nuclear war resulting from the conflict with its neighbor Pakistan, which is also nuclear armed and does not belong to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is a permanent danger of escalation from the massive expansion of civilian use of nuclear energy in India.

The hunger strikers against the Akw Kudankulam are faced with influential interests that advocate the expansion of the nuclear economy. The repression of the Indian government against the protesters is correspondingly harsh. Nothing about that should change anytime soon. A few days ago India set the course for its energy policy for the next few years. In order to secure the energy needs of the country, which is forecasting economic growth of over eight percent and which will overtake China as the most populous country in the world in a few years, while also electrifying rural areas, among other things, the expansion of renewable energies - here in particular Solar energy - and a reduction in climate-damaging coal combustion is planned. In addition, much more nuclear energy is to be produced. [4]

So it is not surprising that the "greatest democracy in the world" is deploying the entire arsenal of executive, legislative and judicial power against the protest movement on the southern tip of the country. Hundreds of activists are dragged to court [5], the government restricts the activities of environmental organizations such as Greenpeace India by law (which in contrast to the actions of the Russian government against Greenpeace in the Arctic has not led to an outcry in this country. .) and has demonstrations beaten down by the police. In addition, the Supreme Court of India pronounced a ruling in 2013, according to which Kudankulam may be built under certain conditions. [6]

Just four years ago, the protesters managed to delay the construction of Kudankulam I. However, it was premature to hope that David could defeat Goliath. As is so often the case in human history, the one who has the more powerful means of violence seems to win the end of the conflict over atomic energy in India. While the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011 had given the Indian anti-Akw movement plenty of support, the rebellion against the neoliberal policies of the Hindu nationalist ruling party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be drying up more and more. By placing the focus of his energy policy on the expansion of renewables, he can run an atomic energy program in their slipstream, through which hundreds of people have been contaminated in the past and which significantly increases the risk of further damage to people and the environment.

In protest against the commissioning of Akw Kudankulam, thousands of villagers and their children spend the night on the beach near the nuclear reactor - September 9, 2012
Photo: © Amirtharaj Stephen