Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fears In India Top nuclear officials in India say the country's existing reactors are safe and that the next generation of power plants will be even safer. But some experts say the country's nuclear establishment is so secretive that it's impossible to say how safe the program may be.
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Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fears In India

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Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fears In India

Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fears In India

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from New Delhi.

COREY FLINTOFF: Concerns about nuclear safety in India aren't just theoretical. The country has already had some close calls, including an accident at the Narora Atomic Power Plant not far from New Delhi in 1993.

GOPALAKRISHNAN: In our Narora station, there was a major fire, which got that reactor pretty close to meltdown, frankly.

FLINTOFF: The reactor was being run by a group of young engineers who, in those pre-cell phone days, were cut off from contact with the outside world.

GOPALAKRISHNAN: So these seven or eight people in that control room, in pitch darkness, had to take the decision on their own without any supervisory advice.

FLINTOFF: They grabbed flashlights, Gopalakrishnan says, climbed up inside the reactor structure and, luckily, took the right steps to get the situation under control.

GOPALAKRISHNAN: It was quite clear that this action, which these engineers took, really saved a meltdown. Otherwise, we had two major cities nearby, Meerut and Aligarh, those places would have completely had to be evacuated.

FLINTOFF: Dr. G. Balachandran is a nuclear power consultant at India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. A strong advocate of nuclear power, he says data from Fukushima show that there was a failure on the part of Japanese regulators to force the company to comply with tsunami protection measures.

BALACHANDRAN: That is the primary lesson to be learned, that regulations must be fully enforced and absolutely enforced without any delay whatsoever.

FLINTOFF: This is Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of the Center for Science and Environment, based in New Delhi.

CHANDRA BHUSHAN: Our nuclear establishment is also directly related to our defense establishment. So in the name of national security, a lot of information about our nuclear establishment were not put out in the public domain.

FLINTOFF: Bhushan says the issue is particularly urgent because India is preparing for a sixfold increase in its nuclear generating capacity by adding new reactors from the United States, France and other countries, many of which will be located near populous areas.

BHUSHAN: After all, India is a extremely densely populated country. The number of people that will be affected if something like Japan happens in India would be huge. So who will be liable if something like that happens? Will government bailout companies? Will companies pay us?

FLINTOFF: Corey Flintoff, NPR News, New Delhi.

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