According to the media reports, on December 7, 2009.an agreement was reached in Moscow between India and Russia, under which India would get four more nuclear reactors from Russia. At the same time, in New Delhi, a US Commercial Nuclear Mission told the media that, under the US-India nuclear deal, a minimum of 12 plants would be set up, with the work on them starting in 2010-2011. Some other nuclear agreements of the same type were also reported by the media; most important of them were between India and France, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Mongolia and Canada. According to many impartial analysts, it would have been much better if India had concentrated upon the safety of its already existing nuclear assets instead of doing new agreements in this respect. The Kaiga incident is the worst example of unsafe and insecure nuclear program of India. The Kaiga Nuclear plant is located near one of the biggest Indian naval bases, Project Seabird.
As per details provided by the Indian newspapers, a few months back , the authorities hit the alarm button when the staff and workers at the Kaiga nuclear plant began to show above normal radiation levels. The investigators began to urgently comb the Kaiga nuclear complex for any signs of a radiation leak that could have exposed the staff to radioactivity. After the detailed examination of urine samples of more than 50 workers at the plant, they came to the conclusion that all the workers had used a particular water cooler. Surprisingly the cooler was locked and sealed and almost unapproachable to a common man. So the investigation team pointed out the hidden presence of someone who injected heavy water into the machine by using a pump. On the other hand, J .P Gupta, the director of the plant, denied there was any security lapse and said the effect of the contaminated water was minimal. Among those affected were contract laborers who are hired out locally. The statement of Mr.Gupta seems showing that the lives of ‘locally hired out’ labourers are not important and it is nothing to be worried about if such labourers are affected by the contaminated water. There is another part of his statement which has added more irony to the situation. He said, “Whoever did it perhaps knew doping the water cooler would not kill those who drank the water. It could have been intended to disrupt the plant’s functioning.”
The situation is not as simple as portrayed by JP Gupta. The addition of heavy water into the drinking water cooler means the addition of tritium-contaminated water to a drinking water cooler .Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen also known as hydrogen-3.It can be used as a booster in the making of fission bombs as well as thermonuclear weapons or hydrogen bombs. Tritium emits beta rays which, if ingested, can cause death, cancer and mutations. A one gram vial of tritium costs up to $100,000. How is it possible for a common man to get hold of such a precious element? There must be someone having a full command, authority and approach in the supervisory or administrative crew of the plant. Unfortunately, the government of India tried to put a cover on the incident instead of bringing the inquiry report to the surface.
The present incident at The Kaiga nuclear plant is nothing new and novel; this plant has always been very mysterious with reference to different unexplainable happenings during the last many years. The death of an Indian Nuclear Scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam on June 12, 2009 is still one of such mysteries. Mahalingam was training young scientists and working in the simulator training division of the plant which is in fact the replica of the original plant. He had been working in the atomic plant for the last eight years. Reportedly, he was in possession of highly sensitive information. According to the Times of India one morning Mahalingam went for jogging and could never return. After a week’s search, his body was found in the nearby Kali River and cremated before the results of the DNA test were brought to light. The mysterious end of the scientist was reported on India’s television channels on June 13. The channels asserted that the death of the nuclear scientist was nothing but a successful suicide attempt but the police could never find any suicide note. The Kaiga-staff is still of the opinion that the murder of Mahalingam was the artistic work of different Indian Intelligence agencies that were searching for the culprits involved in the past Uranium theft cases. Mahalingam might be one of the accused ones.
In such a horrible situation when radioactive elements are easily approachable , when even the nuclear scientists are involved in theft-crime of uranium and when the lives of the workers serving at nuclear plants are at stake , how can the nuclear arsenals in India can be safe. In this horrifying situation it is highly objectionable if the countries like the USA provide more support and help to the incredible nuclear states like India. It is simply a paradox on the part of the US policy makers that they are all time worried about the nuclear programs of Islamic countries like Iraq , Iran and Pakistan but intentionally ignoring the underhand gimmicks going on in the nuclear programs of India.
President Obama and many of the other democratic leaders are often found stressing the need and importance of peace and prosperity of the world. It is their responsibility to keep a strict eye on the nuclear program of India if they are sincere in their desire for peace and prosperity particularly in the South Asian region. This world is looking towards them with dependent eyes for a bright future and a happy present. It would be certainly very disappointing if these peace-makers do not come up to the expectations of the world revolving around them.
The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on national and international strategic and defense affairs.