—— Highly irresponsible state of nuclear security, safety in India mocks global non proliferation efforts
—– Nuclear Threat Initiative of Washington, places India’s “nuclear security practices” at a low rank among 25 countries known to possess at least a bomb’s-worth of fissile materials
——- Constant theft of nuclear materials, uranium, outrageous nuclear plants put global community on time bomb
—— Indian scientists’ concerns, IAEA’s reservations set aside by India in launching highly hazardous Kudankulam nuke plant
—— Global safety experts object to use of substandard components in Plant by Indians, equate Kudankulam with Fukushima in safety parameters
—— More than 80% of India’s nuclear and missile infrastructure based in the insurgency-hit areas or extremists’ dominated region
—— Growing Moist insurgency, Nexal dominance in India’s Red Corridor ring alarm bell across the globe with regard to nuke safety
—— The reasons behind fire at India’s top nuke facility further panics global nuclear security experts
By Makhdoom Babar
(Additional reporting by Christina Palmer & Ajay Mehta in New Delhi & Kapil Verma & Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai)
India’s Mumbai Police has reported arresting two members of a nuclear proliferation network who were caught with 7,100 grams of stolen radioactive Uranium that they were planning to sell in India’s proliferation market. Mumbai Police say they have recovered over 7 kilograms of Uranium from their custody and a case was registered after the quality of the seized Uranium was confirmed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. One of the accused, identified as one Jigar Pandey, a member of India’s Uranium proliferation syndicate, engaged in Uranium proliferation across the world for decades. . The worth of the seized Uranium estimated to be near $ 2.9 million.
According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, constant stealing of nuclear material, unprotected piles of Uranium, launching of unsafe nuclear power plants, location of main nuclear and missile facilities in highly disturbed and insurgency hit areas with almost zero government over there and growing religious extremism and militancy by dominant and all powerful Hindu groups have become the focal points for the specialists of nuclear safety and security with constantly growing concerns.
According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, just on the back in April 2016, Indian police’s Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) accidently intercepted a racket of nuclear material smugglers. According to Indian media, Rajasthan Police’s ATS squad, on tip=off about some suspicious individuals, carrying some dubious movement, intercepted a 6-member gang, suspecting them being some terrorists. However, during the preliminary investigations and search process, the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Rajasthan Police found about 31 tonnes of Beryl, an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium. Beryl is the most common ore of Beryllium, the lightest member of the alkaline earth metals family that is known to have six radioactive isotopes. These investigations indicate that India, as a party to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, is duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of atomic minerals of all kinds.
Since ATS of Rajasthan Police was not familiar with the material they recovered from arrested suspects, the arrested suspects kept fooling the police investigators by saying that they were carrying some material to brew some new brand of country wine. However, after the interference of a senior police officer into the matter and that too after many days of recovery, the sample of the recovered material was sent to the mine4rals department which reported the matter to the related authorities after realizing that it was a nuclear material. Until then, it just remained a patty matter at the level of state police who were furious of not being able to make an arrest of some high profile terrorists and instead ended up with some ‘useless’ material.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further indicate that this was not the first incident of stealing and smuggling of nuclear material in India as just in October last year, a 20-tonne consignment of beryl was smuggled out of India from Kandla Port in Gujarat.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further indicate that the police-underworld nexus has also been playing a very vital role in the dubious nuclear matters in India. According to these investigations, in 2008, Andhra Pradesh had a near brush with radioactive poisoning. The trucks carrying the yellowcakes from Jadugoda met with an accident and overturned on the NH 5 near Narsannapeta in Andhra Pradesh. Luckily, there was no leakage of radioactive material. But UCIL officials dismissed that as a “one off incident” and continued to use the same mode of transportation.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that ACP Prakash Wani is known for his deep-rooted links with underworld for years. These findings further indicate that in 1998, when he was an Inspector and posted at Chembur Police Station, Wani was alleged to be associated with the underworld. The then Mumbai Police Commissioner, Ronnie Mendonca, had tried to transfer him, along with some other tainted policemen. However, Wani got a UN deputation to the mission in Kosovo. After his return from Kosovo, Wani has been posted in different capacities in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai. Top officers are learnt to have warned him about his conduct.
These findings further indicate that Inspector Nivrutt Khalatkar of Mumbai’ Crimes Branch was assisting ACP Prakash Wani in the case, though his primary responsibility was to look after the ant-extortion policing. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that while handing over the case to Mumbai Crime Branch’s notorious officers like ACP Prakash Wani and Inspector Khalatkar, it was not taken into the consideration that both were having deep down links with underworld specially with the goons of Chhota Rajan, or perhaps it was done deliberately.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that soon after the case of the arrested trio was transferred to the Crimes Branch, Chhota Rajan’s lieutenant, Paulson Joseph, who is now on the rapid rise in Mumbai’s underworld, approached ACP Prakash Wani and held detailed meeting with him at o local bar in Colaba. Joseph persuaded ACP Prakash Wani to rescue him and his men in the case of suspected chemical and told Prakash Wani that the chemical was actually Uranium and was being “transported” by his three men for a subsequent shipment to Rajan Bhai (Chhota Rajan) in Afghanistan and the matter had nothing to do with India or India’s national security. Joseph insisted ACP Prakash to use his position to get the tests of the chemical changed at BARC. Upon this ACP Prakash told Joseph that since the samples had already been sent to BARC it was a bit difficult for him to influence the scientists at BARC but still promised him of his all-out help.
Sources in the Mumbai underworld, close to D.K Rao Gang, revealed to The Daily Mail that soon after the meeting, ACP Prakash summoned Inspector Khalatkar to another bar in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai and held discussions with him over the new development. Prakash deputed Inspector Khalatkar to find some way-out in the shortest possible time. These sources say that Inspector Khalatkar knew someone at the BARC and had been kind of blackmailing him for his certain extramarital affairs and this someone was none else but a Director of the BARC, A.N Prasad while Prasad was in Bangalore at that time. Inspector Khalatkar also knew someone at the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) as he had also spared this someone of DAE during raids at prostitution dens and illegal casinos. These D.K Rao Gang related sources revealed further to The Daily Mail that this someone from DAE was SK Malhotra, known for a living a colorful nightlife.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that though Malhotra was in no position to extend any solid help Khalatkar but could only inform him that a small amount of Chemical’s sample that Khalatkar was looking for had already been sent to a DAE facility in Nagpur and advised Khalatkar to focus on Prasad for any further help. Upon this Khalatkar contacted A.N Prasad who promised for him of his help but said that he could only him in the Nagpur Episode as he was unable to give any favour back at BARC.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the magic worked and the reports from Nagpur came with lesser lethality. Mrinal Roy, regional director of Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (Central Region) in Nagpur, though confirmed the material as being uranium but tempered the findings by stating that it was of a very low grade form which is normally found in X-Ray machines, cancer treatment machines as radiation shields and cannot be used for explosive purposes, while it actually was of a high grade and of serious nature and can be used for explosive purposes
The Daily Mail’s findings that though Paulson Joseph was very happy over the job done by ACP Prakash and his deputy Inspector Khalatkar, yet expressed his fear that the remaining part of the chemical at BARC was a permanent threat for him and requested ACP Prakash to help him in stealing that from BARC. After examining the situation for a couple of days, Prakash- Khalatkar duo told Joseph that it was not possible to steal the chemical from BARC but it can be destroyed by setting the said lab of the BARC on fire. The duo also informed Joseph that the part of the Chemical that was left with Mumbai Crimes Branch had already been “taken care of”.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that upon this Joseph decided to go all out through his commandos to accomplish the mission and his goons from Tilak Nagar finally managed to set the said part of the BARC ablaze, though 2 scientists were also killed in the process while ACP Prakash and Inspector Khalatkar gave the gave full assistance and protection throughout the operating of blazing a part of BARC. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the Operation of setting BARC ablaze was conducted under the supervision and command of a former cop of Mumbai Police, who was dismissed from service and now works for Chhota Rajan Gang. This cop, identified as former Inspector Pradeep Sharma, according to the underworld sources, has become a very important spearhead member of Rajan Gang. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that once one of Mumbai Police’s famed encounter specialists, Inspector Pradeep Sharma was dismissed from the force after the then Mumbai Police Commissioner, Hasan Gafoor, served him dismissal orders under Article 311 of the Constitution for his ‘unsatisfactory prior record’. His dismissal followed a probe into his alleged links with the underworld.
Sharma, who joined the Mumbai Police in 1983, has the highest number of encounter victims to his name in the state, logging a total of 107 killings. He has the distinction of having been featured on Time magazine’s cover. Some notorious criminals slain in operations supervised by Sharma include Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Sadiq Kalya in Dadar in 1999, Rafiq Dabbawala of the Subhash Thakur gang in 2001, Vinod Matkar of the Chhota Rajan gang, and three alleged LeT terrorists in 2003.
He was posted as the head of the Kandivili unit of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch and later shifted to D N Nagar Police Station. Along with five other policemen, Sharma was transferred out of Mumbai when being probed for the alleged custody death of 2002 Ghatkopar bomb blast accused Khwaja Yunus. Sharma was exonerated by the state CID and was posted at the main control room at the Mumbai Police headquarters before being dismissed.
The Daily Mail’s findings further indicate that after the “BARC Operation”, the demands and expectations of the Prakash- Khalatkar duo had gone very, very high, though they were paid handsomely (as always) for this particular ‘job’, yet the duo was flying very high and asking for more and more, again and again. This situation really annoyed Chhota Rajan to the maximum, back in Afghanistan and he decided to get rid of the duo for good. The sources revealed to The Daily Mail that Rajan ordered Joseph to execute a plan to get rid of the two cops has he had come to know that the duo was also cooperating with his deputies but secretly emerging rival D.K Rao.
Joseph, to execute the plan, invited ACP Prakash and Inspector Khalatkar along with three other cops of Mumbai police to a Christmas party at Chembur Gymkhana where all the cops were secretly recorded on the tape as they were dead drunk and dancing along with a number of underworld mafia men. Later this video was secretly released to the media which resulted into the suspension of all the cops, including the duo that were present as celebrated guests at top night-long party of the underworld goons. Some other reports however indicate that the tape and the information about the entire episode was released to the media and top cops by D.K Rao but there are no confirmations to this slant.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the Indian authorities also tried to hush-up the matter of the mysterious fire at the BARC and never cam up with a solid conclusive report to determine the cause of fire at the top nuclear research facility. These findings indicate that The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) authorities did set up two committees to look into the cause of the fire but these committees never came up with a conclusive report over the issue.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the Uranium that was seized from the trio of Chhota Rajan Gang was obtained from Jhrakhand, the nuclear hub of India, where it is easily available and was being sent to Chhota Rajan who is based in Afghanistan as head of RAW’s Special Operations Division. However it could not be ascertained that what was the subsequent of use of this Uranium at the end of Chhota Rajan and why such panic was shown by the Rajan gang to evaporate the issue and eliminate the evidences.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the state of the affairs regarding safety and security of nuclear facilities and nuclear material has never been impressive at all in India. Setting aside the incident that took place at BARC, the otherwise overall situation of safety and security of nuclear installations and nuclear material in India has become really alarming and a source of permanent concern for the global community in general and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in particular.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that apart from highly alarming situation regarding the nuclear materials in Indian region of Jharkhand, the situation is highly fragile across country otherwise as well. These findings indicate that just a month before the BARC incident took place, something really fishy happened at another nuclear facility of India that put a big question mark on the state of nuclear safety in India . These investigations indicate that in November 2009, about 55 employees of the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant in Uttara Kannada district of India were exposed to nuclear radiation after a radioactive leakage at the plant. The authorities though registered an official complaint in this direction but like the BARC incident, no conclusive report about this lethal incident was ever made public.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that in another incident in December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material was stolen from a fortified research facility in eastern India , prompting a major hunt and fears of contamination.
“It carries uranium and radiation and could have an adverse effect in an area of 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mile),” the then Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Khoda warned.
The then Chief Minister of Jharkand further stated that said the uranium was stolen during the process of being moved to a research site at the densely-populated town of Rajrappa from a federal atomic facility near Mumbai.
Arjun Munda, an opposition leader in the then Jharkhand’s legislative assembly, demanded speedy action. “The government must initiate immediate steps to find the apparatus as it is extremely hazardous,” he said in state capital Ranchi .
The Daily Mail’s findings further reveal that this theft came a year after police in the northeastern state of Assam arrested two uranium thieves after detectives posing as buyers offering 1.5 million rupees (34,000 dollars) managed to recover stolen radioactive material.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that setting aside all the concerns of top nuclear scientists of India and country’s other major stake holders including former Army Chief and former Navy Chief about the alarming lack of safety and security measures and bisecting all the reservations of the global community including the nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the serious controversies pertaining to the safety measures, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority a couple of years back, allowed formal launching of the world’s most controversial nuclear power project in India. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has granted clearance for the first 1000MW unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power project.
An AERB press release on the eve said that the clearance was given after the plant complied with all the directives of the Supreme Court. In its May 6, 2013 order, the Supreme Court had imposed several conditions on safety.
“We were satisfied with the safety and other parameters met by the plant officials with regard to the unit 1. Only after several tests and after the plant officials complied with the Supreme Court order, we gave the clearance,” SS Bajaj, AERB chief, told media.
The plant is set to attain criticality (the actual commencement of chain reaction in the nuclear reactor) in a day or two, according to a plant official. Once the unit attains criticality, power generation will start.
The Russian-made reactor, called Voda Voda Energo Reactor (VVER), uses the pressurized water technology. This is the first such reactor being commissioned in the country.
It is learnt that the Indian authorities have also detained international media persons who were in Chennai to make reports over the controversies relating to the Kudankulam nuclear project. These media persons include members of a German Radio network and others. They were earlier refused entry to the plant by the Indian authorities.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the global nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was deeply disturbed with the state of affairs at the Kudankulam nuclear plant. The sources at the IAEA say that the agency had been closely monitoring the state of affairs at India’s Kudankulam nuclear plant for quite some time and related media and intelligence reports were adding to the agency’s worries day by day. These sources further said that the IAEA received credible information that there were certain serious safety issues with the Kulankudam plant but the issues at that stage were out of the agency’s domain as it was considered an internal matter of India and the matter was also in India’s Supreme Court. However, these sources say, after the Indian apex court gave go-ahead to the Indian government in May this year to launch the plant without eradicating the safety concerns, some new issues also surfaced that included using of highly substandard components by the Indians in the nuclear plant and concerned officials of the agency were reportedly consulting sections concerned to bring the issues to the agency’s domain. However, any official comment by the IEAE was not available till the filing of this report.
On the other side, scientists from several Indian institutions had written to the then Prime Minister as well as the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, expressing their extreme concerns over the use of substandard components in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tiruneveli in southern Tamil Nadu.
The scientists pointed to credible reports that said four valves in a critical safety system in the plant were found to be seriously defective. A copy of the letter was also sent to the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
Similarly, just this month, a unit of India’s Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in Surat was shut down after a leak in its heat transport system was reported.
Authorities said the situation was under control, but all employees were asked not to leave the premises until the leak was investigated.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), a government of India enterprise, in a statement said Unit-1 of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in south Gujarat, which was operating at its rated power before a leak was reported, and was subsequently was shutdown Units 1 and 2 of the power place consists has two pressurized heavy water reactors of 220 MWe capacity each.