In Denial of Fukushima

The arrogance and jingoism exhibited by the Nuclear lobby in India is well known. Even in face of disaster
Fukushima, the people in DAE remain adamant that there is no option to Nuclear Energy and also that it is safe from accidents, and even if an accidents happens at all they will be ready to control. The optimism that they have regarding issues of safety in case of radioactive materials and nuclear reactors is something a person with a good understanding of science would not share. Too much reliance on the idea that “nothing can go wrong” is what will lead to the horrible consequences of not understanding the Golem. And the statements by the DAE junta does exactly this. The very idea that the reactors are completely safe; are different than what was present in Japan, we can contain the damage, are what are needed to be questioned.

A nice article in Tehelka makes the point more clearer. Here are some lines from the same:

Fukushima also demonstrated unambiguously that communities living near nuclear facilities would be the worst affected in the event of an accident, a lesson that hasn’t been lost on the local populations in Koodankulam and Jaitapur. At the other end of the spectrum was the reaction of the people associated with nuclear establishments, who vociferously argued that it was essential to persist with nuclear power — not surprising, since it conforms to their self-interest.

Whatever the experts at DAE maybe saying, the images that the people at large are seeing are that of desolate landscapes, ruined buildings, poisoned farmlands, and inaccessible homes. The very idea that Nuclear Power can solve all the issue of power in India is questionable. Lets say even if we construct 10 such more plants, where will be the power used? Who will get the priority over the power? The villages near which the power plants are present, or the metro cities whose demands for power and its abuse are ever increasing. Just think about how many electrical appliances  you have, and how many you could do without?

On 15 March 2011, NPCIL Chairman SK Jain trivialised what was going on in Japan saying, “There is no nuclear accident or incident in Fukushima… It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme… (that) the nuclear operators of the Tokyo Electric Power Company are carrying out to contain the residual heat after the plants had an automatic shutdown following a major earthquake.” Such denial would be laughable but when the person thus opining is in charge of India’s power reactor fleet, it ceases to be amusing.

In September 2011, for example, the DAE Secretary claimed: “We are prepared to handle an event like Fukushima.” This assertion is belied by the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who testified to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2010 that it was “nowhere (near) meeting an eventuality that may arise out of nuclear and radiological emergencies”.

On more than one occasion, the DAE Secretary has made assertions that the probability of a nuclear accident in India is zero. In November 2011, for example, he stated that the probability was “one in infinity”. The public image sought to be created is one of great confidence in safety. Is such confidence justified?

The first point to note is that the very statement that the likelihood of an accident is zero is scientifically untenable; every nuclear reactor has a finite, albeit small, probability of undergoing a catastrophic failure.

A second question: is the confidence on the part of officials about the zero probability of accidents good for safety? This is not a question about technology but about organisations. … Safety scholar James Reason once noted: “If an organisation is convinced that it has achieved a safe culture, it almost certainly has not.” The DAE and its attendant institutions appear to be convinced not just that they have a safe culture, but that the hazardous technologies they operate are incapable of undergoing accidents. This is not conducive to safety.

What the Koodankulam protest tells us is that these populations are not consenting to be subject to this risk. They deserve to be listened to, not dismissed as stooges of foreign funding. That is an insult to the intellects and minds of millions of people and to democracy itself.

A Mass charger for OLPC!

1
~~
  I am currently working on deploying OLPCs [One Laptop Per Child] a.k.a.
  the $ 100 laptop a.k.a. XO in India. The Green colored laptop looks
  pretty with children being very happy to have one, and what is best
  is that the children or their parents do not pay for it, but the
  child gets to keep it, take it home and play with it!

More information at laptop.org, sugarlabs.org

2 Khairat
~~~~~~~~~

  The first pilot was started in Khairat, sleepy tribal village about
  60 kms from Mumbai. This will be the third year in Khairat. So a
  generation of children are present who have been using the XO
  consistently. Though we got on to this project last year, the Sugar
  platform I already knew about. The parents tell us that the children
  have developed special affinity with their laptops, at times even
  not allowing their elder siblings to even touch it. Pedagogically
  the support at Khairat has not been so good. The teacher their
  Mr. Surve learned most of the activities with the Sugar on his
  own. Along with the new and some upgraded activities, but thats
  another story.

3 Charging Problems
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  One of the consistent problems that was faced in Khairat is how do
  you charge the laptops. Though these laptops consume quite a less
  amount of power as compared to normal ones, the fact remains that
  they run on the battery and batteries tend to dicharged when
  used. There was some solution provided in terms of a rotating wheel,
  wherein a dynamo is used to charge the XOs. But this did not work
  out well. The Khairat school is not very large about 23 students
  across all the 4 grades of the primary. So to charge all the laptops
  at the school, we needed to have 23 plug points, to put the cute
  little green chargers in! If you scale it up, if you have to have lets say 100
  deployments then, 100 plug points! The OLPC design team came up with
  a charger which can charge upto 5 laptops, but then we need to
  import that too, with the XOs. What we wanted is to charge a large
  number of XO’s at one go. The desiderata was that technology should
  be indegenious, cheap, and should be `open’. Open is used here in
  the sense of being transparent to anyone who wants to repair or know
  its workings. Also the problems of the charging at Khairat were
  compounded by the fact that many of the chargers had gone bad. The
  things were so bad that for the entire class of 23 students they had
  only 5 working  chargers, so that the students could not charge the
  laptops, the scheme that was implemented in this case is that the
  children would bring the laptops to the school, charge it there turn
  by turn. All this was further complicated the `load-shedding’ of the
  Electricity Board. The schedule of the electricity board is such
  that it does not allow for continuous charging.

  The first option that we tried was to get a similar charger from
  Lamington Road. When we enquired we got one for about 200
  rupees. But even if we get 20 of those, we did not have enough plug
  points in the school. And even if they were there, the lenght of the
  wire on the chargers isn’t much, so the students have to sit close
  to the extensions. This isn’t by all means a very good idea, AC 230
  V all near kids, in primary. Many of the chargers had bare wires,
  and accidents can always happen. But this still doesn’t solve our
  problem of mass charging. We needed a charging station. Since we did
  not have one, we had to design one.

3.1 So what was to be done?
===========================

  We tried to take a supply from a
  We found that the rating on the chargers required them to charged
  with above 6 V. What could give us a continuous supply of regulated
  power and was cheap?

4 The Solution
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jude had an excellent idea. We use the standard SMPS [Switched Mode
Power Supply] which powers the regular desktops to charge the XOs. The
main purpose of the SMPS is to provide a regulated DC supply from the
AC mains, to which it is connected. The standard SMPS comes with two
levels of DC voltage as the output; one is 5 V and the other is 12
V. To operate a computer and its various parts both are needed. The 12
V supply is given to parts like the motors which operate inside the
HDDs. Whereas the 5 V supply acts like the logic 1, 0 V being
logic 0 for the binary operations to be performed on the digital
devices, that is the transistors. The current capacity of the SMPS is
about Amps. This is more than sufficient to safely charge about 10
XOs. So from one SMPS we can safely charge 10 XOs.

4.1 Now, how exactly it was to be done?
========================================

So what we did was to get the SMPS about Rs. 440 at Lamington
Road. Derive a power cable from one of the many outputs given
there. Then from that one output we would need to draw 10 outlets for
charging the XOs. The number 10 seemed to be reasonable to be drawn
from a 400 W SMPS.

Anyways so the steps for the construction went as follows:

Draw the 12 V supply from the SMPS, that is, the yellow wire and the
ground, the black.

The first thing that we did was to cut the first main wire for about a
metre. This wire was of 25 guage, the gauge has to be high for the
main cable as it has to draw power for all the 10 XOs.

Now for connecting the main power cable to the SMPS, we needed the
female connectors and join this to the output of power supply. This is
the same thing which goes inside your IDE drives. But in this case we
wil be deriving the 12 V supply and not touching the 6 V
supply. Making this connection requires a bit of skill, as we
discovered later, the joints were shaky, even after all the crimping
that we did. They had to redone at Jude’s office.

Now after the first metre of the main power cable, we attached 4 more
wires, 2 black and 2 red. One each black and red wires were braided
and ended in the DC jack for the XOs. So at the first `T’ joint we had
two outputs for the XOs. For the joint itself, we had 8 wires coming
there. So we soldered the wires. Jude suggested that we could get what
are known as `shorting caps’ for making the final product.

Now this step was repeated for the remaining 4 `T’s. So at the end
voila we had a mass charger for the OLPC.

5 The Short
~~~~~~~~~~~

So we tested our creation with 10 XOs, being charged simultaneously by
the charger. But there was a problem, the joints started to heat
up. There was a short some where in the circuit. We did not test for
continuity. So we had to redo the entire thing again. 😦

The short was finally found in one of the DC jacks, which when twisted
and pressed, had a protrusion which actually punctured the other wire
and thus shorted the entire circuit. Finally after almost re-doing the
entire circuit, we were on our way to test our charger.

With all the XOs attached. The light on the battery indicator of the
XOs was red and amber. Then slowly after almost an hour, slowly one by
one, the XOs were being charged, indicated by the indicator becoming
green. 🙂

A long due rant…

Writing after a long time…

A long overdue rant…
Now a days I find a lot of hoo-halah going on about saving energy for a greener future and all that. They say it is the need of the hour. I don’t disagree with them. But there are somethings which are basically wrong in implementing the saving electricity in the current norms. Saving electricity would also mean, not to use it when it is not really needed. I will elaborate a bit on what I mean.

Rich get to eat, the [little bit] less rich do not…

I live in Mumbai, the erstwhile Bombay. Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of power, they tell us. But Mumbai, being the financial capital of the country, needs to be lighted up, 24×7, 365 times in a year. I am told that people here can pay for the electricity that they use, it is much more needed here. Do they mean people elsewhere in the state cannot pay and they do not need energy? They do pay, and they do need energy too. Then why this bias, against the people who are not in Mumbai. Whereas Mumbai gets an UPS, the Un-interrupted Power Supply, the other cities are getting the IPS, not the Indian Police Service, but the Interrupted Power Supply. Ok. Granted that Mumbai is the financial hub and needs to be powered 24×7, but are people in Mumbai even bothered about the kind of power that they waste. Compare this with 12 and 14 hrs of load shedding in the villages. The entire life cycle of people there is now regulated by the cycle of load shedding. They need to water their farms in the night, as during day time there is no electricity for them to use.

Power in Mumbai is wasted because, they can afford to waste it, they know it has an UPS. In similar logic none of the metros should suffer, but this does not happen. All others except Mumbai suffer.

And what happens in Mumbai, huge billboards, flashing the products of corporate houses are lighted through the night. Why the hell should other common people suffer, in distant lands, so that the corporates can show off their products in the night time. Having the billboards itself is an eyesore across the city. A billboard bathing in flood lights is like poking the eyesore. Just shut the lights off the billboards. This is sheer lavish way of spending the sparse energy way we have. Another similar phenomena is the lighting that is put up on the hotels and shops and the neon signs on the building. Needless to say are the customers moths, who go to neon-lighted stores? And during Diwali and New Year times this particular phenomena reaches the peak. Just get over it.

And the ACs. They say 40% of the total power is consumed by the ACs. Most of the office buildings are dotted with ACs. The more you have better it is supposed to be. Are they must? Throughout the year? Maybe sometimes the heat is unbearable but isn’t weather in Mumbai ever good enough that we can just survive on humble old ceiling fan? Many of the so called modern constructions, especially buildings with glass faces are worst of the lot. They just lock the heat, making it a green house, which makes it harder to cool adding to the energy woes. This might be a good design for the Europeans and Americans but for us is it? Since the Europeans were tie and coat, we also do, and it is considered to be elite. Whether it suits our weather conditions or not is another issue altogether, about which few bother…

The centralized AC does not provide any flexibility to the end users, whether they want such conditioned air or not. It is just imposed upon them. The temperature is kept less than what you would find comfortable at 17 or 18 C. Then people who are working inside wear warm clothes; sweaters, jackets, caps and all the woollens. Is this rational? First you cool the place, so much that it becomes unbearably cold, then you put on clothes to get warm again! I was told that at an elite academic institute, the temperatures are so low, that users had to put electrical heaters, below their chairs, in order to be able to work, apart from the woollens and jackets!!

Mighty Magnificent Malls…

They say that so-so mall is the largest in Asia. This one has so-so features, this one has so many stores blah blah blah… To tell you the truth, all the malls I have visited across the country look the same to me. I mean from outside they may have varied designs, but from inside they are all the same. And why shouldn’t they be, they all serve just one purpose. Selling. And selling to you. In this case the form differs [at least externally], but the function remains the same. And what do these offer. Well almost all the malls offer the same things. They are statistically similar objects. I mean here and there, there will be variations, but on an average, they are all the same. They are also same for another reason, they are the most obscene wastage of scanty electrical power that we have. The entire mall is air-conditioned, they tell you! What the efff? Just think about how much power must be fed to the AC plant to cool such a huge place. And that too for what? So that some shopkeepers [mostly corporates] can sell their stuff to you! And you are paying the price, by purchasing the items in the mall. Why can’t they just keep the shops, air conditioned, that will surely save a lot of energy. Why the hell do you need the corridors, open spaces and the toilets air conditioned? Then they have escalators too. Are all of us too old to climb a few stairs? The normal stairs are hidden somewhere in the huge complex of the magnificent mall. So that they make it a point that you have to use the escalators!
One of the ways in which this can be salvaged somehow is that, each mall must keep one day in a week off. This will surely take some load off the main line.

Another point that I want to make is the sports matches. Why cannot we have all the matches in broad daylight? I think daylight, on a normal cloudless day is good enough for any sport. Are the players afraid of getting sun tan? I don’t think so. Just to fill coffers of a few, we are again spending our precious electrical energy on these activities, which can be easily avoided.

Smarter buildings and homes…

We now live in a digital society. By that I mean almost all of us are surrounded by electronic devices. Even if you think you are not a tech freak, which I am, just count the number of electronic devices you use daily. It can be cell phone, a music player, a digital camera, a handy cam, a computer, a laptop. The list will be different for you, but the same story is repeated almost with everyone. Now when you have so many devices, they need power to work. Alright most of them have a rechargeable set of batteries, which you can charge and use. And then for each of these devices, you have an adapter, which you have to put in the mains to use. The mains in India is at 230 V AC, most of the devices, that I use at least, are working at much lower DC voltages 3, 5, 9 and 12 V being the common ones. The adapters covert the AC of the mains line to DC. This is basically a step down transformer with a bridge rectifier. Now what happens to the excess power from the mains? This is just lost as heat to the ambient! How hot does your charger get at times? Now that we have so many devices which require DC power supply, won’t it be a logical solution to provide for a DC power line also. This will save so much power from the mains, being just used to heat the adapter. The power requirement [read wattage] of the DC line won’t be high. So this need not be even provided by the state. One can have independent inputs for each building. Fixing solar panelson the terrace, and then driving the DC line through these panels will an effective way. The new buildings that are coming up, can be made mandatory to have this structure. This will achieve two goals, as I see it. First one, it will make the load on the main line, by at least some amount. If you just take the cell phones, they say there are more than 10 crore of them in India. Each one of them charges the other day, and this continues throughout the year. Even with a small wattage requirement for charging of just one cell phone, when scaled to a national level, the number is rather large. And then we say we don’t have enough power. The second one is that it will make the users independent producers of their own power. The initial cost maybe high, but in the long run, this will certainly pay off.

 Some of the chargers, adapters that I have.

Apart from devices mentioned above, don’t think that your regular desktop computer is not wasting any power. Any regular desktop has a SMPS [Switched Mode Power Supply]. These are really devices which are the adapters for your desktop. They take in 230 V AC and convert it to 12 and 5 V DC supply. With CRT monitors it was almost impossible to have a complete DC system for desktop computers. But now with LCD and LED monitors, we can have a complete DC machine architecture. When you are using the normal UPS on a desktop machine, you are triply wasting power. First when you are converting 230 V AC to the 12 V DC in the battery [most of the UPS that I have seen have a12 V DC battery] in the UPS batteries. Secondly when the mains is off you are coverting 12 V DC  into 230 V AC. Thirdly then you again convert this 230 V AC, which you have just now converted from a 12 V DC, to 5 and 12 V DC. Great! And this is how you want to achieve efficiency. Simple solutions to basic problems like these can cause a lot of energy to be saved…

Now I will divulge a bit from what I have said till now. Now the theme is a bit different…

The Problem of Vidharbha…

I come from Vidharbha, the land in the central part of India. The Eastern part of Maharastra. And also the powerhouse for the state. Most of the thermal power plants are in Vidharbha. The plight of people here is the worst. With so many power plants around, the region still faces acute shortage of power. The reason, the rest of the state has to be supplied the power. And mind you most of the ministers of the state are not from Vidharbha, so the people here are in the bottom of the priority list. Just remember the suicide of the farmers and what the state has done about it.
In my last visit I could see a paradoxical situation, which has been etched on my mind. I saw a thermal power plant, burning all its coal, giving out all its steam, producing all its electricity and transfering it all to the main power lines. But… But from where I was standing and watching this huge power plant fully in operation, there was no power. The load shedding was ON. The irony was that one could watch the power being generated in the plant, but it was not for the people whose land, air and water were polluted, it was for the elite people in the West…