Wednesday, May 1, 2013

V.K Gaur On Earthquake Research, Jaitapur Seismic Risk And Role Of Scientists

The Hindu carried an interview with Vinod Kumar Gaur, seismologist with the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation. His work on the seisimic risk at Jaitapur southern Maharashtra where a nuclear power plant has been proposed was criticized by the Indian government and his colleague Roger Bilham denied entry into India on the grounds that he violated the terms of his tourist visa. I share the suspicion of many that the Indian government is too sensitive and insecure about anyone raising questions about nuclear safety and reacted pettily by banning Dr. Bilham.

Some excerpts:

You have been vocal in your scepticism of Jaitapur as the location for a proposed 10,000 MW nuclear power plant...

Not for the construction of the plant, which can be designed with safety features. But India’s western coast, a well-recognised zone of potential seismic vulnerabilities, is likely laced with ancient faultlines buried under sediments and waiting to spring back like a piano accordion under continental compression. It is intriguing that Jaitapur [on the Maharashtra coast], the chosen site for the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, should have been declared seismically safe without refuting these possibilities.

My concern is that the various geological proxies of faultlines around Jaitapur and their possible implications on the plant and public safety have been neither adequately studied nor communicated. A clear picture of Jaitapur’s vulnerabilities and their quantification, needed in order to calculate the level of safety measures to be incorporated, is missing from the earthquake hazard assessment of the site. 

What, in your opinion, prevents a more thorough safety analysis of Jaitapur?

We have every technological possibility to exhaustively investigate the subsurface geology of Jaitapur including high resolution seismic imaging that can be carried out at a fraction of the project cost.

Scientists tend to downplay earthquake risks. It is convenient to do so. You keep everybody happy when you maintain status quo. But science only grows by addressing challenges, by considering alternative views and designing incisive experiments to prove or refute conjectures.

 and he has some harsh words about the lack of outreach role played by Indian scientists.

....Sadly, our scientific culture lacks responsibility and rigour towards public safety, and so denies society the advantage of information, and consequently resilience, against the natural disaster.

Read the full interview here.

My previous posts on this topic:

1) Politics And Pettiness In Indian Seismology
2) Note To Indian Govt: It Is Pointless Banning Seismologist Roger Bilham


  1. Scientific growth in India is inhibited by this very deep rooted politics....same applies to academics and research, so how will public safety be addressed at all in the first place. More people should be reading about what you have posted.

  2. regarding politics in academia, I remember my days with Pune University.. as you also must :)