I DISAGREE with the contention of the Project Director of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project that the unit energy cost from this plant will be comparable with that of a thermal plant (EIA is done competently, June 18). State electricity boards may charge the same rates regardless of the source, but the costs of any nuclear power plant will be 75-80 per cent more than those of a thermal plant. The supercritical thermal power projects are estimated to cost Rs.4.5 crore to 5.5 crore per MW installed, whereas nuclear power stations will cost Rs.9 crore to Rs.10 crore per MW installed. Nuclear power will form at least 12-15 per cent of the product mix by 2020-25. But cost calculations should be done in a transparent way. It is said that maintenance costs will be low, but the cost of uranium has already shot up drastically and will continue to skyrocket owing to the demand-supply mismatch. We are still at an early stage of thorium technology. So cost control on the inputs is at least 15 years away.R. Rajagopal ChennaiUPA-II
THE Cover Story, was incisive and came as a wake-up call to the Prime Minister and the United Progressive Alliance chairperson (Little to celebrate, June 18).
A coalition government, especially one consisting of parties with divergent political outlooks, has to evolve a common minimum programme. The partial success of UPA-I was due to its CMP over which the Left parties exercised a close vigil. The absence of a CMP is the reason for the tardy performance of UPA-II, with each Minister having his or her own policy and way of governance.S.S. Rajagopalan Chennai
THE report card of the UPA government is not up to the mark owing to several reasons. Rampant surge of the prices of essential commodities has made the life of the common man difficult. Farmers are committing suicide in some parts of the country and the nation is facing a security crisis because of the Maoist movement. Pro-poor policies and good governance were the factors behind the UPA's return to power, but inclusive growth is yet to materialise.Surendra Kumar Yadav Gorakhpur Uttar PradeshAir crash
THE Vimana Nildhana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi struggled from the late 1980s until 2005 to stop the construction of the second runway at the Mangalore airport on the grounds that the proposed site failed to meet the basic standards of runway design and airport safety (Tragic touchdown, June 18).
It was too narrow and the proposed length of the runway did not make allowance for pilot error. The site was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides as well.
The Samithi proposed an alternative, to the north of the old runway, but the proposal was shot down because it would displace 70 influential families. Meanwhile, 300 families, mostly Dalit, were displaced to build the second runway. The Samithi petitioned the High Court of Karnataka twice and, subsequently, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court directed the authorities to build the runway in compliance with the norms. A proper inquiry will reveal who was involved in pushing through the construction of the runway in total violation of the basic norms and standards.Siddhartha Shankar Mishra Sambalpur, OrissaSynthetic cell
SYNTHESIS of complex organisms and the creation of new forms of life seem unlikely now, but such experiments give us an insight into new ways of building self-replicating one-cell organisms (Now, a synthetic cell, June 18). Many scientists believe that self-replicating bacteria (and other microbes) with artificial genomes could do more harm than good if they escaped our control. They will not just replicate but evolve, mutating rapidly. Nassim Taleb, professor at New York University, observes that giving fallible humans such powers is similar to giving a small child a bunch of explosives.H.N. Ramakrishna Michigan, U.S.ANNOUNCEMENT
Letters, whether by surface mail or e-mail, must carry the full postal address and the full name, or the name with initials.CORRECTION:
The capital of Nagaland is Kohima, not Dimapur as mentioned in the article on Assam Rifles ("Frontier force", June 18). The error made at the editing stage is regretted.
The total number of mercy petitions disposed of by the President during 1948-54 was 1,410, not 1,430 as given in the table accompanying the article on death penalty ("Justice or revenge?" June 4).