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An obsession with nuclear power makes many political elites secretive, ruthless and delusional, even as their cherished projects threaten millions of people with disaster. But the egregious examples I have in mind here aren’t Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. They are Japan and India, two countries with democratic institutions.

Last week in the south Indian city of Pondicherry, I met a friend who had managed to penetrate the security lockdown around Kudankulam, the Russian-built nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu that began partial operations late last month despite strong protests from local villagers.

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