Here’s Why We Must Say NO To Nuclear Energy In India

By Sweety Sinha:

Energy has been synonymous with development. No development plan can achieve its full potential without proper backing and supply of energy. India, as a growing superpower, needs a secure supply of energy to keep pace with its developmental program. Owing to its huge energy demands, conventional options do not suffice and India has to rely heavily on its nuclear potentials. At present, India’s nuclear power production is the fourth largest contributor to its energy needs. India targets to increase nuclear power output to 64,000MW by 2030. It aims to supply 25% of the electricity supply from nuclear power by 2050. But the evolution of India’s nuclear position has been under scrutiny as it has major loopholes.

nuclear plant

There is a long standing debate on development versus environment. The advancement of nuclear energy should follow the sustainable development model. The radiations released from the nuclear plant stay suspended in the environment for years and it undoubtedly causes health hazards to the population living in its vicinity. The flora and fauna of the region are affected by the high radio activity.

Opinion is also divided where a few think that nuclear energy undercuts the possibilities for growth and investment. India has limited resources and a large population below the poverty line. As such, we can ill afford to carry out a disproportionate level of investment for nuclear energy as it is very expensive. Nuclear reactors are very expensive and their maintenance is a financial strain. There is also huge cost involved in developing and researching a nuclear program. Uranium is available in abundance at present, but it is non-renewable and nuclear power has to develop other alternatives.

The safety precautions for the production of nuclear energy are limited in India. There are high risks involved in mining, storing and processing the nuclear materials. The radioactive residual, if not safely disposed, has the capacity to eliminate masses. It is claimed to be clean and safe but India does not have access to advance technology and lacks expertise to handle any unforeseen crisis. In fact, potentials for nuclear waste management are also very underdeveloped.

When in 1974, India went for ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ purely for civilian needs, it was little known that within a few years we will attain a NWS status. It implies that civilian and military use of nuclear power is interlinked and cannot be distinguished. In a society like India, where there is so much unrest, nuclear power is a risk. Primarily, because it is under the supervision of the prime minister and is guarded from any legislative surveillance. There is no accountability involved. Moreover, the risk of nuclear power falling into the hands of terrorists and non state actors is immense. This will raise huge security concern.

All this safety concerns raise the issue that India has a vast potential to exploit the renewable sources of energy. It has a vast coastline where it can tap wind energy. The domain to exploit solar energy and hydro power is also immense. It is easily available and cost effective. India can definitely reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and make use of its potential rather that depending on a disastrous and murkier nuclear power. The policy makers need to evolve a more sustainable plan of action that is environmental and community friendly.

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5 Responses

  1. Utkarsh Bhatt

    Nuclear power is cleaner and safer than anything else right now.

    There is nothing else that can change the entire energy landscape for the better in 3-5 years other than nuclear energy. No other technology can provide the capacity that nuclear can. The renewables just aren’t there when it comes to cost for current technology, or can’t supply the capacity required.

    Nuclear power is the cleanest and safest form of energy that humans have ever created. There have been three nuclear plant accidents in the entire history of nuclear power. Chernobyl was a recipe for disaster all along, Three Mile Island incident was averted, and Fukushima wasn’t even preventable. If everyone in a nuclear plant just got up and left one day, there are so many dozens of fail-safes, that the plant would slowly shut itself down without a single problem.

    What’s ridiculous is that people don’t know how tight code on nuclear plants are. Nuclear power plants barely get any radiation out of them. You get more irradiated from eating bananas than nuclear power plants. Gradually changing everything to rely on nuclear power would make everyone happy. It’s good for the environment, it’s safe, and it would cut down our reliance on fossil fuels.

    It’s annoying that the science backs nuclear power as a clean solution, but these science literate activists oppose it while claiming the climate science high ground, because ‘nuclear’ is a naughty word. This is science hypocrisy at its finest. The newsletters and information they spread is all blatant fear mongering. They don’t even do a good job at it. They’ll show pictures of rare genetic mutations that occur naturally, but they’ll claim that it’s caused by nuclear power plants. They appeal to fear and emotion in order to create a boogeyman that is nuclear power. A quick search will give you reliable sources that completely destroy their claims.

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  2. Apurav

    International energy association in it 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 has clearly suggested that Nuclear energy is the safest of all energies. Killing per any accident is far lesser than any other sources conventional/unconventional the main, thing that people and you are concerned with is ‘Black Swan events’, which are/will never be predicted by anyone.

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  3. Raj

    My response to an earlier article with the same title

    I would like to respond to your points :

    - The amount of radioactive wastes that nuclear powerplants release is miniscule (per watt generated) compared to other conventional sources. Furthermore, it is localized. Unlike air/water pollution or greenshouse gases which dissapate, nuclear waste can be captured and stored easily.

    - You can come up with just 3 so-called nuke disasters i.e. Chernobyl , 3 Mile Island and Fukishima since nuclear energy started like 50+ years back. How many did these actually kill directly combined?
    And what is the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed 20K people directly? The Bhopal Gas disaster which had nothing to do with nuclear waste.
    Indirectly, Chernobyl did kill many people because the collapsing Soviet Union sent in disaster management people without any protective gear. Today things are much better and safer.
    But Indirectly, air pollution, mining accidents have killed far more than (per watt generated) over the last 50+ years

    - Regarding costs, yes it is currently more but exorbitantly huge. But as we scale up and improve technologies, it will come down. This is akin to costs of machines going down which allowed the decline of human and even animal slavery. Imagine the amount of horsedung we would have if we replaced all the cars with their horse-power equivalent number of horses.

    - India has a huge amount of Thorium and we can import more Uranuim if we want. Thanks to the Cold War, there are tons of purified uranium with USA and former USSR and they are best diluted and used for powerplants

    - People living closer to coal plants and industries are at a far higher risk of cancer than nuclear power plants which are heavily monitored for dangerous radiation and also their wastes are very carefully disposed off. It is unfair to have crazy high standards for nuclear energy but lax standards for everyone else. But even then the nuclear industry meets these standards.

    - Solar is a very weak form of energy because even at 100% efficiency you can’t get more than the irradiance amount . Not to mention the costs involved in making these panels. But its good as a supplementary source
    - Wind is also weak, erratic and localized. But its good as a supplementary source
    - Hydro is powerful , but it isnt a great idea in a densely populated country due to the displacement involved,.

    Benefits of nuclear energy :
    - Abundance of fuel in the form of ultra-pure weapons grade uranium and plutonium. Not to mention large quantities of thorium and other ores.
    - 1 Kg of weapons grade uranium yields two to three million (yes that’s million!) times the energy from 1 Kg of coal or oil. And there are currently 2 million Kgs of that in the world lying in warheads, power plants, submarines etc. You can’t ignore this huge pile of fuel.
    - Nuclear energy cycle is inherently unstable and burns out out if not properly regulated. Since the fuel is quite diluted, it can not lead to a nuclear explosion like Hiroshima . And even if do put weapons grade in a nuclear reactor , it STILL won’t blow up. In order to have a nuclear explosion you need to have a very controlled explosion which compresses the nuclear material from all sides very rapidly and very precisely. All nuclear power plant accidents have been steam explosions , not nuclear explosions.
    On the contrary, coal and oil are inherently unstable since they like to burn themselves.
    - Nuclear powerplants aren’t very different from coal powerplants. In both of them there is some “thing” that heats water , makes it into steam, and the steam turns the turbines which generates electricity. Only the “burning coal” part is replaced a more sophisticated and somewhat expensive nuclear fuel rod assembly. But the vast majority of the powerplant is pretty much the same for both coal and nuclear types.
    What actually raises the cost is the vastly advanced safety standards that nuclear powerplants must adhere to and which coal doesn’t need to. Coal power wont be so cheap if you apply the same standards.
    - Potential for nuclear fusion which will allow for generating far more energy without the radioactive wastes

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