Why Is India Stepping On The Nuclear Bandwagon?

Posted on June 18, 2011 in Specials

By Srishti Chauhan:

Post independence, India faced extreme power shortage. With urbanization and industrialization reaching new highs of growth rate, the electricity shortage is seen as a factor inducing condensing economic growth.

As we know, Gurgaon, in Haryana, is the new industrial hub of National Capital Region (NCR). There are numerous offices of Multinational Corporations located in this part of Haryana. In this region alone, the estimated gap between demand and supply hovers around 20%.

And this is only the tip of the ice berg.

According to the Planning Commission of India, 600 million people – roughly half the population – are off the electricity grid. An indicator of the same is Tata Consultancy Services, which maintains 5 giant generators supported by a 20,000-liter tank of diesel.

The question that naturally arises is that if India is facing such acute shortage of power then why are our resources not being directed to increase power production? Actually, they are! Post the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), India has decided to step on the nuclear bandwagon to produce power.

It will be a question that many people must have already raised post the Japan mega disaster. However, the issue that needs to be addressed here is far more complex and widespread than it may seem at first sight.

India produces Wind power, Hydroelectricity, thermal energy and biomass energy. The most important of these is coal which conceives power contributing to more than 65% of the total production. Realizing quantity constraints, the government of India searched for alternatives.

With holes in ozone layer and climatic change, nuclear energy seemed a consequential decision. Pollution free by superficial disposition, it is being considered the energy for the future!

However, some questions remain unanswered and some queries remain unresolved. Firstly, there are no facilities through which nuclear waste can be disposed off permanently. In India where more than 50% of the GDP comes from agriculture, environmental issues are an apex concern. This is the reason why it is called ‘Pollution free by superficial disposition’. The detrimental effects are veiled behind tremendous optimism.

A perpetual terrorist target – India should be wary of destructive weapons that can be manufactured from nuclear waste. As it is, the safety controls of the country are nothing that we can boast about. With nuclear power plants all over the country, making a bomb would be as easy as buying a loaf of bread from the nearby grocery store.

Nuclear energy generation thrives on uranium and thorium. Uranium deposits are modest. Experts concluded no matter how efficient the reactor, potential for power generation using uranium shall remain low. Consequently, the whole thrust has been on thorium- the reserves of which are not boundless either.

Fourthly since India’s exclusion from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty no exchange of technology has taken place. Experts voice concern over usage of outdated technology and infrastructure.

The choice of sites for the plants have been catastrophic. Most sites are earthquake or tsunami prone.
An example of this is the Jaitapur in Maharashtra which has experienced 92 earthquakes in 20 years and lies in Zone 3 seismically. It is perhaps this that provoked Commerzbank- the German bank to back out of the project citing “sustainability and reputational risk” involved.

Moreover, the scope of nuclear power seems to be over-estimated. As per Leena Srivastava executive director of the Energy and Resources Institute, a research group, “Even if the deal goes through, it would lift nuclear power, now at 3 percent, to no more than 9 percent of India’s energy supply.”

A survey of 2860 people living on the periphery of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station showed the following:

  • A bizarre rise in congenital deformities
  • A significantly higher incidence of spontaneous abortions and still births
  • An increase in chronic diseases
  • More cancer patients and cancer deaths in villages near the plant
  • A difference of more than 11 years in the average age of people who had died from one year to the next

Seems like the Indian government has some facts to check and some measures to adopt!

Img: http://www.pravasitoday.com/all-about-jaitapur-nuclear-power-plant