Saturday, April 30, 2011

Energy Security - Nuclear Energy:The Worst Option

While the advanced countries on this globe are working towards abandoning the nuclear energy options, we in India true to our tag of third world nation are going gaga  over nuclear energy options. Surprisingly our policy makers very conveniently prefer to close their eyes to 3 mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Dai-ichi disasters. The nation is constantly being fed on half baked truth of Nuclear Energy as the only viable Energy Security available and the accompanying safety concerns are being underplayed. By selling nuclear energy plants to India, the US and French presidents may be guilty of working against the humanity but they are certainly working in the best interests of their countries.Through these sales they are ensuring extra jobs to their countrymen, earning huge  amounts from investments made by their countries in the fields of infrastructure and technologies for nuclear plant engineering in sixties and seventies of last century as also making these huge funds so earned available for research and technology development in solar and wind power sectors which will enable them to retain their status as world leaders even in the upcoming field of renewable energy science, engineering and technology. But why are our leaders, policy makers and technocrats helping them out in realising their goals? Why are they ignoring what these advanced countries are doing for their own energy security during the coming decades?
Let us do a little bit of fact finding regarding status of nuclear energy programs of these advanced countries.
  • In USA during the last 25 years no new additions have been made to nuclear energy. During the same period they have added about 80000 mw of wind and solar power and as an endeavour to have more and more of clean energy, huge sums are being allocated to these energy sectors to replace conventional thermal power plants in spite of a very powerful nuclear lobby.
  • France is perhaps the only country which has been increasing its dependence on nuclear energy up to now. They are also feeling the heat of lagging behind in renewable energy which is the most sought after and viable technology on a major part of our globe.
  • Germany is going ahead with the complete phasing out of nuclear power by 2022 simultaneously aiming to boost electricity generation from non polluting sources like wind and solar to 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 from less than 20% now.
  • South Africa is seriously thinking about not going ahead with proposed nuclear energy plants. Rather they think it will be wiser to invest in the new energy solutions i.e. renewable sources like wind and solar.
  • Japan has placed a moratorium on setting up of new reactors and are seriously reviewing all present installations.
  • China has an installed renewable energy capacity of  80000 mw ( wind and solar ) while they are aiming at about 40000 mw of nuclear power by 2015. Their priorities on energy sources are quite inevitable in their policies.
It is very clear that whole world including nuclear energy reactor designers and fabricators namely US and France are going slow with this much touted energy security solution. The reasons are not very difficult to apprehend when we go into the details of economy and problems of proliferation, nuclear waste management and safety concerns.Nuclear power plants come at an exorbitant cost of Rs 25 crores / mw and in fact this may escalate to about Rs 50 crores when measures for waste management, disaster compensation insurance and stringent safety norms likely to be imposed in the light of Japanese disaster are taken into account. In comparison wind, hydro and thermal power can be installed at a cost of about Rs 5-6 crore per mw and solar energy could be installed at Rs 16-20 crore per mw. Additionally nuclear power plants have a very long gestation period of 10-15 years and investment recovery period of 25-40 years.
The radioactive material is susceptible to thefts by or eventual sale to terrorists or international criminal organisations. The accidental release of radioactivity as a result of reactor accident, terrorist attack or as a consequence of some natural disaster can be catastrophic. The scientists and technocrats would like to say that chances of such an occurrence are 1 in a billion or a trillion but can they deny that such an occurrence could as well be the 1st one and the balance of (1 trillion - 1) occurrences can be catastrophe free.
The environment hazards arising as a result of nuclear power plants cannot be ignored. For India add to this the all time dependence for nuclear fuel on other countries rendering us prone to blackmail at the whims and fancies of these suppliers.
In the light of all this is it advisable to go in for this option when much better and safe options are available? Let wisdom and national interest prevail on our politicians and nuclear technocrat lobby so that we do not fall prey to US and French interests and in the bargain lose our chance of leading the world in the transition to renewable energy solutions. Let us make best use of our being backward in per capita energy consumption, for US, Europe and China combined together will not add or replace 8,00,000 mw which India is planning to add during the next decade or so.We have the opportunity of fine tuning wind and solar energy technologies and cut down their costs through development of large scale manufacturing facilities without having to bother about our earlier investments in any energy field becoming redundant and superfluous.