DOES INDIA NEED NUCLEAR POWER IN A BIG WAY ?
The advent of nuclear power can be traced to twentieth century since the discovery of radioactive elements. The high amount of energy radiated by these elements has widened the horizon of experiments carried out by physicists. Since 1930’s experiments were carried out to harness nuclear power. The first nuclear reactor was designed and operated by United States of America in 1950.
First and Foremost the methodology of nuclear power generation has to be explored to assess the pros and cons of huge scale investments in nuclear power, for an emerging global power like India. The basic principle of nuclear power generation is , turbines are rotated by the steam produced when fresh water is heated by the nuclear reactor which consists of uranium fuel rods. The mechanical energy is thus converted to electrical energy . Sustained nuclear fission takes places in the nuclear reactor , where the fission of one nucleus leads to a chain of reactions . In the present scenario 0.7 % enriched uranium U-235 is used as fuel rods. The lifetime of these fuel rods is 3 operational cycles or 6 years. Uranium is a widely abundant radioactive element on earth’s crust , it is 40 times greater than the availability of silver. The types of nuclear reactors are :- 1) Light water reactor which uses a rare isotope of uranium U-235, 2) Fast breeder which requires uranium-238 . India has sparse amounts of U-235 due to which dependence on imports for this isotope of uranium is unavoidable. The availability of technology for building designing, operation and maintenance of light water reactors, which requires this rare isotope of uranium , is a cause of serious concern for a country like us .
This paves way to increase the burden of high costs in nuclear power for India. The costs of nuclear power depends heavily on the construction of nuclear power plant , the effect of fuel cost is very much marginal approximately 7% of the total .
In comparison with the other means of power generation like fossil fuels , natural gas etc. the large fuel price escalation in nuclear power has little effects on final price . Considering this factor nuclear power is highly recommended if at all the costs of imports can be reduced. The carbon emission is also low compared to fossil fuels. As a country which strongly desires to maintain low carbon foot prints nuclear energy provides suitable alternative as clean energy.
The technologies and material required for setting up a nuclear power plant has dual use and capability to create nuclear weapons. Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an agreement to prevent such harmful consequences. India has been out of Non Proliferation Treaty subsequently trading of fuels suffered ,the low reserves of fuel lead to decline in nuclear power generation by 12.8% from 2006 to 2008 . In order to reduce the dependence on the rare isotope of uranium , the usage of other radioactive materials like thorium which is used in fusion cycle should be considered as alternative fuels. The availability of large quantity of thorium in India is a motivating factor behind this suggestion .
Power Infrastructure plays a crucial role as backbone to all other industries . Therefore to achieve double digit GDP , India should step up investments in power generation and operate all it’s power plants to the maximum Plant load Factor(PLF). In these circumstances nuclear power presents itself as a viable option , in case the fuel prices are under control.
The technology of designing and building nuclear power plants for fusion cycle is still not widespread. Scientists , physicists and engineers should be encouraged to channelize their work for building such power plants . At present 4780 MW nuclear energy is being produced by the 20 nuclear power reactors across the country , to reach the target of 20,000MWe , emphasis should be given to domestic mining of fuels. The discovery of 44,000 tonnes of natural uranium (U-308) in Tummallapalle belt of Andhra Pradesh is a major boost in the field of mining for nuclear fuels. Proactive research on nuclear power which depends much less on fuels imported and waste disposal of radioactive material should be highly prioritized. The radioactive emissions of the waste generated from nuclear power plants is of major concern for populous country like India . Necessary precautions like treatment of waste prior to the disposal should be undertaken while planning for the setup of nuclear power plant.
It has been proven that the extreme variations in temperature and drought conditions which cause fresh water shortage, effect the nuclear power generation. To embrace such circumstances , countries like India should utilize their vast coastal belt, as they have less variations in temperatures, to construct nuclear power plants .
The Chernobyl disaster (1986) and Fukushima-Daichii plant (March 2011) caused by Tsunami are the major disasters , these present a highly pessimistic view to the inclusion of the nuclear power while planning for alternative energy sources. It lead to rethinking of nuclear power programmes by International Energy Agency , Germany concluded to close all its nuclear reactors by 2020 and Japan is scrapping up it’s previous strategy on nuclear power.
However , considering all the disasters caused by all types of power plants in globe , fewer deaths have been witnessed in case of nuclear energy. These happenings occurred either through human error or through natural calamities. It is also impossible for a nuclear plant to explode like nuclear bomb. Timely planning and correct execution of the nuclear power programme in a massive scale, while undertaking all the security measures serves the very purpose of satiating the power deficiency in India.
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India and Nuclear Energy
The entire world is running out of fuel day by day. Enormous efforts have been made by renowned scientists in search of alternative source other than fossil fuels to feed the locomotives.
But none of those ideas have favoured the humankind in full measure. Still nothing can compensate for the depletion of fossil fuels. Like all other natural resources, nuclear energy is an invaluable gift of God. The credit for the blending of nuclear resources to the livelihood of a common man is bagged up by the chauvinist-cum-curious attitude of belligerent folks.
On analysing the chronology of nuclear energy, we find that several human brains were meticulously involved in changing this moonshine energy, as described by Ernest Rutherford, who was better known as father of nuclear physics, to reality.
Whenever the evolution of mankind is questioned or investigated, world uses to quote such transformation with this ideology7 “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Things and stuff which are so mandatory, come under the category of needs. But in the case of nuclear energy, this ideology fails. Almost at the cusp of World War II, several governments, i.e. precisely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Soviet Union were ready to extend warm hands and hearts to develop nuclear energy just to amass wealth and to generate woe among foes without envisaging that this kind of attitude will ruin their own wisdom.
Attitude to dominate others introduced the evil face of nuclear energy to the world. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the very first victims of nuclear energy. Recently, Iran was targeted by the USA just because of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has been turned into a sign of prestige and superiority. It even decides the status of a country among world nations. The term nuclear energy became familiar in the streets of India only after 1956.
India’s first Nuclear Reactor was Apsara. It was also the first nuclear reactor in Asia. Apsara went critical at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay on August 4, 1956. It heralded the arrival of India’s nuclear energy programme. Dr. Homi Bhabha, who was better known as father of Indian nuclear programme, conceptualised the design of the reactor. It was an indigenous project being
built by the passion, sweat and dedicated work of the Indian scientist in a record time of 15 months. Our former prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru named the reactor Apsara which literally refers to divine and celestial beauty.
Later on, India experienced benefits from various nuclear reactors assisted by world nations, especially Canada, USA and Russia. Besides assistance, agreements which would ensure the usage of nuclear energy for comforting the mankind and not to build coffins were monitored with utmost care. Such agreements are RAPP-1, signed in 1963, and followed by RAPP-2 in 1966. These reactors contained rigid safeguards to ensure that they would not be used for a military programme. ‘The United States and Canada terminated their assistance after the detonation of India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974.
1974 marked a watershed in India’s scientific heights. It is very apt to say that developments and dangers are twins. India is a not an exceptional example in this case. Pokhran I coded as “the smiling Buddha”, scripted our nation’s name in the list of nuclear weapon-possessing countries. This was also the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. A knife can be used to cut vegetables and may serve as a kitchen utensil but it may be used to kill fellow folks. Nuclear energy’satisfies the above-mentioned purpose. Officially, Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MoEA) claims this test as peaceful nuclear explosion, but it was also a part of an accelerated nuclear programme. The weapon yield remains uncertain, with estimates of up to eight kilo tonnes. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on its website claimed that the smiling Buddha nuclear test may have only been partially successful. As a matter of fact, these conclusions have no evidence but express only envy.
The soils and sacredness of the Rajasthan once again experienced nuclear test in 1998. It was Pokhran II which earned pride and fear from world nations. It consisted of five detonations, of which the first was a fusion bomb and the remaining four were fission bombs. These nuclear tests resulted in a variety of sanctions against India by a number of major countries, including Japan and the United States.
India has even refused to go in accord with Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This Treaty refers to a network costing one. billion dollars, which is more precisely in Indian value Rs. 6,000 crore to monitor the nuclear test all over the world.
Since 1945, about 2,000 nuclear bomb tests have been conducted by the global powers, with India having conducted two sets of nuclear explosions in 1974 and 1998. China has conducted 45 nuclear bomb tests, the USA more than a thousand. Comparing and analysing all these strategies, India’s venture in nuclear weapon test was not a big deal. India has even declared unilateral moratorium regarding nuclear test after 1998 Pokhran II.
Nehruji clearly explained India’s nuclear policy in these words : “We must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war—indeed I think, we must develop it for the purpose of using it for peaceful purposes. …Of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, possibly no pious sentiments of any of us will stop the nation from using it that way”. Border agitations and terrorist ventures strengthen the above-mentioned policy to a great extent.
Electricity has been an integral part of the day-to-day life. Fourth largest source of electricity in India is the nuclear energy. As of 2012, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants generating 4,780 MW while seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 MW To a common man in street, nuclear energy symbolises revolts, disputes, people’s unrest, revolutions rather than developments in science.
Kudankulam is one among the breaking news in the past 12 years. It has been a keyword for several vibrant social activists. Fukushima disaster added fuel to the fire. It is not fair to deny the hazardous effects of nuclear programme. Several sources and even our former prime minister had blamed the American and Scandinavian NGO’s for instilling the anti-nuclear strategy among the local inhabitants as the project is a Russian collaboration. Rs. 8,68,000 crore, precisely the sweat and hard work of Indians, are invested in the Kudankulam project. Digging well is not a matter of task, but we should ensure whether it serves to pacify the people’s
thirst or it engulfs people and returns them as corpses.
Before the Fukushima disaster, 54 nuclear reactors provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity. The Japanese government had planned on increasing that amount to 50 percent by 2030 with two new reactors that were under construction, 12 more planned reactors, and a used-fuel management strategy that included recycling used nuclear fuel, which was in the near-final stage of implementation. Today, only 11 reactors remain in operation, with work halted on other projects. Whereas in India, nuclear energy’s contribution to our electricity needs is just 10 percent. Effective and instantaneous rehabilitation measures and safety strategy should be provided to the local inhabitants. This aspect is quite ridiculous attempt in India, where we can witness ample number of scams and scandals. This at sixes and seven States can wipe out the entire population if we receive a bolt of lightning, which lack perfect administration with instantaneous actions.
The future of the present government’s efforts towards the civilian nuclear agreements is yet another strategy’ which will design the destiny of our nation. As, these are just in planning phase, let time and actions decide the fate.
The entire pool of scholars and scientists was puzzled about the disposal of nuclear waste in a harmless manner. Resources claim that India has about 80 to 100 nuclear weapons. Considerable number of nuclear weapons have been possessed by our neighbouring countries too. But India sticks to no-first-to-use policy which once again ensures the integrity and genuine attitude of our nation. The fate of the future generation is largely dependent on the nuclear weapons and energy. Our country’s GDP has to be propelled by a reasonable amount by the nuclear energy programmes.
For a nation like India, being a home to 125 crore people and being applauded as the world’s largest democratic nation, nuclear energy is a wise choice of power generation. Such a densely populated nation is too vulnerable. Our history and future do not want to encrypt another Chernobyl incident or Fukushima disaster. A perfect solution to all these conflicts is to seek a renewable energy source which is safe and secure also, i.e., wind energy, solar power, etc.