Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 5:
Despite perceptions to the contrary, India needs to accelerate the growth of nuclear power to minimize the threat of energy security and environmental impacts, said SK Malhotra, nuclear scientist in the Department of Atomic Energy, Mumbai at the two-day National Workshop on ‘Development of Nanomaterials for Energy, Environment and Sustainability’ at the SOA University in the Odisha capital today.
“If India is to be counted as a developed country, its per capita electricity consumption should rise from 800 kWh (kilowatt-hour) to 5,000 kWh by the middle of the current century which meant that the installed capacity should go up by eight to ten times from the present 200 GWe (Gigawatt) to 1350 GWe. India, for many decades to come, would continue to depend upon fossil resources—mostly coal, for power generation which required that three major issues needed to be tackled: its availability, greenhouse gas emission and pollution”, Malhotra noted.
Arguing that nuclear energy was the answer to the problem, he said the perception that nuclear power was not safe and had an adverse impact on the environment stemmed from memories and stories about the Three Miles Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, but statistical evidence corroborated the fact that nuclear energy was one of the safest method of large scale power generation.
“With around 440 reactors in operation, the world had about 15,000 reactor years of operation with only three major accidents with minimum fatalities,” he said.
“It is also not true that only India was pursuing nuclear energy generation while others had given up,” Malhotra said, adding several developing countries were shifting to nuclear power with China alone building 26 nuclear power reactors.
Malhotra, who is the Head of DAE’s Public Awareness Division, said those who thought that the cost for generating nuclear power was prohibitive were off the mark. “Nuclear power is cost competitive and the power tariff also reduces with time.”
In future, when carbon tax becomes a reality, nuclear energy would become one of the cheapest sources of electricity, he said.
Besides, nuclear waste had a relatively low volume and viable technology was available for long term management of the same ensuring that it was isolated from public domain.
It was also a misnomer that radiation from nuclear reactors had been causing cancer in workers and people in the vicinity of the reactor as also genetic disorder in future generations, Malhotra said.
“The fact is that 45 years of commercial nuclear power in India and over 50 years in the world have not indicated any increase in cancer occurrence in populations around nuclear power plants. There has also been no evidence of such disorders even among the next generation of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said.
The workshop was organized by the University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CNSNT) located at the ITER, its faculty of engineering, in collaboration with the Heavy Water Board, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Scientists and experts from IIT, Chennai, IIT, Kharagpur, IIT, Guwahati, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, Heavy Water Board, Mumbai, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), Mumbai participated in the conclave.