Editor's Note

Power Watch India - - NEWS -

The ba­sic prob­lem with nu­clear power plants is that even af­ter tak­ing into ac­count known prob­a­bil­i­ties of fail­ure in the de­sign stage it­self, there can still be an in­ci­dence which has not been thought about or is over­looked. The price paid for such ig­no­rance is so high that it may not jus­tify go­ing in for nu­clear power at all. Thus even af­ter half a cen­tury of safe op­er­a­tion of nu­clear re­ac­tors and power plants, peo­ple are still not ready to ac­cept nu­clear energy on a large scale, for power gen­er­a­tion.

The con­fi­dence of the world in N-power was shaken af­ter the Fukushima in­ci­dence in Ja­pan. Events such as these were be­yond imag­i­na­tion though the N-plants were de­signed to with­stand high in­ten­sity earth­quakes. The risk is still higher when such plants are es­tab­lished in coun­tries with no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of nu­clear re­ac­tors. In­dia is not a mem­ber of In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency. De­vel­op­ment of the nu­clear in­dus­try is im­pos­si­ble with­out ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of the gov­ern­ment of the re­spec­tive coun­try. Leg­is­la­tors and reg­u­la­tors have to agree and ex­e­cute in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal agree­ments for peace­ful use of N-energy. Gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment agree­ments are re­quired to take care of pro­ject fund­ing since the in­vest­ments are very large. Nu­clear power plant com­mis­sion­ing takes a min­i­mum of about 8 to 10 years from the ini­tial con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion stage, if all other is­sues are set­tled in time.

In ad­di­tion to USA, France and Rus­sia now Ja­pan has de­cided to sup­ply nu­clear power plants to com­mer­cially ex­ploit the mar­ket. It has asked In­dia for a ded­i­cated N-re­ac­tor site in­di­cat­ing that it is keen to be a sup­plier for build­ing nu­clear power plants. It is re­ported that In­dia is giv­ing con­tracts for six re­ac­tors each to US-based com­pa­nies GE and West­ing­house to set up plants in Gu­jarat and Andhra Pradesh. The Union Cab­i­net has given per­mis­sion to set up two 700 MW units at Kaiga in Kar­nataka. Presently Rus­sia is work­ing in close co-op­er­a­tion with NPCIL for Ku­danku­lam Unit 1 & 2. Agree­ment for Units 3 and 4 at Ku­danku­lam is yet to be ex­e­cuted. Rus­sia is al­ready sup­ply­ing fuel for the ther­mal nu­clear plants in­clud­ing Tara­pur in Ma­ha­rash­tra. Rosatom is ex­pect­ing to get an or­der for new fast breeder re­ac­tors at Ku­danku­lam power sta­tion. The de­mand how­ever is higher for smaller size units since grids in most de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are small. Rus­sia is also sup­ply­ing float­ing nu­clear power plants for ships. These power plants have a shorter life of about 10 years. Trans­porta­tion, re­pro­cess­ing of spent fuel and load­ing/un­load­ing of fuel to these lo­ca­tions is a chal­lenge. The cost of elec­tric­ity from such plants is about Rs 7 per kwh.

The share of nu­clear energy in the world is com­ing down and share of RE is in­creas­ing. To­day the share of nu­clear is about 11% of to­tal ca­pac­ity while 12 years back it was about 17 % of to­tal ca­pac­ity. Over 60% of the world’s new re­ac­tors are be­ing con­structed in BRICS coun­tries. How­ever, whether nu­clear power will be able to com­pete with RE is still a ques­tion.

Jayant D Kulka­rni

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