Monday, March 14, 2011

Rethinking Nuclear Power: The Bharat versus India problem

If city-living planners and decision makers of India do not have the guts to have Nuclear power plants in the suburbs, it is time to rethink the Nuclear power policy, don't you think?

The devastating Tsunami in Japan has caused 10,000 deaths (and counting) so far. It damaged Nuclear power reactors (Like France, Japan is heavily dependent upon Nuclear power). The authorities have shut down four reactors. 45,000 people living in the 10-kilometers radius of the Fukushima Nuclear reactor have had to evacuate their houses. There is a nationwide Nuclear Alert..

What the Indian Newspapers say about implications for India
The Mint Business Newspaper has a typical pro-business slant take about the implications for nuclear power in India. The paper abandons its normally sharp, to-the-point writing, and instead it writes a confusing piece that ends with this:

 ...There is always room for debate on the safety aspects of the subject and it has never ceased even when there have been no earthquakes around. What, however, is not evaluated dispassionately are the costs involved in giving up nuclear power in an age when hydrocarbon supplies are volatile and their prices even more so.
What the paper means is that big American or European companies are not interested in doing ground-breaking projects in renewable energy, where the margins may not be that rich (and that we are tired of lobbyists calling us up to put in a kind word about Nuclear energy).

The Indian Express does a quick FAQ about the safety of 20 Nuclear Power plants.
The plants here can withstand earthquakes up to 7 on the Richter scale (Japan quake measured 8.9 Richter).

So, no cause to worry? Actually, no.

The Japanese power plants were damaged by the surging Ocean waters.
How are our plants safe from terrorist attacks, sabotage, machine malfunction is a pretty big list.

The Daily News Analysis message board has a great comment.
It sums up the situation about Nuclear Power in India pretty well:

... Our only job, our unavoidable responsibility, our duty, is to repeal the nuclear liability law. Let us have a level playing field. No subsidy, no exemption of responsibility. Whoever can produce electricity safely and at an acceptable rate, by whatever means, will just do it. But if the nuclear industry does not trust its own technology to the point that it can't take responsibility for any damage they can cause, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It's not our job to solve their problem.

The Bharat vs. India problem
I think we will this issue becoming more important in the future as more Indians chooses to live in cities, and letting villages decay into the great Indian Wasteland, where all the effluent of the 'civilized' India goes to seed.

The villages don't get to enjoy the power produced by the polluting, land-hogging (forcefully bought/seized land) power plant in the neighborhood. The people of Kahalgaon in Bihar had to resort to street protests to get just a couple of hours of power from the huge NTPC Kehelgaon thermal power plant (2340 MW from 7 plants).

In India, they will drown towns so that the big cities get their electricity. Once there used to be a beautiful small town called Tehri that is under million of tons of water of the huge Tehri dam. Someone, somewhere always pays a price for your air-conditioner.

Who gets to face the aftermath case of a Nuclear fallout?
A list of things you should do when the rods start to melt: Shutting off air-conditioner fans, not going outside, covering the skin, wrapping wet towels around the face and buying some lead-lined clothing for those 'special' occasions.  (This is from an advisory from the authorities in Japan)

How long does an average nuclear fallout last? 
The Chernobyl area in Ukraine (the Chernobyl accident happened in 1986) is 'visitable' only now in 2011. Locals still debate the health-effects (E.g. more instances of thyroid, increased rates of cancer) from the 3-mile island reactor incident (United States) in 1979.

Soon, People from 'Bharat' will ask: If Cities want electricity, let them have Nuclear Reactors nearby.
Or, build any kind of 1000 megawatt Powerplant in your own locality. (A cynic will say that this will also solve our electricity transmission losses problem - we lose anything between 25-50% of electricity produced during transmission).

You want your power, Build it in your own backyard: This is what the people of Jaitapur Nuclear power plant want to tell the people (and the decision makers) of India.

Also read: 
Government of India: The Biggest Real Estate Agent in the World

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At 11:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is really heartening to see how such technologically advanced country is fighting with nuclear situation to keep it under control. It is Japanese character that no one is weeping, beating chest or coming open to criticize the decision the country had taken to have nuclear power almost 50 years back. Today generation and future generation are going to get affected, pay price those actions taken 50 years back. Can some one make our politician or decision makers that Indian do not have Japanese character. In such an event we will bring shame to our country. Learn from CWG preparations. We had 4 years to prepare and we really struggled to put up in time and earned good amount of shame across globe. So what we will build today should not bring more shame after 30-40 years. Japan has economic strength to pump in the money to face such crisis. They are donor country for our infrastructure and development programs. What will happen when such a crisis is faced by Indian people. These politicians or decision makers will not be alive then to see crippled Indians.


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