Increased shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has renewed fears of a nuclear catastrophe. World leaders have called for an immediate demilitarization of the plant and urged both sides to exercise restraint.
Risks and concerns associated with nuclear energy:
- In the case of Nuclear Reactors, there is a concern over their safety, underscoring the importance of “Nuclear Safety & Security.” The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan is a testimony to the havoc that can be created by a nuclear leak.
- Pursuant to this, the nuclear industry came to a standstill, except in Russia, China, and India. However, a revival was seen with global warming becoming ever more apparent.
- Commercial nuclear supply can lead to proliferation of Nuclear weapons. Fast breeder reactors pose a risk of turning inert uranium into plutonium, which can then be used as fuel. However, plutonium is a nuclear explosive that can be used for developing a bomb.
- Furthermore, in some major markets, nuclear power lacks a favorable policy and financing framework that recognizes its contributions to climate change mitigation and sustainable development.
- Without such a framework, nuclear power may struggle to deliver on its full potential, even as the world remains as dependent on fossil fuels as it was three decades ago.
- Nuclear power generation is not as clean as it is often considered. This is demonstrated in the case of Kudankulam. People have been protesting for decades as they worry that the hot water discharged from the plant will affect the marine life of the surrounding water sources and subsequently their livelihood.
- To build nuclear reactors, it requires vast amounts of land, potentially displacing local communities who may not want to leave. Further, it is not easy to rehabilitate them and provide them with appropriate compensation.
Potential of nuclear energy for India:
- India possesses substantial reserves of Thorium and Uranium, which can significantly contribute to its energy needs, all while ensuring “Nuclear Safety & Security.” India’s thorium deposits, estimated at 360,000 tonnes, and natural uranium deposits at 70,000 tonnes make up a significant portion of global reserves.
- Energy poverty persists in India, with about 20% of the population lacking access to electricity today. With per capita electricity consumption significantly below the world average, addressing energy shortages is vital.
- Considering India’s annual energy demand is expected to rise to 800 GW by 2032, it is crucial to incorporate nuclear energy into the energy mix to meet this demand efficiently.
- Nuclear energy’s efficiency shines through when compared to thermal power plants, as it requires considerably less fuel. For instance, 10,000 MW generation by coal will need 30-35 million tons of coal, but nuclear fuel needed will be only 300-350 tons.
- Rapid economic growth is essential to achieve developmental objectives and poverty alleviation. As electricity is a key driver for economic growth, a massive augmentation in electricity capacity, along with upgraded transmission and distribution systems, is necessary.
- Energy supply has been negatively affected by changing weather patterns, emphasizing the need for diverse energy sources like nuclear energy. Nuclear power’s emission-free nature can contribute significantly to India’s climate goals outlined in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
“Nuclear Safety & Security” is paramount as nuclear power can help improve energy security for rapidly developing economies like India. It can make a vital contribution to economic growth, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, and mitigate the effects of climate change. India must devise a durable energy strategy to meet present and future energy demands while safeguarding its population and industries.