One of the crowning achievements (if you can call that) of the current Government in India was the pact with USA which removed India from the list of nuclear pariahs allowing it access to nuclear technology and materials. India already has a number of nuclear plants and reactors which generate around 3-4% of the country’s electricity. 20 GW of nuclear capacity was targeted to be added by 2020 out of the estimated 400 GW. This was touted as a solution to India’s energy deficit problem which frequently results in 20 hour power cuts across the country. Even this 20 GW of planned nuclear capacity is in serious jeopardy as people have started to protest the building of nuclear plants in their backyard. Note nuclear advantages pale in the face of disadvantages like a nuclear meltdown (Chernobyl, Fukushima and 3 mile island). However the Indian establishment is pushing ahead with nuclear energy even as other Governments in Japan, Germany, Belgium switch off almost a 100 GW of power due to the massive risks.
NIMBY Protests Growing
Rawatbhata Nuclear Power Plant in Rajasthan is situated near a major dam which makes it susceptible to flooding. Besides the villages near the plant have reported higher incidences of abortion and cancer which is typical of radiation effect on human health. A new plant being proposed in Bhavnagar, Gujarat too is seeing protests being organized by villages near the plant.
Nuclear Plants face massive cost overruns
New Nuclear Power Plants face massive delays leading to much higher costs as rule and regulations become tougher. The Nuclear Power, already the nuclear renaissance which was supposed to be boosted by India and China is coming under attack. India’s nuclear power plant to be built at Jaitapur by Areva is seeing massive protests by local villagers as well as intellectuals alike. India has around 4.5 GW of Nuclear Power Plant Capacity which it proposes to increase by around 1-2 GW every year. This will hardly make a huge difference to India’s massive power needs which requires 10 GW of power every year. Nuclear Energy Disadvantages with the Tail Risk of a Meltdown are too huge to be ignored. China is the other country with massive nuclear power plans, however the Government too has decided to be careful. China has more than doubled its solar power target from 20 GW to 50 GW by 2020.
The Indian Nuclear Power Industry remains shrouded in secrecy and opacity refusing to reveal details on safety. The nuclear power generation is controlled by a government entity NPCIL which remains cloaked in secrecy. Details about leakages and accidents are not forthcoming and not transparent. 2 accidents were reported in recent days but the causes of the leakage again have not been explained.
But environmental watchdogs have expressed concerns about safety in India, where small-scale industrial accidents due to negligence or poor maintenance are commonplace and regulatory bodies are often under-staffed and under-funded.
The director of the Rajasthan power station, CP Jamb, confirmed the second accident to AFP but said the radiation was within permissible limits and posed no health threat.
“The workers were exposed to radiation from 10 to 25 per cent of the annual limit,” Jamb said. “Such minor leakages keep on happening but they cause no harm.”
C.D. Rajput, director of the unit where the leak happened, also said the radiation exposure “was well under the limits and all the workers are working normally”.
No explanation was immediately available as to why the first incident at the plant took a month to emerge.