Future of Nuclear Plants in India
The new nuclear power plants that are coming up in India are facing strong protests by local people worried about the potential radioactive fallout due to a nuclear accident. This has become a regular occurrence in which the heavy hand of the state intervenes leading to violence and killings of protestors in police firings. Note protests against companies encroaching on the environment and precious farm land are not limited to nuclear energy but also extend to thermal power plants. Recently protestors were killed by police in Andhra Pradesh as well. The Government has blamed foreign NGOs for fomenting the violence in Kudankulam but the fact is that nuclear power protests are being seen everywhere in India where citizens are not enamored of nuclear power like the country’s PM. In fact even with all the planned expansion of nuclear energy, the contribution of nuclear energy to India’s electricity will still be in the low single digits. Besides the cost of nuclear energy in recent times has risen prohibitively, making nuclear power plants uneconomical in the developed countries where the emphasis on safety is much greater.
Read more about Nuclear Advantages vs Disadvantages.
The Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant to be built by NPCIL using Areva’s experimental nuclear reactors has got the federal government’s environmental clearance. Note the protests against the plant had got a political color with local opposition parties getting involved. A number of villagers have already been killed by police firing and further protests are expected. Note India’s activist environment minister Jairam Ramesh has proven to be selectively biased towards large industrial projects in Congress ruled states. After appearing to be hero stopping the Niyamgiri project from Vedanta, Ramesh has given the go ahead to politically favored projects. Not a surprise given the endemic corruption present in the ruling coalition which has given birth to a number of corruption scams and scandals. Like everything, even a project of this critical nature, has acquired a political cover with everyone sounding their party positions without worrying about the possibility of a nuclear meltdown in India.
Note Jaitapur lies in an earthquake region and India’s past nuclear safety record hardly gives much comfort. One of the worse Industrial Disasters the Bhopal Gas Tragedy occurred in India. Safety and Environmental norms are given short shrift by the politician-businessmen nexus as can be seen in the neighboring project in Lavasa. Many prominent persons have appealed against giving the go ahead which includes former atomic energy chairmen, former navy chiefs and prominent social activists. Looks like nothing in India can be done right without the civil society make a huge hue and cry about it.
Problems with Nuclear Power in India
The cost of nuclear power has grown at a distressing pace with massive time and cost overruns. The Areva Nulcear Plant is going to cost Rs 20 crore a MW which is much more than a Thermal Power plant and even costlier than Solar Power which has the highest capital requirement amongst major energy sources. Besides disposal of nuclear energy waste is a huge problem even for countries like USA and Japan which have huge nuclear power industries. For a country like India with poor safety record, nuclear waste disposal would be a nightmare. India should learn from the example of Germany and Italy and stop going down the nuclear path and look for other green energy sources. Note different forms of Renewable Energy have their own pros and cons but Nuclear Energy Risks are too great to be ignored.
NIMBY Protests Growing
Rawatbhata Nuclear Power Plant in Rajasthan is situated near a major dam which makes it susceptible to major flooding. Besides the villages near the plant have reported higher incidences of abortion and cancer which is typical of radiation effect of 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 rules 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 to 50 GW by 2020 from 20 GW.
One person was killed in police firing in Tuticorin as anti-nuclear protesters turned violent today after police foiled their repeated attempts to lay siege to the atomic power plant here against loading of uranium fuel.
A 44-year old fisherman was killed when police opened fire at a group of people who clashed with them while blocking a road in Manapad coastal village as the protest spilled to neighbouring Tuticorin District, police said.
At Kudankulam in Tirunelveli District, the main scene of protests for the last two days, police resorted to lathi-charge and burst teargas shells to disperse over 2,000 protesters who fought pitched battles throwing stones and logs.