Nuclear Power in India
By Chakarapani Srinivasa
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECT OF NUCLEAR POWER AND PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE
As we stand at the threshold of third millennium, the demand for energy in our country has accelerated at 10percent per year, due to population explosion as well economic liberalisation leading to rapid Industrialisation. It is true the per capita consumption of power is a clear index on the quality of life and our country has to go a longway to match with those of developed countries, where the per capita energy consumption is 8 to 10 times of our country. For the next 50 years, Hydel, Thermal, Nuclear are the three major energy options) whereas the Non-conventional/Renewable energy sources such as Biomass, Biogas, Solar energy, Wind energy, Tidal wave and Geo-Thermal energy will not contribute significantly to the energy needs. Compared to the installed capacity of 86,440 MW in 1997, the projected need will be 2,36,940 MW by 2012.
MAJOR ENERGY OPTIONS
Hydro power is a renewable, economic, non-polluting and environmentally benign source of energy. Only 15% of Hydroelectric potential has been harnessed and 7% is under various stages of development. Thus 78% of the potential remains without exploitation. This is mainly due to capital intensive nature, long gestation period, concern on inundation of forest lands, Rehabilitation of large populations and upsetting the ecological balance, which all have combined to decelerate the Hydel sector.
Thermal fuel combustion causes the atmospheric release of large quantities of Nitrogen, Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon dioxide and particulate matter and hence serious environmental impacts at local and global levels. As per the energy experts statement, a 600 MW capacity pulverised coal plants, on an average will release about 35,500 tonnes of Sulphur dioxide, 11,700 tonnes of Nitrogen Oxide, 780 tonnes of particulate, 12.50 lakh tonnes of Carbon and 148 tonnes of heavy metal including radioactive nuclides such as Uranium and Thorium over two decades. Flue gas desulfurisation and de-noxing equipment or more highly efficient plants would reduce emission of the oxides, but these abatement measures do incur cost penalties upto 25% tilting the cost balance to nuclear energy option. Apart from the cost factor, the threat of Acid rain, depletion of Ozone layer and Green house effect due to fossil fuel combustion, narrow down the choice to Nuclear energy.
The enormous power dormant in the atom was the single most important discovery of the 20th century. The development of Nuclear power world over has been rapid and France meets more than 50% energy demands from Nuclear power. In our country, 10 Nuclear reactors generating a total capacity of 1840 MW contribute only 2.5% of total energy demand.
NUCLEAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
According to NPC, 78000 tonnes of Uranium deposits were found in Singhbhum (Dt) in Bihar and 3.6 lakh tonnes of Thorium in the coastal plains, of Orissa and Kerala. These deposits were sufficient to generate 3.5 lakhs MW power at cheap rates for 3 00 years, while causing much less pollution. The need for producing nuclear power has also to be seen in the backdrop of the fact that oil resources are becoming scarce and coal reserve in our country will last for another 150 years. Higher coal, oil/Gas prices will quickly undermine its competitiveness, while nuclear power generation costs are quite stable over a wide range of fuel price scenarios.
It is established the nuclear power is advantageous particularly in those parts of the country, where hydel sources are scarce and which are far away from the coal fields, like southern and western parts of our country.