Our country has coal reserves but to reach energy usage levels comparable with global average, it is necessary to use all energy sources particularly the nuclear power, which could be a source of cheap energy. The capital cost of the nuclear power is undoubtedly more, but the electricity produced from it is cheap. As a developing nation, our country has an important option to tap nuclear energy as a source of cheap energy, since the country requires the cheapest energy that it can get.
In the context of entire coal reserve in our country will be depleted in 150 years, the coal price is going up at 15% per annum and high ash content of 45% in indigenous coal which requires vast land for Ash disposal, option is converging on Nuclear Power.
The Nuclear reactors are having the distinction of continuous run even for a year once put on bar, whereas Thermal Generators may need intermittent attention.
Critics of Defence Nuclear Programme, often club the civil Nuclear and Defense Nuclear as 'Siamese Twins' but that is not a fact. Nuclear energy is a safe, environmentally benign and viable option.
High capital cost and long lead time undermine the competitiveness of Nuclear Power. As it takes nearly 8 years to complete the Nuclear power project, the interest rates on capital cost has to be at the lowest. At 5'0/o- interest rate, it is having an edge over fossil fuel based Thermal power and above 5% it loses its competitive edge. Even efforts have been made to reduce the gestation period by 18 months. More severe safety and radiation protection standards have further added to the capital cost. The Home grown pressurised Heavy Water reactors could be at least 40% cheaper than what they are if measures such as double containment protection around the reactor vessel built in extra redundancy are done away with. The Nuclear power may be made economical by going in for 'Closed Nuclear Power Cycle' by extracting Plutonium from spent fuel. Hence the reactors on drawing Boards are expected to have shorter construction time, lower capital cost, improved cycle efficiency.
‘Resources crunch' in funding the Nuclear energy programme is considered to be the main limiting factor, towards development of nuclear energy regime. Necessary Govt. Budgetary support, raising public money by floating Bonds, equity participation among the States concerned and opening of this High Technology sector for joint venture with private promoters are proposed towards enhancing the Nuclear energy contribution to 200/o from the present 2.5% in the total energy demand of our country by next century.
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS & PUBLIC FEAR
'Nuclear radiation Phobia' is the main repulsive factor in the minds of the general public towards acceptance. If a Gas Turbine fails catastrophically at an IPP Plant, the plant suffers financially and perhaps electricity supply suffers locally. Ditto, if a coal fixed boiler explodes or implodes. If a accident of that magnitude occurs at a Nuclear plant, the entire Industry can be sent to the dark ages. Even accidents in other countries bright the domestic nuclear industry.
The Layman in the street is baffled, frightened and threatened by the periodical news report by antinuclear activists on 'Nuclear radiation'. It is true nuclear radiation is an 'invisible contamination' which we cannot see, touch or smell it. Nevertheless, it cannot remain invisible for long, say for many years. It becomes only visible in the form of thyroid diseases, cancer, Leukaemia, miscarriages, birth defects, mentally retarded children and animals born with deformities.