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Nuke or No Nuke?
 
Kudankulam is ready. Are we ready to embrace nuke power?
 
Finally the already much-delayed Kudankulam nuclear power project seems well set to become operational any time now. Well, that’s if one has to go by what India's principal scientific adviser R Chidambaram claimed in Kolkata recently.  He said that the reactor is a safe reactor... no question about it... it is designed with safety features. It depends on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to examine the test results and decide.

Significantly, the job of the regulatory board is to examine everything they do. Nuclear Power Corporation gives the results and regulatory board decides when to give the go ahead depending whether further tests are necessary or not. He also stressed on the need to convey to common people the statistical estimate of the safety of nuclear establishments.
 
India's atomic power plant operator, NPCIL, is building two 1,000MW reactors with Russian help at Kudankulam since 2001. Villagers under the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy banner have been opposing the project for the past two years, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan in March 2011. Actually the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 2011 did open a Pandora’s Box and questions are being raised about the safety and necessity of nuke power in many parts of the world.
 
There are many, who think that the development of nuclear power in India is driven as much by fantasy and romance as by scientific and strategic calculations. And mind you that between now and 2032, the Indian government plans to expand the country's nuclear capacity from 4,400 to roughly 63,000 megawatts. By 2050, India even expects to satisfy a quarter of its electricity demands with nuclear energy. Today, about 20 reactors generate roughly 4 percent of India's electricity, but the country plans to double its nuclear energy capacity in the next five years alone. At present, India needs overseas sources of uranium to power its reactors. In the long term, however, it will have to free itself from foreign sources by developing what it needs to complete the full nuclear-reprocessing cycle.
 
But now that the panic button has been pressed, one needs to take a 360 degree approach to the issue and look at it from all possible angles. Chidambaram emphatically said that for all practical purposes, nuclear power is safe. Common people solar powered toys have difficulty in understanding probabilistic safety assessment and analysis. India has an excellent safety record... with so many years in operation... absolutely clean safety record.
 
The construction of four indigenously designed 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), two each at existing sites of Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, is in progress. In addition, sixteen more PHWRs of 700 MW capacity will be progressively taken up for construction (twin units or quadruple units) at five different inland sites already identified. India is also planning to set up PWRs of indigenous design by mid 2020s.
 
And Chidambaram is not alone. Members of the scientific community are all trying to allay fears over nuclear power. For instance, Srikumar Bandhopadhaya, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, had said that in India there is no risk to set up nuclear power station. According to him such incident will not take place in India because there is a system called "thermo syphoon" which is used to reduce the generation the excessive heat. This is completely autonomous, modernised and safe system.
 
He further said that, to meet the demand of the power supply in India- atomic energy is the one and only option. According to him atomic energy generates low grade cosmic radiation,  which is just a 1400 parts of cosmic ray pollution.
 
Another famed nuclear scientist and Homi Jehangir Bhaba distinguished chair, Bikash Sinha thinks that the rate of global warming is increasing due to use traditional sources of energy and so according to him atomic energy is much safer for the world. In country like India, where low grade coal is used to generate thermal power, the expense in power generation cost becomes very high. So cost of generating atomic energy will be lower than thermal power.
 
One needs to keep in mind that the entire country does neither get equal sun rays through out the year, nor does it get favourable winds condition to generate power. So it is just not possible to meet the demand of power generation by means of solar or winds energy. What we need is a judicious mix of all forms of power.
 

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