The recent India-Australia nuclear deal sealed on September 5 through which India would
import uranium from Australia for civil and peaceful purposes is supposed to provide besides a political and economic boost to India, a relief to a quarter of its
billion-plus population which has no access to power and electricity.
The currently present 20 nuclear power plants in the country operate at only 2-3 percent of their capacity, and the import of Uranium from Australia, which has about 40% of the world’s reserves, would help in a 20-fold increase in nuclear capacity and 63,000MV production by 2032 by adding 30 new reactors.
The use of civil nuclear energy has raised environmental and social concerns. Local people in Tamil Nadu have an on-going civil non-cooperation moment against the government to shut down the power plant at Kudankulam fearing a nuclear disaster.
Questions regarding the effects of nuclear radiations on people living in the vicinity seems to be answered by the World Health Organization that reported in early 2013 that radiation exposure due to Fukushima was low. Nuclear energy also gets supports from a few environmentalists because resorting only to coal or natural gas would increase the already high temperatures in the world. Currently, more than 50% of the country’s electricity is produced through coal. Inside the core of an average nuclear reactor, the power density is about 338 megawatts per square meter, whereas wind energy has a paltry power density of 1 watt per square meter. Hence the high upfront costs, with the Indian government planning to spend $85 billion, are balanced out by the cheap production and supply costs. Hence, nuclear energy looks the most feasible and cost-effective.
Not only this, Germany after its hasty decision of phasing out all its nuclear plants by 2022 in 2011 as a result of the aftermath of Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster in Japan has become isolated and has increased the dependence on coal and the power costs. China, on the other hand has emerged as the global trendsetter by investing heavily in nuclear as well a renewable sources of energy.
Government’s plan to providing electricity to 1.2 billion of its population in the next ten years seems to have kick started, but it needs to make sure that the waste disposal is strictly regulated, the plants are renewed after their age, health and safety measures for people living in the vicinity is a top priority and that the usage of nuclear energy is more transparent.
- In early 2013, the World Health Organization reported that radiation exposure due to Fukushima was low and concluded: “Outside the geographical areas most affected by radiation, even in locations within Fukushima prefecture, the predicted risks remain low and no observable increases in cancer above natural variation in baseline rates are anticipated.”