Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jaitapur Nuclear power plant, good for India?

Fukushima accident:

As I am writing this article, Japanese authorities are fighting to bring the situation under control in the 4.7GWe Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. This plant, located in Fukushima Prefecture, was hit by 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis, which created massive damages to the plant as well as its cooling systems and also resulted in radiation leaks (Now there is a 30km evacuation zone around the plant).Over and above its not sure how many years, if not decades, are required to clean up the reactor and its surroundings. Even the aggressive estimates shows a minimum time frame of 10 years. After this crisis many countries not only freezed their plans for ambitious new nuclear plants but also thinking about winding up the existing ones.

But is it an indication that human beings should stop using the nuclear energy? to stop research in nuclear technology? to stop the funding for fusion research? There is no doubt that Fukushima accident revealed another face of nuclear energy, but there are many facts which people conveniently overlooked before starting their all out war against nuclear energy.

It is interesting to note that, these reactors are constructed in 1968 and started production in 1971, yet it withstood the 9.0 earth quake!!! Till now there are no indication of any nuclear meltdown. Just imagine, what will happen if an earthquake of such a magnitude hit Bakranangal or hirakud dams? How many of us are confident that our hydroelectric dams like BakraNangal, Hirakud etc can withstood such situation?

Amount of energy produced in Fukushima complex is 4.7GWe; even the biggest hydro electric project in India -Subansiri (Lower) hydro electric Project (under construction) - has the capacity of 2GW only. Just imagine about the atmospheric pollution if we have to replace these reactors (for e.g. Bruce Nuclear generating station of Canada (6.232GW) with thermal plants.

Jaitapur Project:

It is in this situation we have to think about Jaitapur project, which is currently under construction in Ratnagiri District of Maharashtra, with a proposed capacity of 9.9GW. If completed, this will be the largest nuclear power complex in the world. Praposed 3rd generation reactors are designed and developed by Areva of France (France is the world's largest net exporter of electric power and generates around 79% of her electricity using nuclear energy).

From the beginning itself this project is going through a stormy weather. Agitations - started along with the land acquisition slowly transformed to an agitation against nuclear energy itself. In the wake of Fukushima accident, questions are raised about the safety of nuclear power plant. If prominent nuclear experts are available in the ground to explain the situation to the people situation may become slightly better. Revisting the land acqusition for ISRO (VSSC) in Trivandraum may not be a bad idea. Now anti-nuclear activists took the stage from administration and government's part become a non-audible cry. Even now people aren’t ready to accept the compensation for land; as the plant is going to use the sea water for cooling, fishing communities are also against the project.

As usual, advices from activists are to use Solar and wind power instead of using nuclear and thermal ones. Idea is good, unfortunately we are yet to invent a commercially viable method to produce and transmit solar and wind energy in the levels of nuclear energy. Other solutions like building dams (which will results in the loss of already existing forests), coal fired plants (mining coal itself is causing severe ecological damage along with the resulting pollution is causes) are not a better idea anymore.

Possibility of Nuclear accidents in Jaitapur:

It is not that nuclear power is fool proof, of course it is not. But the days of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island are over; no one is going to construct and operate any nuclear reactor in that way. Technology made magnificent progress from those days; just look at the case of Fukushima itself, even if the crisis is yet to be over, we are not facing a nuclear meltdown. Even the 40 year old technology proved to be resilient against the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent Tsunamis!!!

Another argument against Jaitapur plant is that, it is situated in a seismically active (zone III) costal area. If we are using that criterion then we should not build any more dams in North-East India, as the entire region is coming under Zone V (highest active). Moreover nuclear reactor is not going to exert that much pressure on earth crust, which is not true in the case of a huge reservoir. As far as Tsunami is concerned, upper eastern coast is safer than western coasts; chances for tsunami – like the one recently created havoc in Fukushima reactor complex - hitting Maharashtra’s coast is low. Over and above Jaitapur is located at a height of 25m or 75ft above the sea level (maximum wave arrived at Fukushima had a height of 14metre -46 ft - only).

Future of Nuclear power:

There is no doubt that nuclear energy (fission and fusion in the future) is the way to go. Even the solar energy we are receiving through sunlight is the result of nuclear fusion process in Sun; other stars are also use the same method for energy production.

This is our chance to go ahead; are we going to stop all the progress we achieved till now in nuclear sector only because of Fukushima? Are we going to stop our scientific progress because of an accident in a nuclear power plant? Most of the people are using fire and electricity, and we know that they aren’t safe, but that fact didn’t stop us from using it. Even now we are constructing new power lines and using fire in our daily life. Threat of accidents should not come in the way of scientific progress. Are we going to stop using nuclear power? If countries across the world doesn’t have any fear in accumulating nuclear bombs, they why they have problem in using it for generating electricity?

It is not the nuclear power, which is not safe, but holes created in the safe guards knowingly or unknowingly. When Szilard and Fermi discovered chain reaction in 1939, we had two options to use it - controlled as well as uncontrolled. One result in explosion and another can be used for generating electricity. Any extra planetary force urged us to go for the first one? no, it was our option.

Religiously adhering to the safe guards, employing latest technologis as well as best practices (there is no doubt that because of the Fukushima accident safe guards will become tighter) will enable us to use nuclear power safely.


For an energy hungry country like India, where petroleum and petroleum products occupies the major portion of import basket, where pristine forest cover is decreasing in an alarming rate, where electricity production is not catching up with the raising demand, where electricity production depends more on coal and other fossil fuels, nuclear energy is one of the good option to go forward.

It is good to remember that, we don’t have any right to ask the people living in the project area to clear it, simply because we want electricity and according to the compensation we decided. Apart from losing land and livelihood they are also losing the environment they are living. So it is government's duty to, participate the affected people in the decision making process (as far land acquisition is concerned), and provide them an equivalent livelihood - not in words but in action.

Nuclear energy may not be our best solution for all the energy problems, but definitely it will solve some of our problems…


1 comment:

  1. That’s pretty much it. While the newer, high efficiency technology is best for solar panels, old fashioned technology is best when it comes to batteries for a home solar power system. For home solar systems, sealed lead acid batteries are what you should use.