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Nuclear option is not for future generations!

by Dhirendra Sharma, 5 December 2009

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Ten thousand (10,000) young scientists, engineering students and concerned citizens, have, in a Memorandum to Prime Minister who is also Atomic Energy Minister, asked the Government of India to re- assess the futuristic social cost of its ambitious Nuclear Power programme. On the anniversary of Bhopal Gas tragedy, the signatories questioned the country’s preparedness to face any nuclear mishaps.

The memorandum referred to recent accident at Indian Oil Corporation’s Jaipur depot which destroyed millions of litres of petrol, diesel and kerosene. The fire burned abetted for 6 days, killing workers and destroying millions worth industrial property. Had the explosion occurred in an Atomic power plant at Kota, Rajsthan, e.g., no one would tell the scale of devastation. Yet, the Indian government has announced its long-term nuclear commitment to generate 40,000. MWe nuclear power by 2030. It had entered into Nuclear deals with seven countries, including the United States, costing the nation more than US$ 150 billion.

It takes 10-15 years to build a nuclear power plant but the designed life of a reactor is only 50 years. There after for hundred years the entire structure, plant area, equipment and tones of nuclearwaste material pose serious engineering and financial problems for their safe-keeping. According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, (August, 2009), the Nuclear Power is on “downward trend world wide” and “the largest nuclear builders in the world AREVA NP has turned into financial fiasco”.

There are many post-Chernobyl (1986) scientific studies warning us against Nuclear Power. The US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation had cautioned against long-term epidemiological radiation effects. The Kyoto Protocol had excluded nuclear power from the Clean Development Mechanism. Dr. Richard Mould’s study Chernobyl: Th Real Story describes how tens of thousands citizens in Europe suffered the radiation effects. Contaminated helicopters, vehicles, buildings, machines, tools, roads, soil, trees, and forests had to be abandoned. “The accident at Chernobyl reaffirmed what an abyss will open if nuclear war befalls mankind. For inherent in the nuclear arsenals stockpiled are thousands upon thousands of potential disasters far more horrible than the Chernobyl one,’ concluded Dr. Mould.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that world wide energy demand in 2030 would be 16.9 TW (terawatts or TW). And the Water, Wind and Solar (WWS) each can meet human demand globally. Solar energy alone offers 6,500 TW. (“A Plan for a Sustainable Future, WWS by 2030,” in the Scientific American: India, November 2009, pp. 38-45,

Mr. Hans-Holger Rogner, Head, Planning and Economic Studies Section of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says that ‘the arguments against the nuclear power deserve an objective assessment.’ And the German Nuclear Safety Act 2002, plans “To phase out the use of Nuclear Power.” Since it had been dormant for 30 years, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Dr. Dale Klein says that no scope for revival of Nuclear sector in the US. And the Editor-in-Chief and Head of the IAEA Information, Mr. Lothar Wedekin admits that “the future of Nuclear Power is uncertain but One thing looks clear – the next generation of (nuclear) plants will not be Made in the USA.”. (The IAEA Bulletin, vol.49/1, 2008). The memorandum calls for a national debate on nuclear energy as
no Parliamentary Committee had discussed the reliability and performance of “Peaceful Nuclear” programme. The government had avoided inter-departmental discussions with Science and Public Policy ministries –Energy, Finance, Planning Commission, Science and Technology, and Environment. Since the safer and economical Renewable Sources of Energy: Water, Wind and Solar are available to us, there is absolutely no necessity to commit the future generations to potentially hazardous nuclear industrial option.

Dr. Dhirendra Sharma, Centre for Science Policy.
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