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Kaiga NPP extension: Overall "futility" of talking about relevance of nuclear power

By Shankar Sharma*
This has reference to the article in Counterview "Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily" by KS Parthasarathy.
Three recent documents/ discussions** -- a written submission presented at the public hearing as per Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) rules 2006 held on December 15, 2018, an address to the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, and a high level analysis of the proposal by the Union government to add 12 additional nuclear power reactors in the country from the general perspective as applicable to Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) -- sum up the relevant merits to the people of this country in the arguments of KS Parthasarathy.
We can endlessly engage in intellectual level arguments on vague/historical issues on nuclear power technology, which may all end up in satisfying our intellectual ego. But what is critically important is the true welfare of every community in the fast changing world, especially in the context of looming threats of climate change.
When we objectively consider issues such as...
  • why the percentage of nuclear power capacity to the global electrical power capacity is shrinking fast, despite decades of enormous subsidies in every nuclear power country; 
  • what we have learnt from the three major nuclear disasters, and a number of near misses; 
  • the fact that there is no techno-economically credible technology to manage the growing mountains of nuclear wastes; 
  • why even countries such as France and US, which have been the leaders, are seen to be moving away; and 
  • the enormous focus being given world over to solar and wind power etc.
...the overall futility of talking about the relevance of nuclear power in the future should become obvious.
These issues become even more stark for a country like India, which is already facing enormous societal level problems such as acute pressure on our natural resources (such as the diversion of land and water, and the pollution/contamination of soil, water and air), huge population base which is growing at alarming rate, poverty and illiteracy, still a largely agrarian base etc.
When we also consider in an objective sense, the enormous potential of new and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass in India, and the low per capita energy needs of the people, the irrelevance of nuclear power should become evident.
In the ongoing scenario of a number of nuclear projects, which are being proposed/built around the country (at least a total of 14 additional nuclear reactors as at June 2017) few major issues become glaring:
(i) the demand for massive diversion of land, both forest as well as agricultural lands;
(ii) demand for massive quantities of fresh water, especially for those reactors which will be away from the coast;
(iii) unacceptable level of risks associated with the failure to adequately contain the radiation emissions;
(iv) almost non-existent disaster preparedness in India to cope with a nuclear accident of the type seen in Chernobyl and Fukushima;
(v) the ignorance on the need to take effective actions to mitigate the threats of climate change;
(vi) and most importantly, the chronic refusal by the Union govt. to recognise the fact that there are many benign and less costly options to bridge the gap between the legitimate demand and supply of electricity of all sections of our society on a sustainable basis.
Another nuclear project proposed in a similar ecologically sensitive region (to that of Kaiga NPP in Karnataka) is that at Jaitapur in Sindhudurg/ Ratnagiri district of Maharastra, also in Western Ghats. This project is proposed to be of the largest capacity in the world, and has the potential to devastate that region. So, the recipe for multiple disasters in the country, which can annihilate the entire communities around such projects, appear to be getting ready with alacrity.
It is in this context that the reasons of vastly important ecological factors of the Western Ghats, in the case of Kaiga NPP extension, should be highlighted to the government by the CSOs urgently, so that the same mistake should not be repeated at Jaitapur.
So, the onerous task before the civil society in India is clear: we either take urgent and effective actions to stem the tide of mass suicidal tendencies of the successive governments, OR face the risk of being seen by our youngsters as colluding with the politicians and corrupt officials in pushing the human civilisation to collapse.
Since the futile argument of the nuclear advocates on the climate change front also falls flat on its face over the issues of 'life cycle carbon foot print' and 'life cycle EROEI', to continue the debate on the relevance of nuclear power to the globe in general and to India in particular, can be said to be a sheer waste of time at enormous cost to the society.
---
*Power policy analyst based in Sagar, Karnataka
**Click HERE for the written submission at the public hearing; HERE for the letter to the Karnataka chief secretary; and HERE for high level analysis

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