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'Relevant for India': N-power too expensive, too slow to reach net zero in Australia

By Shankar Sharma* 

It has been reported in The Guardian, quoting a study, that nuclear power is too expensive and slow to be part of Australia’s plans to reach net zero. This situation cannot be any better in the case of India. As a matter of fact, it will be of a much worse case because of the huge population, constrained natural resources, and the huge demand for electricity projected by 2050/60.
So the question to be asked of our authorities again and again by civil society groups is: why is it that our government is intent on pouring vast sums of our meager financial/natural resources on such a costly and risky power generation technology?
This question is becoming increasingly more relevant in the context of the furor over the risks/ costs associated with mishaps such as Japanese plans to pump more than 1m tonnes of water from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean; and also in the context that India has enormous potential in renewable energy sources.
But deplorably, no one in the position of authority in our country seem to care to clarify such issues for our people.
Meanwhile, the legitimate concerns of civil society groups in Japan, South Korea and China over the planned release of vast quantity of radiation contaminated water to the ocean near Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan cannot be satisfactorily addressed by the so-called "UN nuclear watchdog’s positive assessment of Japanese plans to pump more than 1m tonnes of water from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean."
What is even more disconcerting is the fact that there seems to be no discussion at the global level how to prevent such mishaps elsewhere in the near future.
It appears that no one, including IAEA, or UN, or the advocates of nuclear power technology, is ready to take responsibility/ accountability for a credible scenario in the near future wherein such nuclear reactor accident/ failures can happen in many other places, and wherein such regional/global concerns of radiation impacting the communities cannot be entirely ruled out.
On the contrary, many countries, such as China and India, are planning to pour enormous amounts of money in building more nuclear power reactors without diligently analysing the associated consequences to humans from nuclear reactor accidents/ failures.
This scenario can be stated as a moot pointer to the lack of credibility of our leaders, who never cared to substantiate how nuclear power is essential to our people, especially in the larger context of fairly matured technologies of renewable energy sources and energy storage battery systems.
China and India plan to pour enormous amounts to build nuclear power reactors without diligently analysing the consequences
In this context the onus is on civil society groups to increase our efforts to try and persuade our authorities to focus on a diligent analysis of costs and benefits of nuclear power, and of various credible alternatives available to our society.
But deplorably most sections of our society, including the intellectuals and the concerned authorities, seem to be oblivious of such risks/ costs to our families/ communities, and/ or indifferent to them.
Some of the media reports (click here, here and here) on Fukushima nuclear disaster may provide a projection of the kind of serious concerns for our own people.
What is even more worrisome is that my representations to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) over the associated costs/ risks of any unfortunate nuclear disaster to our vulnerable/ ill-prepared communities have not even been acknowledged.
If we refuse to even identify/ acknowledge the associated costs/ risks from nuclear power technology, we can never address them effectively. It can give nightmares even to imagine the consequences of a nuclear disaster, similar to the ones reported from Chernobyl or Fukushima, should it happen in the densely populated country of ours.
Media reports indicate that the direct/indirect costs from Chernobyl or Fukushima may run to few hundred billion dollars. Can our society afford to ignore or be indifferent to such credible risks/ costs?
---
*Power & climate policy analyst

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