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UN nuclear chief 'ignoring' huge costs for India, neighbours in the event of a mishap

By Shankar Sharma* 

The UN nuclear chief has said that nuclear energy must be part of the equation to tackle climate change. Keen observers of the nuclear power industry will find this continued advocacy of nuclear power as a solution to climate change as bizarre and against the true interest of humanity; because there have been no credible argument in favor of such an advocacy, and because the numerous associated concerns raised by civil society groups from around the world have not been addressed by any credible agency yet.
As detailed in my earlier communication to the UN nuclear chief on 19 November 2021, there has been no substantiation of such an advocacy even after 2 years. In view of the credible and serious concerns expressed therein, many observers of nuclear power industry, may even call such continued advocacy by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the misuse of the high profile position provided to it under the aegis of the UN.
Such an unsubstantiated advocacy for nuclear power has also been associated with the diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, in many developing countries, such as India, to artificially prop up an electricity generation technology which has not only humongous costs and risks, but also has negligible relevance to the energy security of such countries with low per capita electricity need/ demand.
For poor and populous countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. which have some of the lowest per capita electricity need/ demand, nuclear power cannot be acceptable not only due to the high price at consumer end, but also due to many other concerns such as the ever growing constraints of resources (land, water, nuclear fuel etc.), unacceptable costs associated with nuclear accident risks for their densely populated communities, inter-generational health issues because of nuclear radiation, irrelevance of nuclear power in the context of Climate Change, enormous potential of locally available renewable energy sources etc.
For a resource constrained and densely populated country like India, diversion of thousands of Sq. km of its agricultural/ forest lands for setting up hundreds of nuclear reactors, including the safety zones, can be said to be next to impossible.
In such a scenario, why should the most costly and risky technology of electricity generation be a part of our energy basket, when we have many benign options available?
IAEA's continued advocacy of N-power is leading gullible political leaders accepting unsubstantiated view to advance their agenda
In the context of these evidently glaring facts, it should become obvious that poor countries like India should not waste their meagre financial and natural resources on nuclear power technology, which evidently has no true relevance to their energy future, and also because they generally have humongous potential in renewable energy.
The serious concern with the continued advocacy on nuclear power by the IAEA is that the gullible political leaders in these countries will find it easy to accept such unsubstantiated advocacy to advance their political agenda, but at humongous cost to their communities, while denying the same resources to the much more beneficial and sustainable options such as initiatives on energy efficiency, demand side management, energy conservation, and the optimal usage of renewable energy sources.
Since IAEA cannot take the responsibility for the unacceptable costs and devastation heaped on the project affected people in the case of nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, credible risks associated with such disasters must not be allowed in future.
In this larger context of true welfare of global communities, IAEA should provide credible substantiation of its advocacy and provide satisfactory clarification for all the concerns raised against nuclear power during the last 4-5 decades, or discontinue with such an advocacy.
It is hoped that the UN Secretary General will take cognisance of the serious issues raised in this representation in the larger interest of the global society, and take the necessary policy decision.
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst. This article based on the author’s representation to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)



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