Sunday, August 3, 2008

The big deal!

India needs to focus on achieving energy independence by 2012

One really finds it intriguing as to what made the current government put almost everything at stake to go ahead and sign the Indo-US nuclear deal. No doubt, every nation today is going all out to secure their energy security needs but then looking into the specific Indian context, the steps taken up by the UPA government apparently appears to be unusual. For very rarely ruling governments have put their power at stake to see something through, which is of national importance!

There isn’t any doubt that this inception of nuclear energy might secure our energy needs to certain extent but then it would give birth to many other issues as well. Studies show that nuclear plant can cause irreversible damage to ecology and human life. Moreover, it will also raise problems relating to disposal of nuclear wastes after energy is produced. Disasters like Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island are the best examples to prove the corollaries of nuclear plants. Many European nations (60 per cent of its power comes from wind, water, and solar sources!) have already closed down their nuclear reactors. US has itself not produced any nuclear reactor since last 30 years and Australia (has 24 per cent of total uranium reserves) does not have any nuclear reactor.

In case of India, the solution is nature-gifted. We already have coal reserves which can last for 200 years and we are the fourth largest in terms of producing energy via wind-mills. Wind mills have already contributed 7,500 megawatts compared to nuclear power that has contributed just 3,120 megawatts. The only concrete and corrective measure is for India to explore alternate renewable energy forms. Even if we try to tap solar energy, we can produce thousand times more energy than what nuclear plants will provide. India has a natural endowment of both high solar insolation and an equally high prospective consumer base density. Solar energy easily can add up to about 500 trillion kilowatt of electricity.

Also, thanks to the lengthy coastline, we can harness tidal energy in a more profitable fashion. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, 6,800 megawatts of energy has been produced using non-conventional sources by the end of the 10th plan. A report by Working Group on Power estimates the cost of energy to be Rs four crore per megawatt for coal based projects; Rs three crore for gas based projects, Rs 4.50 crore hydro based projects and Rs 6.50 crore per megawatt for nuclear based projects. Moreover, India then has to rely on a cartel, Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) for enriched uranium. Noted nuclear expert and former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, PK Iyengar even foresees India becoming vulnerable to the nuclear cartel, as we are these days to the oil cartel. What’s more, for the next few decades, nuclear energy source will not even go over six per cent of our total electricity production.

In any given situation or condition, the government, at no cost, can leave the country in a state of utter confusion. India not only requires energy but also a sustainable plan that can last for decades to come. Amidst all these turmoil and tiresome bickering, it is important to exploit alternative sources of energy before plunging into the nuclear deal, for importing reactors is emphatically no quick-fix solution.


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