Print Friendly, PDF & Email

India Needs Nuclear Energy and the Deal

By Vinay G B

I live in a village, a beautiful village and I am very proud of it.

India lives in villages, not one or two but in six lakh villages. Their collective conscience forms the soul of India. When these villages breathe India breathes, when they wilt India wilts. Each village has a life, a vibrant and colorful life. Toiling people form the flesh and bone and their sweat the lifeblood of India. People call them India’s backbone.

On July 22nd in his speech inside the Parliament Mr.Rahul Gandhi mentioned the name of Shashikala, a labourer and a widow belonging to Vidharbha region who was finding it difficult to feed her two boys who were dreaming of becoming District Collectors one day. These two boys daily went to school and when they came back they had to study under a kerosene lamp in the evening as their house is unelectrified.

Shashikala’s family is not alone in their ordeal; there are six hundred million people in India living in the hope of accessing better life and salvation from eternal bondage. In 2007 there were 1, 20,000 villages waiting to be electrified and as per the 2001 census only 43.42% households were electrified!

People living in villages have this strange ability to adapt to any new challenge that they face in their lives. They think that it is in their fate that things happen the way they happen. When things go wrong they blame the fate not the real culprits. Centre to their belief in the fate for every wrong thing that occurs to them is their lack of education. It is only when they realize that they themselves lie at the centre of everything good that occurs in the world, they would be able to come out and question the world why they were forgotten and neglected. And then ascertain their rightful place in the world.

In my village it is not uncommon to see 12-14 hours power cut everyday. Nobody questions why we are deprived of this basic necessity. Nobody questions it because it is NORMAL for them. They have not seen 24 hours of power supply in their lifetime and when they are given little of it; they believe that the things are like this only.

In India villages are the victims of everything. Successive governments have formulated numerous policies, plans, schemes, and projects for the development of villages and its people, but little has changed. They remain the same.

Power crisis in India

On July 24th, Karnataka Government announced 20 percent cut in power supply for Bangalore and 70-80 percent for rural areas. It means unscheduled power cut of 4-6 hours in Bangalore and 16-18 hours in rural areas every day sine die.

Bangalore alone contributes 35 percent of India’s software exports. Service sector contributes 52 percent of India’s GDP.

India faced 9.6 % energy deficit in 2006-2007 and worst is expected this year.

Energy crisis is so grim in India that the government is making all possible efforts to fill this gap. From the Nuclear deal with U.S. to Indo-Pak-Iran gas pipeline to begging small neighboring countries for a portion in their Hydro powers, India is struggling hard. India has signed agreements with Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Nepal for importing Hydro power.

Present state of energy production in India:

Total installed capacity – 1, 44,564 MW

Thermal – 92, 216. 54 MW (64.6%)

Hydro – 36, 033. 76 MW (24.7%)

Nuclear – 4, 1200 MW (2.9%)

Renewable – 12, 194. 57 MW (7.7%)

In 1947, India had only about 4, 000 MW of total installed capacity. Indeed it is a remarkable achievement that we have come so far. But we are still short of about 50,000 MW of energy to sustain the present growth.

Some of the recent policies by the government regarding electricity are:

1) In its Common Minimum Programme the UPA government planned to electrify every household in India by 2009. This project was named Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana with an outlay of Rupees 16,000 crore. Still 1, 20,000 villages remain to be electrified.

2) In the National Electricity Policy 2005, it is aimed to increase per capita power consumption from current 631kWh to 1000kWh by 2012. Even in 2008 per capita power consumption remains at 640kWh. World average is 2590 kWh.

3) The Eleventh Plan (2007-2012) has a target of 78,577MW of capacity addition to the present total installed capacity of 1, 44,564.17MW. During 2007-2008 a total of 7,263MW has been commissioned and it is expected to add 10, 821MW by mid 2009.

4) The Eleventh Plan expects power sector to grow at 9.5% per annum. The energy generation growth was 2.34 per cent in June 2008 against a projected 12.19 per cent.

We need nuclear energy

Nuclear energy alone is not the solution. It should be complemented with other resources available within the country.

Out of all other green energy resources nuclear energy has much potential to enhance our energy production program:

1) Hydro power production in India faces stiff resistance from the unfriendly terrain, associated environmental problems, displacement of large number of people, slow implementation due to legal hassles, dependence on unpredictable monsoon, maximum loss in power transmission due to its geographical location and in some cases earthquakes are also caused.

2) Solar energy is the cleanest one but it is also the costliest. Because of its prohibitive cost large-scale implementation is not a viable option. More research is needed in this direction. Until then we can’t sit idly waiting for technological breakthroughs.

3) Wind energy is also a best bet but it can’t be installed in all places and it needs more space for large scale production.

4) Thermal energy production is the mainstay of India’s energy security program. We can’t depend upon them for long as the availability of coal, petroleum and natural gas will decrease with increased demand and also because of lessened reserves.

India has 2, 53, 301 million tonnes of proven reserves of coal. It will be completely depleted by 2070.

India is the 3ed largest oil importer in the world (2.44 million barrels per day)

In April-May 2007 India spent US$11.106 Billion on oil import and in April-May 2008 it spent US$16.484 Billion, whopping 48.5% increase.

5) Thermal power stations are big threat to environment and the atmosphere.

Why India needs the nuclear deal?

If the present growth rate is maintained and the deal fails, then India will face a deficit of 412 GWe by 2050 assuming the requirement of 850GWe of energy by that time.

To fill this gap India has to import 1.6 billion tonnes of coal per annum!

If the deal succeeds, we will be able to import 40GWe LWR’s and unhindered supply of Uranium for all the reactors. With these reactors in place, we can bridge the 412 GWe gap by 2050. The rationale behind this is that, the spent fuel from 40GWe reactors will be used in indigenous FBR program and by 2040 thorium based reactors (AHWR) will pick up their pace due to advancement of technology and the ready availability of fuel. This will consolidate our energy security and by 2060 we will have around 35% of nuclear energy in the country. (DAE)

Initial costs will be heavy but our scientists are working hard towards building more efficient reactors which are also cost effective. Best example is our indigenous space program; best in the world and also cheapest in terms of operational, design and launching costs.

With the deal in place, France, Russia, canada and Australia would find it easy to negotiate more India friendly deals in the future.

Why many people oppose the deal?

Most of the people who oppose the deal are from urban areas (not all). Let them first feel how difficult it’s to live a life in villages with daily 14 hour power cuts.

Those who fear for the sovereignty of India need to be reassured that India is a nation of billion people and has second largest standing army in the world.

Those who think that India would become junior partner of US must be told to have self confidence and self respect first. We can become as powerful as US once this fear of unknown vanishes from the mind and in its place self respect establishes.

There is no meaning in being concerned about how much profit US companies would make, because we also stand to gain much from it.

For a moment please leave aside your argument that India is not being recognized as a nuclear weapon state, it doesn’t matter. We do have nuclear weapons and we can still make bombs.

Lesson from France:

In 1973 France was producing just 3 % of its energy from the nuclear resources. When, in 1974 ‘oil shock’ occurred, it switched to resources other than oil. Until then most of the power plants were run by imported oil alone.

In 2007 France produced 79 % of its energy from the nuclear reactors. It is the largest exporter of power in the world today. It exports 18% of its energy and earns billions of dollars as revenue.

It runs 59 nuclear reactors and till date all have functioned safely. French people love their reactors and are proud to have more of them.

India must grab the opportunity. Fear is our real enemy not the United States of America. Conquer the fear and conquer the world.

If you still think the deal is not good, please come to my beautiful village and stay at my place for a week.