Will the nuclear deal with USA ensure energy security for India?

That civilian nuclear power is not going to come to help us in any near-term future.

There is a steep rise in fuel prices. The Congress play a cynical drama by Sonia posing as the saviour of the poor, the Left and the BJP do what they know, taking a procession on the Delhi streets! Is this all to fuel shortages?  Bush can be taken not a safe nuclear expert!  There are so many technical, economic and even political and military issues and that too when the USA is debating the Iran nuclear power plant and when India is also being drawn into such international strategic buildups, to talk of nuclear power as if it can be tapped at our will is a near fantasy.

France is the one country where nuclear power is a strong contender for civilian supply. France a country with some innovative technological breakthroughs like nuclear technology, high speed trains, Concorde and even the commercial aircraft like Airbus. So, we only can wait and watch and can’t take India’s own nuclear power strategy any more seriously.  The very economics of civilian nuclear energy is forbidding. A recent Nature, the science journal issue had written an editorial as well as essays on the various issues of nuclear power. There are really so many unresolved issues, the construction and safety apart, there is the spent fuel and disposing off nuclear waste and also the rise of terrorism poses other problems.

It is pointed out that the costs of nuclear power plants are simply mind-boggling. In UK, the Sizewell B reactor, opened in 1995, for instance, with 1,200 megawatts is the most powerful single reactor supplying 3% of the country’s electricity needs. It costs US 3.3 million dollars, quoted in 1987 and now revised three times upwards and electricity priced six pence average cost every kilowatt hour over a 40 year period, the cost is said to be two to three times more expensive than power generated by modern gas-fired station!

There is now a renewed interest and a new demand for constructing more nuclear plants. USA, UK, Canada, China, India, EU countries, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and South Africa are some of the countries where nuclear power plants are going to be built, some two dozens in the next five years. Worldwide, nearly 80 per cent of the 441 commercial nuclear reactors are more than 15 years old and need replacements. There is of course a strong anti-nuclear power movement, there are concerns about the safety of the plants, Gorbachev, Green Peace, Friends of the Earth and others are active in the anti-nuclear power movement. So, also change of heart among some of the anti-nuclear power lobbyists, for the simple reason of the global warming over the overload of the carbon dioxide of the planet earth. Safe and clean energy through renewable sources is only tiny and the real alternative is through coal, gas or nuclear. So the debate goes on and yet we have to be realistic and continue to import oil and gas!

So much for the cost factor. Has anybody talked of the cost of producing civilian nuclear power in India? Or, has anyone cared to ask the costs?

Yes, nuclear power, even at the high noon of Homi Bhaba and Nehru, was only expected to offer cheap power and it didn’t ever, yet in India.  So, let us not be lulled by the Singh’s US deal. At best it is just a beginning and the road ahead is long and unchartered and by the time some more things happen Dr.Singh may not be there in the hot seat! That is politics and we have to pay a price for that sort of uncertainties.

Now, as for the more conventional fuels, the world today is changing fast on the energy front. The US being the largest consumer of oil and gas, it can be safely expected that the world energy supplies would be largely dominated by the US strategic interests. As this reality hits, we are faced with cultivating the US friendship, also our relations with Russia which continues to dominate the world gas and energy supplies. There is a rise in the nationalist fervour, many oil rich  give that bigness of image. We have to seem to stand up to the international challenges. Unfortunately, the causes for the growing disenchantment with the PM are growing every passing day. There are so many wheals within wheals in the PMO, MEA and the uncountable number of Committees and Commissions the PM surrounds himself of with!

It is a terrible thought to imagine that India in the name of a coalition government has to live with so many handicaps in providing leadership in so many fields and give the people a much needed vigorous governance mechanism. There seems a great vacuum at the top leadership.

Image Source : thehindu.com

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