Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Nuclear power is not a bad thing!

I am fed up. Of self-proclaimed experts and the general public ranting about loss of sovereignty and against the nuclear deal. Of bloggers asking stupid, rhetorical questions without really understanding the meaning or import of the deal to modern India. I am trying, yet again on this blog to clarify certain doubts and uncertainties regarding the deal and its repercussions on India's future.

Two posts, on different blogs, hit a nerve. Both ask some good questions, but also some extremely stupid ones. I am going to try and answer these questions as best as I can. Before I move on, let me say that I am not an expert. But, I am not an ignorant fool either. In fact, I am one of the millions of thinking, educated Indians who think the nuclear deal is a good thing. So, let's go on.

Let's look at what Barbarindians says.

We need nuclear power. We need electric power.

Yes, we need electricity. I agree we must reform the energy sector well enough to be able to generate enough electricity to power India. I also agree that we must produce enough to be able to exchange these with electricity. But, for this to happen, we need to look at alternative sources of energy. Nuclear fuel is one of the alternatives.

India's Nuclear isolation (apartheid) will end:

In case you did not read the newspaper today, it has already ended. The NSG has approved the waiver. Australia self-righteously declared it would not trade with a non-signatory to the NPT, but the rest of the world will. So there! Much as we try and convince ourselves that it has nothing to do with energy, the fact remains that we will only get the uranium required for our nuclear power stations if we import them.

The other things are not really worth discussing. He is being sarcastic in some, reasonable in others and absolutely right in the rest. So, I am quite happy he is thinking straight.

On to Reality Check India. The arguments here are stupider. One, What is wrong with coal based thermal plants?

Huh? Must I really repeat? Coal is a non-renewable source of energy. As is uranium. But we require a few thousand tonnes of coal while we require only a few kilos of uranium for the same output. So, uranium will last longer. Got it? Coal is also highly polluting. Mining safety is a huge problem. People are dying everyday the the Neyveli Lignite mines and elsewhere. And maintenance is high-cost.

I pay Rs 3.50 per KwH (unit) for thermal and hydro power today. The estimate for nuclear power is Rs 16 per unit. Farmers will expect free nuclear power too (esp the big ones). They need to power their A/Cs and 5 KW pumpsets. Who is going to foot the bill ?

Power is heavily subsidised. You pay only Rs. 3.50 because the government, and in turn the taxpayers, foot the rest of the bill. In other words, you foot the rest of the bill too. Free power (thermal, nuclear, hydel or natural gas) is wrong. It must stop at some point. We can stop free power to the farmers even without the nuclear power. It requires political will and not a nuclear deal.

I dearly hope they have war-gamed the scenario where Pakistan decides to test. In the Lok Sabha debates, I heard Pranab Mukherjee thunder “We dont need nuclear weapons to win a war”. Childlike innocence wins wars, perhaps?

What the hell? Haven't you figured it out yet? Nuclear weapons win no wars. They only destroy. We need a credible nuclear deterrent, not enough arms to destroy the planet several times over.

Finally, I do not think we have reached the dead end for thermal power (coal and gas plants). For comparison, coal makes up 70% of Chinas power. These are not old plants either, they upped their thermal capacity by 20%+ just in 2007-08.

We have not. And yes, China's power is largely coal-based. But, why does that matter to us? China is facing a shortage too. And they have no problems getting uranium ever. They are a signatory to the NPT. India is different. And for comparison, every year about a thousand people are executed (shot dead by armed police). India should follow suit right? Frankly, such comparisons are neither appropriate nor relevant. Each country is different. India must increase the share of nuclear power in total electricity generation. For a better tomorrow.

As with Barbarindians, here too are some relevant arguments. Whatever be the reasons for my not agreeing with them, the post themselves are eminently readable. At least, they present a non-political view of the issue.

3 comments:

Indian Home Maker said...

I am all for this Nuclear deal and it was nice to read this informative post.

Destination Infinity said...

Do you think nuclear energy generation is cost effective? We need nuclear power as one of the alternatives for conventional energy sources - but why this obsession with nuclear? US wants it because big money is involved. We must get going with Solar, Wind, Tidal, hydro electric and such power alternatives. Why are there not any debates or discussions on other un-conventional sources of energy?

Krishna Aradhi said...

For once, I disagree with you. We are getting too obsessed with nuclear power. We're so obsessed with it that we are even willing to sign off our right to test nukes.

We do not have a "credible nuclear deterrent" even now. Show me one leader who can confidently say that we do. Our nukes can't even reach Beijing.

I have written a two-part series on the nuke deal. Do check it out. It's here: http://demockeracy.in/2008/09/23/the-case-against-the-indo-us-n-deal-part-1/