One of the main arguments put forth by the nuclear lobby – for its rapid expansion push — in India (and China, Korea, Phillipines etc …) is that the expanding electricity demand has to be met for continued ‘ fast economic growth’ to “lift people out of poverty”, which will require rapid expansion of electricty capacity in our countries. And if we dont want to depend ‘totally’ on dirty coal, then nuclear energy is the “only option” , as alternatives are either not widely available (like wind in India) or not cost competitive (solar).

Each part of this composite argument is fallacious —

— like continued economic growth will lift people out of poverty — not borne out by what happened over the
last 15 years, from 1996 when India’s installed electr capacity was ~81,000 MW, it has expanded to over
172,000 MW, or more than double, with the economically lower 70% of Indians no better off,

— like fast electricity growth is a pre-requisite for economic upliftment of the majority — even India’s so called
shining example of smaller IT-led growth is more skill & human power lead, than power intensive; though
the push for higher consumption (not essential) by this upwardly mobile class has large power foot-print,

— like nuclear energy in our countries is being pushed to reduce coal-dependence, in reality – dirty coal TPPs
in India (and China & ……) are getting the largest push, along with dangerous nuclear,

But another big lie being spread to push both coal & nuclear (and big-hydel), is that renewable energy sources are either not enough , or technologies not cost competitive.

A few recent reports in India itself demolishes that myth.

Under the Govt of India’s JN National Solar Mission, very recently over 500 MW of power projects (till now, India had under 100 MW of installed solar electr capacity) have achieved “financial closure”, meaning their project financing has been tied up through commercial banking, just like coal TPPs (BUT very unlike NPPs – none of which is coming up without very large Govt subsidies, none by Pvt investment alone — clearly showing how un-viable they are, not to talk about the serious dangers associated).

Seven (7) of these are Concentrating Solar Thermal Power plants, and their installed cost is coming to ~Rs.12 crores per MW (~$ US 2.6 million/ MW), which is far lower than the proposed Jaitapur NPP (to be supplied by AREVA, its controversial EPR design of 1650 MW each X 6 units), whose per MW installed cost has been calculated from what is there at its under-construction Olkiluoto plant in Finland, to be over Rs.21 Crores/MW, ($ US 4.6 million/ MW !!). The enriched Uranium for these EPRs wont come free either — unlike the sunlight.

AND the cost of these solar projects are continously coming down, WHILE cost of the NPPs are climbing – not least to take care of increasing safety consciousness measures (effective or not).

Even India’s “indigenous design” (actually modified CANDU design) reactor-based NPPs being proposed in Gorakhpur and Balsamand in Haryana, Chutka in Madhya Prades etc .. comes at an installed cost of Rs.8-9 crores/ MW — again the natural Uranium required will not come free. AND none of the CST power plants will blow up and contaminate whole countries with radioactive materials – unlike Chernobyl or Fukushima, or keep spewing highly radio-active fission products to increase cancer/deformed babies etc in their large neighbourhood, or create untreatable and toxic-radioactive Plutonium.239 in large quantities for the coming 240,000 years, spoiling the earth for the next 10,000 generations .

Even the cost of Coal TPPs, kept artificially low by not including the tremendous costs of mining & deforestation, of large scale health impacts through air & water pollution, large impacts on surrounding agri-horti-flori culture by its yield-decreasing effect …. comes to ~Rs4.5 Crores/MW (>$ US 1 million/MW) in India. With the externalised costs included, this will be comparable to present day Concentrated Solar Thermal plants, and Indian NPPs. Solar energy plants do have land & water foot-prints, but dont emit hazardous particulates & gases by the million tons, unlike coal TPPs. And these renewable plants can be close to where people need the power, reducing huge transmission lines & losses.

 

 

Soumya Dutta

Bharat Jan Vigyan Jattha