[Answered]With growing energy needs should India keep on extending its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Discuss need to keep extending the nuclear energy programme. Mention various and fears associated with nuclear energy.

Conclusion. Way forward.

India is growing very fast. The demand for energy in India is growing because of population growth and a developing economy. The NITI Ayog estimated that the country will need to increase its primary energy supply by 3 to 4 times, and electricity generation capacity by 5 to 6 times (2003-04 levels) if it is to meet the energy needs of all its citizens by 2032. With rising energy demand and climate change, it is advocated that India should continue expanding its nuclear energy efforts, in order to provide its citizens a clean and affordable energy alternative.

Need to keep extending nuclear energy programme:

  1. Rise in Energy Demand: India’s energy demands are increasing. Climate change has already started influencing energy demand in most sectors. According to the IEA’s Global Energy & CO2 status report, India saw primary energy demand increase 4 % or over 35 million tonne of oil equivalent. This accounts for 11 % of global demand growth.
  2. Decrease in Energy Supply:Energy supply has been negatively affected by changing weather patterns. As water reservoirs decreases due to lower precipitation and increased evaporation, capacity for electricity production from hydropower and other water-intensive generation technologies may decline.
  3. Development: For a developing nation committed to industrialisation, India’s energy demands have grown. Nuclear energy is therefore advocated to be the facilitator to India’s development aspirations.
  4. Foreign Policy Nexus: Nuclear energy plays a substantial role in the formation of bilateral relations among nations. For example, the 2008 Indo-US nuclear agreement did not just support India’s domestic power plants but strengthened Indo-US bilateral relations while giving India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state with strong non-proliferation credentials.
  5. Energy availability: Although India is the 4th largest energy consumer in the world, it continues to remain energy-poor. In 2013, India’s population without access to electricity was estimated to be a staggering 237 million (around 19 percent of the entire population). Thus to provide electricity for 24 hour as envisioned under the Saubhagya scheme, nuclear energy would play an important role.
  6. Climate change: Due to its emission-free nature, nuclear energy can contribute to global efforts under the Paris India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has outlined goals to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of its economy by 33-35% by 2030 as well as increase the clean energy electricity capacity to 40% of the total installed capacity in the same period.

Issues and fears related with nuclear energy:

  1. Nuclear waste: Nuclear power generation is not as clean as it is often considered. This is demonstrated in the case of Kudankulam. People have been protesting for decades as they worry that the hot water dispatched from the plant will affect the marine life of the surrounding water sources and subsequently their livelihood.
  2. Displacement: To build nuclear reactors, it requires huge amounts of land. This would displace local communities who may not want to leave. Further, it is not easy to rehabilitate them and provide them with appropriate compensation.
  3. Hazard risk: Production and maintenance of nuclear power generators comes with a long list of risks. After incidents such as Chernobyl and the Fukushima disaster, countries such as Germany began to undergo a nuclear phase out shutting down their nuclear energy units.
  4. Health risks: Nuclear power generation is fraught with ionising radiation, an invisible poison, which is unsafe in all doses, however small. Radiation causes cancers and genetic damage. Nuclear plants expose not just occupational workers, but also the general public, to radioactive hazards in numerous ways.

Nuclear power can help to improve energy security. For a rapidly developing economy such as India, it can make a vitally important contribution to growth. Besides, nuclear power can also reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate the effects of climate change. India needs to come up with a durable energy strategy to meet present and future energy demands of its population and industries.

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