Homi Jehangir Bhabha envisioned a three stage nuclear programme for India to make our country self sufficient in energy. Following up on this vision, as part of the first phase of the program, we have 20 operating nuclear reactors some indigenous and some with foreign collaboration producing approximately 4780MW of electricity. A few of the nuclear plants are in the final stages of their construction which will add to the share of the nuclear energy which is at present a mere 3% of our total energy generation.
A very interesting article on the number of years upto which we can sustain with the help of the conventional sources of energy can be found here. With the kind of advantages that the nuclear energy provides, it’s use is inevitable. It is avoidable only if you can compromise with your economic growth, standard of living and scientific evolution in general. Such a compromise is most unlikely. Some of the advantages of nuclear energy for India are very tempting. It is believed that the thorium reserves of India are sufficient to easily meet our energy demands for the NEXT CENTURY.
The ill effects of a nuclear disaster on human life is enormous. The chernobyl nuclear disaster, the three mile nuclear disaster and the present Japan fiasco stand to support that these ‘time bombs’ which we have planted and are continuing to plant can go off any time. An oil spill and a dam constructed to generate hydro electricity also have had an impact on human beings in the form of endangering the sea ecosystem and contributing to earthquakes. But, their direct impact on human beings is less compared to the effects that a nuclear disaster can cause. Should all these ‘time bombs’ numbering approximately 300 around the world go off simultaneously, the whole human civilization could be at the brink of extinction.
In an effort to make nuclear energy commercially viable, the focus on making foolproof designs has taken a setback. This is the reason why no scientist could confidently say that a Japan like incident would not happen in India. Though they came up with reports later ruling out such an incident, some sections of this ‘nuclear energy cartel’ treat this matter more as an issue that would deter the commercial growth of nuclear energy which in turn will undermine the value of the nuclear scientists. What is needed in such a case is an independent regulatory body which should consist of not only nuclear scientists but people from various walks of life. Such a body should approve the design of the nuclear reactors before their commissioning and also monitor the foolproof safety standards to be maintained at all the nuclear plants. In all, we should make efforts to create zero risk nuclear reactors that will power our next century.