Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India's Nuclear Energy Programme: Future Plans, Prospects and Concerns

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India's Nuclear Energy Programme: Future Plans, Prospects and Concerns

Article excerpt

India's Nuclear Energy Programme: Future Plans, Prospects and Concerns

R. Rajaraman, India's Nuclear Energy Programme: Future Plans, Prospects and Concerns (New Delhi, Academic Foundation, 2013), Pages: 278, Price: 995.00.

Eminent scientist R. Rajaraman's edited volume, India's Nuclear Energy Programme: Future Plans, Prospects and Concerns, highlights the importance of nuclear energy in India's science and technology policy. The issue of nuclear energy has generated considerable public debate in recent years. Some of these debates emanate from the importance of nuclear energy in maintaining the current rate of growth of the Indian economy while others are based on concerns about the safety of India's nuclear installations. This edited volume also attempts to dispel misconceptions surrounding the prospects of nuclear energy in India.

India's Nuclear Energy Programme is an edited book comprising of eleven chapters written by scientists who have distinguished career records in atomic science. It is sub-divided into four sections dealing with a broad overview of the importance of nuclear energy for India; the radiological concerns; the fuel cycles; and the technology and regulatory issues. The edited volume also presents the perspective of a leading non-governmental organisation. These papers were presented in the Workshop on "Challenges in Nuclear Safety" organised by the Indian National Science Academy on 14-15 February 2012. The deliberations in the workshop were focused on the viability of nuclear energy as a safe energy option in the backdrop of the Fukushima incident in Japan.

The first chapter by Dr Chidambaram emphasises the need to communicate to the people living in the vicinity of a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) the importance of nuclear energy option for their region as well as for the rest of India. He advocates that India needs two parameters to calculate its Human Development Index (HDI) - per capita electricity consumption and female literacy. He projects that for India to meets its growth requirements, its per capita electricity consumption has to expand by about "six times". Hence, India must consider all possible energy options. To this extent, "expanded use nuclear technologies offers immense potential to meet important development needs" (p. 38). The justification for nuclear energy is not only to satisfy India's energy demands but also to reduce the dangers of climate change. Given the enormous potential of the nuclear energy option, efforts must be made to inform the public about the efficacy of the nuclear option. Credible outreach programmes must be undertaken "to make available relevant technological knowledge to the rural communities around nuclear power plants, through proximate academic institutions" (p. 28). After the Fukushima accident, there are wide concerns about the safety of nuclear power. However, this must not be a basis to foreclose the nuclear option. Instead, a safety culture must be put in place to assure the safety features of the NPP and the importance of its development not only for various regions but also for the rest of India.

The second chapter by Srikumar Banerjee highlights the major concerns that have been raised in the media recently about the growth of nuclear power in India. These issues range from the need for nuclear energy, whether renewable energy resources can fulfil India's electricity consumption requirements, concerns regarding radiation from the NPP, the necessity of constructing Light Water Reactors and India's regulatory mechanism. Quite like the previous author, Banerjee agrees that nuclear energy must be expanded in the near as well as distant future, as renewable energy resources would not be able to meet the large-scale electricity demands in India. He argues that it is futile to cite the examples of countries like Germany, which have agreed not to produce nuclear energy beyond 2011. In India with its ever-expanding population, electricity generation has increased by over 50 per cent in the last five years and is expected to amplify further. …

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