Kalam Puts His Weight Behind Koodankulam Project Scripting N-Chapter
The former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s support to the Koodankulam nuclear plant must have come as a bolt from the blue to its opponents. After visiting the plant in Tamil Nadu, he told the reporters in Chennai that he was fully convinced that there was absolutely no reason to worry about, and the ongoing agitation against the plant was unnecessary. Kalam, himself an eminent and distinguished scientist, visited the nuclear plant last week and held discussions with senior scientists and the chairman of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, which runs all the power stations in the country. And a couple of days after, while delivering the inaugural address at the 21st International Conference on Structural Mechanics in Reactor Technology, in Delhi, he asserted that the Koodankulam plant, besides being 1300 km away from the seismic centre point, had installed 154 hydrogen re-combiners across the plant, which could absorb any leaked hydrogen and prevent any structural damage. It is noteworthy that in the case of Fukushima, one of the primary reasons for a structural collapse was the explosion in hydrogen, which got out of control due to heat generated by failure of providing a continuous power supply to the spent fuel complex. So, the former President emphasised that nuclear power was a genuine economic option in terms of Long Range Marginal Cost (LRMC) advantages for power supply at locations far away from coal reserves, particularly if hydel sources were not available in these areas. In fact, the most important reason why India should expand its nuclear power programme is because India needs more good sources of electricity. This is vital to India’s continued economic development. Demand for electricity in India has been rising rapidly for the last few decades. During that time, India’s economy has grown to a huge degree. Modern economies depend heavily on power so this translates to a great extent into demand for power. India does not have many other very good ways to meet this rising demand. Much of India’s power comes from coal, but this is environmentally hazardous. In addition, India lacks the coal reserves needed to continue to meet the rising demand. Since nuclear energy is relatively clean, it is a good source of potential energy for India. In addition, India has a long history with nuclear science and engineering and should be able to expand its nuclear capacities. Also, the civilian nuclear programme has the support of the EU and the US. For these reasons, one can argue that India should increase its nuclear power programme.
It is no secret that India currently is the second fastest growing economy in the world and the country plans to maintain the growth rate between 8 and 9 per cent annually, for the next two-three decades. Experts maintain that the demand for power during this period will grow at a rate of around 7 per cent annually. India, therefore, will have to embark upon aggressive diversification of energy sources and the concomitant infrastructure development because even with tremendous progress since Independence, India still ranks low in per capita electricity consumption in the world, which is around 639kWh. Well, aware of this reality and with the intention of reducing its carbon footprint, the government has taken several steps to meet the ever-growing demand for power. Now, India is poised to embark upon a comprehensive nuclear power programme with emphasis on a new series of nuclear power plants, including some of higher capacities. In a bid to achieve rapid growth in the installed nuclear power capacity, a revised Nuclear Power Programme is being formulated. The share of nuclear energy is planned 25 per cent by 2050, roughly reaching a target of 20,000 MW by 2020 from the current 5000 MW, apparently a four-fold increase. If this target is met it will be a useful alternative to India, amplifying self-dependency of the country while proving to be a major source of energy security. However, the opponents emphasise that India should follow countries like Belgium which have closed down nuclear reactors post-Fukushima. But they should understand the fact that ours is a developing country with energy needs which are much more than that of small and developed countries. It is easy to eliminate ignorance but very difficult to eradicate erroneously held beliefs. The former President Kalam has made an exemplary attempt to allay the fears in the minds of those agitating against the Koodankulam power project. Many myths have hindered the progress of science in the past. But with all safety measures in place, nuclear energy is the only option for a developing country like India. The civilisation has grown, enlarged and sustained itself through scientific advancement. India, which wants to become a superpower by 2020, needs to increase its scientific potentials to make the vision a reality. And now if Koodankulam project stalls, so does India’s fledgling nuclear energy project and that should not be allowed to happen.