The advent of nuclear power can be traced to twentieth century since the discovery of radioactive elements. The high amount of energy radiated by these elements has widened the horizon of experiments carried out by physicists. Since 1930’s experiments were carried out to harness nuclear power. The first nuclear reactor was designed and operated by United States of America in 1950.
First and Foremost the methodology of nuclear power generation has to be explored to assess the pros and cons of huge scale investments in nuclear power, for an emerging global power like India. The basic principle of nuclear power generation is , turbines are rotated by the steam produced when fresh water is heated by the nuclear reactor which consists of uranium fuel rods. The mechanical energy is thus converted to electrical energy . Sustained nuclear fission takes places in the nuclear reactor , where the fission of one nucleus leads to a chain of reactions . In the present scenario 0.7 % enriched uranium U-235 is used as fuel rods. The lifetime of these fuel rods is 3 operational cycles or 6 years. Uranium is a widely abundant radioactive element on earth’s crust , it is 40 times greater than the availability of silver. The types of nuclear reactors are :- 1) Light water reactor which uses a rare isotope of uranium U-235, 2) Fast breeder which requires uranium-238 . India has sparse amounts of U-235 due to which dependence on imports for this isotope of uranium is unavoidable. The availability of technology for building designing, operation and maintenance of light water reactors, which requires this rare isotope of uranium , is a cause of serious concern for a country like us .
This paves way to increase the burden of high costs in nuclear power for India. The costs of nuclear power depends heavily on the construction of nuclear power plant , the effect of fuel cost is very much marginal approximately 7% of the total .
In comparison with the other means of power generation like fossil fuels , natural gas etc. the large fuel price escalation in nuclear power has little effects on final price . Considering this factor nuclear power is highly recommended if at all the costs of imports can be reduced. The carbon emission is also low compared to fossil fuels. As a country which strongly desires to maintain low carbon foot prints nuclear energy provides suitable alternative as clean energy.
The technologies and material required for setting up a nuclear power plant has dual use and capability to create nuclear weapons. Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an agreement to prevent such harmful consequences. India has been out of Non Proliferation Treaty subsequently trading of fuels suffered ,the low reserves of fuel lead to decline in nuclear power generation by 12.8% from 2006 to 2008 . In order to reduce the dependence on the rare isotope of uranium , the usage of other radioactive materials like thorium which is used in fusion cycle should be considered as alternative fuels. The availability of large quantity of thorium in India is a motivating factor behind this suggestion .
Power Infrastructure plays a crucial role as backbone to all other industries . Therefore to achieve double digit GDP , India should step up investments in power generation and operate all it’s power plants to the maximum Plant load Factor(PLF). In these circumstances nuclear power presents itself as a viable option , in case the fuel prices are under control.
The technology of designing and building nuclear power plants for fusion cycle is still not widespread. Scientists , physicists and engineers should be encouraged to channelize their work for building such power plants . At present 4780 MW nuclear energy is being produced by the 20 nuclear power reactors across the country , to reach the target of 20,000MWe , emphasis should be given to domestic mining of fuels. The discovery of 44,000 tonnes of natural uranium (U-308) in Tummallapalle belt of Andhra Pradesh is a major boost in the field of mining for nuclear fuels. Proactive research on nuclear power which depends much less on fuels imported and waste disposal of radioactive material should be highly prioritized. The radioactive emissions of the waste generated from nuclear power plants is of major concern for populous country like India . Necessary precautions like treatment of waste prior to the disposal should be undertaken while planning for the setup of nuclear power plant.
It has been proven that the extreme variations in temperature and drought conditions which cause fresh water shortage, effect the nuclear power generation. To embrace such circumstances , countries like India should utilize their vast coastal belt, as they have less variations in temperatures, to construct nuclear power plants .
The Chernobyl disaster (1986) and Fukushima-Daichii plant (March 2011) caused by Tsunami are the major disasters , these present a highly pessimistic view to the inclusion of the nuclear power while planning for alternative energy sources. It lead to rethinking of nuclear power programmes by International Energy Agency , Germany concluded to close all its nuclear reactors by 2020 and Japan is scrapping up it’s previous strategy on nuclear power.
However , considering all the disasters caused by all types of power plants in globe , fewer deaths have been witnessed in case of nuclear energy. These happenings occurred either through human error or through natural calamities. It is also impossible for a nuclear plant to explode like nuclear bomb. Timely planning and correct execution of the nuclear power programme in a massive scale, while undertaking all the security measures serves the very purpose of satiating the power deficiency in India.
Rewarded as – “Highly Commendable Contributor” – Competition Success Review Magazine essay :-December 2011 Issue 🙂