Abandon the import of nuclear reactors: Dr A Gopalakrishnan

Published on Daily News Analysis DNA, by Dr A Gopalakrishnan, April 4, 2011.

The decision taken by the government to import about 40,000 MWe of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) within the next two decades, has no justifiable technical or economic basis. In spite of repeated demands from various quarters, including Parliament, no document on India’s nuclear power policy has ever been presented by the government for debate.

The prime minister stated on March 29, 2011, “Today India has fully demonstrated its capabilities in all the scientific and technological aspects associated with the design, development, construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities. We owe this to the success of the indigenous three-stage programme whose foundation was laid by Dr Homi Bhabha.” Here, he is referring to India’s present capability to design and build up to 700 MWe capacity Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). With the demonstrated indigenous expertise of having designed, built and operated 17 PHWRs on our own up to 540 MWe capacity, and with four 700 MWe PHWR construction projects in hand, there is no reason why India has to diversify its nuclear fleet to include several new types of foreign reactors, of which neither Indians nor foreigners have any experience so far.  

The reason for bringing in imported reactors is neither technology driven nor is it for the economic benefit of the country. In the context of the need to maximise plutonium production from the first stage reactors to rapidly advance along the three-stage Bhabha Plan, it should be noted that the Indian PHWRs are the most efficient plutonium producers, far superior to the high burn-up LWRs which DAE is planning to import. We have complete mastery of PHWR technology, with three generations of engineers and scientists who have been trained in all facets of related activities, with existing full capabilities for its manufacture and fabrication within Indian industries. These capabilities are already demonstrated and today we have the inherent indigenous ability to further extend the PHWR designs to 1000 MWe rating … //

… Under the above circumstances, the government must immediately and permanently cancel all plans to import foreign nuclear reactors, irrespective of the unauthorised promises given by the prime minister to foreign governments and any preliminary agreements which NPCIL may have signed with foreign companies. The entire subject of the Nuclear Power Policy under the Manmohan Singh governments needs a thorough debate in Parliament and should be openly discussed with energy specialists in the country. It should be preceded by a re-look at the overall energy policy of our country to assess whether all viable non-nuclear electricity generation schemes have been given their due priority, before we jump-start an extensive nuclear power programme, even if it is based on the Bhabha Plan. Plans for conservation of electricity, loss minimisation, use of renewables, and the preparation of a clearly aggregated minimum electricity demand projection are also to be emphasised simultaneously. (full long 2 pages text).
(The writer is former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board).

(Nuclear power is not the answer to global warming; it is not clean, it is not green; it is not safe; and it is not renewable. It is instead a destroyer of worlds. It is time the global community repudiated it – however economically painful in the short term that taking such a step would be … (full text of Dr. Helen Caldicott’s Fukushima statement Destroyer of Worlds, on her website, March 16, 2011).

: Japan gov’t demands quick action to avoid sea contamination, April 4, 2011.

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