Daily Archives: May 2, 2011

Nuclear Jitters: Enough to Stop Nuclear Power?

The additional fear inspired by the Fukushima disaster will be reflected in soaring costs for nuclear power worldwide, largely owing to demands for improved safety and insurance. Indeed, nuclear plants are prone to a form of panic transference: should a reactor of one design go wrong, all reactors of that type will be shut down instantly around the world.

In India, the dilemma is this: it has 20 nuclear plants in operation, with an additional 23 on order. With the country desperately short of power, and requiring energy to grow, concerned citizens are asking if nuclear is still the answer for India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cautiously announced a “special safety review” of all plants. “Not enough,” say about 50 eminent Indians, who at the end of March demanded a review of the country’s entire nuclear power policy for “appropriateness, safety, costs, and public acceptance”. The group also called for an “independent, transparent safety audit” of all nuclear facilities to be undertaken with the “involvement of civil society organisations and experts outside the department of atomic energy”. Until then, they demanded a moratorium on all nuclear activity and a revocation of recent clearances. This is as explicit as opposition can get.

How have other countries reacted? France, a global leader in nuclear power, initially avoided most of the global anti-nuclear concerns. But now it too is promising to upgrade its safety procedures, including a reassessment of the potential effects of natural disasters on nuclear plant operations, conceding that the occurrence of more than one natural disaster simultaneously had not been considered previously.  China, which has 77 nuclear reactors at various stages of construction, planning, and discussion, has said that it will embark on a wide-ranging review, but Russia has announced that it will go ahead with its programme.

The US has just two under construction on its own territory, despite being the principal exporter of reactors. Meanwhile Denmark, Greece, Ireland and Portugal are strongly anti-nuclear, and Switzerland has stopped all nuclear power projects.  All of this will lead to cost evaluation and escalation. According to a study conducted by former Indian government minister Arun Shourie, the price of uranium could rise to $140 per pound, close to its record high.

Excerpt, Jaswant Singh, Now is not the time for energy-starved India to increase nuclear dependency, Guardian, April 29, 2011