Nuclear energy is finally getting a fair hearing. A combination of high crude oil prices and absence of other alternatives has spurred policymakers across the world to take a closer look at the nuclear option.
Leaders from G-8 countries, India, China and South Korea, who met at Aomori in Japan over the weekend, recognized that a few other immediate and viable options exist for an energy-starved world.
Apart from political reality, there are many reasons to go ahead with nuclear power: cost advantages in a world where oil is scarce and environmental concerns are on the top of many minds, for example. In India and elsewhere, people opposed to nuclear energy have usually cited the dodgy electricity calculations as one reason why this power source is not feasible.
This may no longer be true. As oil prices rush towards the $150-per-barrel mark, the cost disadvantage is likely to be less of an issue. A comparison of nuclear power and oil consumption in India shows why this matters. In oil-equivalent terms, India consumes a paltry 4 million tonnes (mt) of nuclear energy per year, while its oil consumption is a whopping 120mt per year. At the prevailing cost of oil, there is a good opportunity for “energy arbitrage” between different sources of energy.
In addition, India is in line with international nuclear power generation costs. The Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd claims that average annual tariffs for power from its eight reactors is less than Rs2 per kilowatt hour (kWh).
Independent nuclear power analysts, who by no means are friendly to nuclear energy, have calculated the cost of generation to be in the range of Rs1.72 to Rs2.04 per kWh. For the European Union, the cost in 2005 was in the range of Rs2.68 to Rs3.68 per kWh. India compares favourably with these prices.
Much ink has been spilt by anti-nuclear activists in arguing that nuclear power is no solution to controlling global warming. Now, the International Energy Agency has said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050 will require 32 new nuclear power plants every year in addition to other measures. There is still some current in the idea of nuclear power.
Is nuclear energy a viable option for energy-starved India? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org