In News, why?
While France, the world’s nuclear powerhouse, is battling to replace its stock of ageing reactors, Germany has shut down the last of its nuclear power plants. There are concerns about whether nuclear power, with its associated concerns about cost and safety, remains a relevant option for a future that is fossil-free, particularly in India, as solar and wind power gain popularity across the globe.
GS Paper-3: Infrastructure: Energy
What are the possible advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy in the context of India, and is it wise for India to gradually stop using nuclear power? (250 Words)
The Future of Nuclear Power:
- In the last two years, there has been something of a renaissance for nuclear power, with even Europe and the US taking a second look at it, particularly in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine.
- China has been making rapid progress with nuclear energy, and the new president of South Korea has changed the country’s energy strategy to increase the share of nuclear energy in its energy mix to 30% by 2030.
- Japan has restarted reactors and plans to start ten more despite having to deal with the Fukushima accident. This is due to the fact that otherwise Japan would have had to rely on costly imported coal or natural gas (LNG).
- Even the UK has acknowledged the importance of increasing nuclear power for decarbonizing the electricity sector.
Solar and wind power versus nuclear power
- While many people around the world continue to debate whether nuclear power is environmentally friendly, even when life-cycle costs are taken into account, it is low-carbon.
- Given that wind and solar power are intermittent or variable, many nations believe that nuclear power would be a good addition to the mix because it provides stable, dispatchable power.Although batteries are thought to be the solution to the variable power problem, they are very expensive and have negative environmental effects.Therefore, before gradually phased out nuclear power, it’s imperative to think about whether there is a viable alternative.
Are nuclear power plants “green”?
- Nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy source because it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or other air pollutants that cause global warming. In this regard, it is frequently viewed as a “green” energy source; however, there are environmental effects associated with uranium mining and processing, the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and the disposal of nuclear waste.The potential for catastrophic environmental and human effects has also been shown by accidents like the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
- The problem of disposing of nuclear waste is also difficult because the radioactive material can be dangerous for a very long time.
Concerns Associated with Nuclear power
- Nuclear power presents a number of difficulties, chief among them the safety of nuclear power plants, which is of great concern given the potentially catastrophic effects of nuclear accidents.
- People’s memories of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters are still recent.
- The possibility of human error, natural disasters, or other events leading to nuclear accidents cannot be ignored, despite the fact that nuclear safety has improved since then.
- Nuclear Proliferation: The potential for nuclear proliferation is a concern related to nuclear power.
- Uranium enrichment, which is used to make nuclear fuel, can also be used to make nuclear weapons.
- To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, nations with nuclear power plants must take great care to ensure the security and safety of their nuclear facilities.
- Liability Concerns: Nuclear liability is a major source of contention for many nations. The issue of liability arises in the event of a nuclear accident.
- This problem has prevented India and France from implementing their agreement to put European Pressurised Reactors in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
- Nuclear power is an expensive option for many nations due to the potential liability costs, which could be very high.
- Cost Overruns: Building and running nuclear power plants are expensive, which poses another significant problem.
- Cost overruns are possible due to the high initial investment costs of nuclear power plants and the drawn-out regulatory approval process.
- Nuclear power plants are more expensive than alternative energy sources like solar and wind power.
- Radioactive Waste: Nuclear power plants produce radioactive waste, which must be properly disposed of in order to protect the environment.
- Nuclear power plant spent fuel is extremely radioactive and can be dangerous to one’s health.
- The disposal of nuclear waste is a contentious issue for which there has yet to be a workable solution.
India’s energy mix is dominated by coal, which has negative effects on the environment and human health. Nuclear power is still a low-carbon source of base-load power, despite concerns about its safety, cost, and waste.Nuclear power should remain a part of India’s energy mix, at least in the short to medium term; however, India should continue to invest in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels in the long term. Phasing out nuclear power could result in an increased reliance on coal, which would have severe environmental and health consequences.